HUGE HARD REALIZATIONS INSTALLMENT #2: The Love You Accept Does Not Define You
This is the second installment in my "HUGE HARD ROMANCE-RELATED REALIZATIONS" series. If you'd like to read last week's post on love-scraps and hot-stove men, have at it boo! Otherwise...
Y'know what breaks my fucking heart?
How ashamed and guilty and broken so many women feel for loving the way they do. Specifically for loving so hard, and so much, on tepid/broken/fucked up men.
I went through a spell of shameful-guilty-broken in my early twenties when I got involved with a guy who was clearly, obviously, very bad for me (the hottest of stoves).
And even when the writing was on the wall, and everyone in my life was explicitly not on board with our relationship, I couldn’t let it go.
And then I felt like the ugliest, unworthiest, most broken freak of freaks for caring about him, and wanting our relationship to work. For wanting our love to thrive despite all evidence that it couldn’t and wouldn’t.
And when it didn't, I couldn't stop thinking, "Wowww what the fuck is even wrong with me? Am I officially a dumbass fucked up idiot woman? Should I send myself to the glue factory? PUT A FORK IN ME CUPID, CAUSE CLEARLY I'M DOOMED AND DONE."
Let me clear something up right now: Loving a bad or broken person doesn’t make you wrong or bad.
It doesn’t make you more broken than he is.
It doesn’t make you exceptionally stupid, or weak, or any of the other awful things you believe or fear you are.
Loving a bad or broken person just means you love so much, and care and empathize so deeply, that you can easily love to your own detriment.
If you donated organs the way you love, you would have nothing left. You’d be a flat shell of flesh with bones and a heart hooked up to a ventilator and you’d quietly nod, instructing the doctor to give the broken man your heart, because you’ll make due without it.
You’re that kind of lover person. An epic organ donor. A love-til-you’re-dead sort. That’s not bad, it’s just a wee bit cuckoo. (I say this as a reformed love-hard-epic-organ-donor type of person.)
Because you can’t love once you’re dead, and there is no amount of love and generosity and caring that will fix another person.
There is also no amount of love and generosity and caring that will make another person love or choose you.
You believe on some level that if you keep handing your love/organs over to this guy, he’ll come around eventually.
Maybe he’ll see all the gaping, empty holes inside you and finally tune into how much you’ve given him and decide he has to turn himself around, or you’re going to be nothing but a flesh-shell soon.
But knowing you, even once you’re a flesh-shell you’ll ask the doctor to peel off your skin and cloak him in your love.
This metaphor is so perfect and gross because that’s what this kind of love is.
Giving and loving and caring to the point where you barely exist anymore is this romanticized fantasy that leads only to painful, dark, empty places.
And it’s built on a manipulative fallacy: That your giving, your loving, and your willingness to over-extend will guarantee you someone else’s favor, approval, or love.
If you give ’til you’re dead, he has to bring you back to life. Right?
No, not at all.
Loving and caring only works when we can give it freely. And you are not giving love freely when you’re waiting for a return. And no one can continue to give love, and care, and invest when they get nothing in return except perpetual hurt.
Caring and loving for others is so beautiful and important, but, just like donating organs, there must be limits put on it. And if you’re someone who loves until you’re dead, you have to learn to put limits on yourself.
You have to get comfortable setting boundaries and practice saying, “No,” even when big parts of you want to scream, “YES”.
You have to be very honest with yourself and identify what you’re trying to get from this other person, and show up that way for your self every fucking day. Most of us seek some cocktail of attention, approval, acceptance, adoration, appreciation, and acknowledgment. So how can you pay attention to yourself? Start accepting yourself? Speak to yourself in an appreciative, approving way? Practice this.
You have to learn to detach from who he is, and what he does, and the choices he makes, and admit you don’t know how to fix him or fix the relationship at all. You have to stop believing that when you do X, maybe he’ll do Y, and then maybe things will get better. You have to see the two of you as totally separate entities drifting through space, and stop acting like your joint cause and effect is anything other than heartache and chaos. Let the record show, that’s the combo you create together right now.
You have to be humble enough to recognize that you can’t save anyone.
You have to have enough pride and dignity to commit to choosing a different way forward.
You have to respect and cherish your ability to love, your capacity to give, these extremely vital organs, and not toss them at someone who doesn’t know how to take care of them.
And if right now you’re someone who is struggling to limit her giving, to detach, to be humble, to choose differently, to cherish yourself, and you’re loving someone so hard that you feel like a flesh-shell most days, please, first and foremost: Let go of the harsh, abusive judgment you have for yourself for loving and being this way.
You love like this because it’s what you know how to do. And again—giving epic love and caring deeply for others is beautiful and important. There are people who don’t know how to love or give or care at all.
It's just that you possess a bit too much of these very good things.
Instead of seeing your capacity to love as brokenness, start recognizing it as a tremendous gift. Treat these parts of yourself (your caring, your empathy, your giving, your compassion) like the precious, life-giving organs they are.
Don’t take them for granted. Don’t hand them over so readily. Treasure them. Treasure yourself. Hold onto these gifts and be very careful with how and when you hand them out.
This is a slow, life-long realization for many. And sometimes you’ll realize, “Fuck—I gave him my heart when he wouldn’t even toss me a toenail clipping,” and you’ll have to gently regroup. Again. And then again. Fuck dammit.
That’s okay. You’re learning to limit. You’re figuring out how to respectfully cherish your gifts. You’re being measured in your capacity to love. You can take your time in doing that.
And you can do it in a way that doesn’t require beating yourself up, existing in a reservoir of shame, or believing that you’re so beyond fucked up there’s no point in even trying.
There’s A MILLION POINTS IN EVEN TRYING. Trying is the way. Trying is how you step forward, little by little, to reclaiming yourself and your life and your sanity. Trying is the only way anyone does anything, and the best place to begin trying is here. The best time to begin trying is now.
It’s okay to step away from this situation. It’s safe to put your attention elsewhere. It’s alright to begin to gently let go of the problem this person is creating in your life. Sure, you can acknowledge the existence of the the person or the problem, but does the mean you have to fixate on them twenty-four hours a day? Is that helping??
Most of the time the answer is a walloping NO.
The answer becomes yes when we gently ask, “Can I do something to take care of myself today?”
Or, “Can I set the intention to honor my needs first, and practice expressing them? First to myself, and then to others?”
And what about, “Is it okay if I don’t know how to make things better, but I at least acknowledge that maybe they could be better? And I could be a part of making them better? Somehow?”
Say yes to all of these things. Say yes to the questions that bring you back to yourself. Say no to the million lopsided variables of how to change this person, solve this problem, make someone love you, or fix everything in this singular moment.
Steps forward, self-protecting, and self-preservation are your answers. Learning to limit and detach is the way.
Practice, practice, practice, practice. You can do this.
So gently, tenderly, slowly, start trying.