When It’s Love, It Doesn’t Hurt.
One of the most difficult things for me to get used to is the feeling of being loved.
It sounds weird to say. Actually, it sounds pretty fucked up to say, but I’m slowly working my way through fucked up, and as I go, I hope to share some of my hard-won (read: face bloodied, nails torn out, spat on and waterboarded) wisdom.
If anything that I share resonates, and makes someone feel a bit less alone, or maybe, just maybe, stops someone from spending one second more in a bad, small, not good place… then it’s all worth it. All of it.
It never occurred to me, until recently, that love was something that didn’t need to be earned or won. I always did what the slave-driver in my head told me to: I bled for love, sacrificed for it, compromised. I sold parts of my soul.
I cried and I begged and spent many long nights wondering why the men I loved didn’t love me.
It never occurred to me that love didn’t hurt.
I turn on the radio, and it’s full of angsty songs about painful relationships: yearning, longing, not meant to be, wrong place, wrong time, you don’t understand me, and why can’t it be?
I scroll through social media, and the public couples’ wars are one thing, a different thing I think, but the pain is another. The pain of people yearning for their love.
It’s crushing. I feel its weight through my screen. It has a physical quality — it hangs like grey lead, and it feels like a thick weight.
I feel for it. Because I know.
I was considering my past relationships the other day and have been thinking on this subject for a bit. It occurred to me that none of the men I dated, before my husband, actually seemed to like me very much.
I’ve been dating since 13. And I can honestly say that not one of those men showed me the respect, care, appreciation, and affection that comes with love.
I would spend days (not just days, but entire nights, when I should have been having fun with my girlfriends — you know, enjoying my life) devising strategies, crafting the perfect text message, and agonizing over the right things to say to prove my worth to them. To get them to value me.
I was fun enough. I was smart enough. I deserved their attention. Their regard.
Their basic human decency.
Please, hang out with me instead of going to the hockey game. Please, come over and have dinner instead of going to the local bar for the fourth night of the 36th week of the ninth year in a row. Please, can you eat the dinner I cooked for you, fuck me, and then leave?
Please, oh please, will you not scream at me for doing the laundry incorrectly? I really was doing my best in that particular situation, I assure you. I am actually not an asshole.
Oh please, won’t you give me the most amazing gift of your love?
Sound familiar, at all?
Please text me back. Please call me. Please choose me.
We accept half truths and half effort:
I don’t know who that text is from. Someone random. Flirting isn’t cheating. Well, we’re dating… but you’re not my girlfriend. Let’s have sex… but you can’t stay over. Or, stay over… but don’t leave any of your stuff.
When did we stop asking for decency? To be treated not just as people in a relationship of some regard with these people, but just as people — with feelings worthy of respect?
We all deserve that.
But in the past, my attitude was, okay, I’ll take what I can get.
You and I need acceptance. Desire. Fulfillment.
I need love.
It took me forever to realize it.
Love isn’t half. It’s not half of their effort and it’s not half of my value. And my worth had nothing to do with their failure to recognize my value.
When it’s love, real love, sometimes you honestly do get half. Or 10%. Or some piece of pie that isn’t a whole pie. Because your partner is tired, or stressed, or their aunt Meryl died, or they just had a shitty-ass day. The difference? You don’t lose your value. You retain it 100%.
You keep their respect, their trust, their regard.
You don’t worry that they’re not going to love you or that you lost something.
And sometimes, when you have a tiring and stressful day, and your cat pukes all over your bed, or your boss is a douche troll, you give a piece of pie that isn’t the whole. Because love is giving what we can, to a partner who values our wholeness, in all its fucked-up-ness.
And never asks us to sacrifice for it. Or makes us feel bad for it, less for it, or judge it.
When it’s love, we are never made to feel as if we don’t deserve it.
When it’s love, it won’t feel like a Taylor Swift song (the angsty ones). It won’t feel like sinking-stomach, heart-rending, I need you I want you, please love me, doomed Romeo and Juliet romance.
It will feel like peace. Like freedom. Like waking up in the morning, and knowing that the sun will rise. Yes, there may be a thunderstorm. It may even rain all day.
But the sun is always there, behind the clouds. It keeps the earth warm and it lights up the moon, sending the oceans into rolling waves of joy.
Fleeting love? That’s the weather. The stuff that comes and goes. The storms. The wind. They will spin up out of nowhere — passionate, beautiful, intense.
And then they’re gone.
The real thing? Certain as the sun. And just like the sun, it will always rise.