This was first written back in 2016, but the lesson lasts a lifetime.
I once read an article that stated love compatibility was largely reliant on whether both people were logically or emotionally driven. I disagree. I think the only way to grow in love, similar to as a person, is to be challenged. If both parties in a relationship are romantics than a foundation is built purely on passion. Whereas if one person is a realist then the buildings of a partnership are sturdy in times the passion may run low.
It took me almost 20 years of dating and numerous boyfriends to figure this out. Ironically, the person who held this yin-to my-yang quality I’m writing about in past tense. Yet, in the time we dated I learned more about love and myself than I had in my entire life.
I’m a romantic. I believe in giving my all to those I’m with. My hearts grows stronger with each weight it carries. Luke* was a down to earth realist. He loved deeply but was quick the realize challenges ahead. Though he let me in he also was quick to shut me out. However, the reason is a lot simpler then I cared to admit and is perhaps the most valuable thing I learned.
You Must Love Yourself First
I have my days of acknowledging that I’m flawed and failed. Overall, I love who I am (this took years of introspection to accomplish). Luke did not feel the same. He was unhappy and saw himself in a negatively skewed lighting. I first met Luke while he was in another relationship and noticed his discontent but assumed it was the situation. All I could think was, ‘If he was with me he’d be happy.’ I wanted to make him happy. Like so many others, I thought I could change someone.
Fast forward a year later and I got that opportunity (positive thinking folks!). For a while I noticed a change. He became the man I knew he could be, the better version of himself. Sadly, this didn’t last long.
Eventually my optimism became a hurdle to him, stumbling to keep up. The more I saw his attitude change the more I tried. Or, in his words, the more I pushed. I attempted to plan things and adjusted my lifestyle to fit, what I thought were, his needs. Luke saw all of this as pressure. I felt his lack of effort, as though he just gave up trying to better himself, to better us. Luke couldn’t fix it. Worst of all, he predicted I’d soon resent him for it. For a short period, he was right.
It didn’t matter how much he wanted to love me, or truly did. He couldn’t love me entirely because he didn’t love himself first. He was incapable of giving me what I needed in a relationship because he wasn’t happy on his own.
This stark realization scared me. There was nothing I could do. The hardest part was realizing I had no choice but to try and move on. Not for me but for him.
I gave my heart to Luke and in him I finally found the best version of myself. Trying to be the light in his darkness illuminated my pathway. He brought out a side in me that I didn’t think I had, complete selflessness. I carry that with me every day.
I came to the understanding that all love has a lesson to teach us but at a cost. We first must bet on ourselves before we can gamble on someone else. While I hope I can shut my heart to Luke the truth is I don’t think I ever will. And that’s okay.
When you love someone, truly love them, you do it completely.
You don’t fall out of it and it doesn’t fade.
Rather, you accept loves freedom and limits.
Life isn’t a Norah Ephron film or Nicholas Sparks novel.
Some happily-ever-afters’ are the love we take with us as we leave the past behind.
DEDICATED TO ALL THE WOMEN WHO TRIED TO CHANGE ANOTHER, BUT ENDED UP FINDING CHANGE WITHIN THEMSELVES.