by Alisa Damaso
I had a thought-provoking conversation with a friend the other day regarding relationships and love. A veteran of two ill-fated marriages and currently involved in a very successful one, he admitted that the first two didn’t pan out because there was no love involved. Not the real kind, anyway.
This brought me to think about my past serious relationships. None of them involved a mature kind of love. They were intense, yes, but this school-girl passion was manifested by a severe desire for companionship. I saw in them what I wanted to see, and things felt right because I wanted them to, so badly. It’s not that the feelings weren’t real; they definitely were. It’s that these guys were selfish, and I was too intoxicated to see it, accept reality and let go of them.
I fell in love with these guys’ potential, not their present capacity. They had the potential to love me as intensely as I did them. They had the potential to be successful in their own right. But they weren’t. Sometimes we’re blinded by our own love that we don’t see we’re being abused, or taken advantage of, or held back. I forgot that I was an individual with my own goals. I couldn’t make a decision without factoring in the other person, as if it mattered, as if we had a shared bank account or some shit. I’m still young and have my whole life ahead of me, and it was stupid to think that way — to limit myself and my goals. That’s how you know it’s not real love.
Love is sharing, honesty, encouragement and feeling secure with your partner. It doesn’t involve selfishness, lies, unresolved fights and jealousy. Nor does it entail walking on eggshells and not being able to straightforwardly talk about your feelings for fear of offending — or being judged or ridiculed by — the other person. A relationship involves growing together, not holding each other back. I know this now. And if you don’t believe me, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you.
After my last relationship ended*, I really didn’t see the point in being in one again until I figured myself out. This last person changed me in such a negative way, I had to find my way back to who I once was — a happy, confident, ambitious young woman who didn’t care what others thought about her. I needed to revert back to that playfully vulgar, twisted and enjoyable dork I had once been before an insecure, alcoholic, not-so-subconsciously chauvinistic man-child influenced me to change the very things about myself that made me fundamentally me.
So for a year and a half, I lived my life stag by choice, and focused on MYSELF. My goals, my life, my work, my future. I came out with a damn good head on my shoulders, tunnel-vision for success, kick-ass confidence and a sense of self not all 24-year-olds are capable of possessing. I developed an unrelenting trust in myself, the most important person in my life. And when I was ready to dip my toes into the dating pool again, I found an equally vulgar, twisted and enjoyable dork who was irresistibly attracted to these newfound characteristics brought on by my self-developmental sabbatical. We’ve had some pretty amazing adventures, and along the way there were no fights, no jealousy and no bullshit. So a few months before our 1-year anniversary we decided to move in together to an inspiring city where we can both grow in our careers. So far, it’s going pretty ridiculously awesome. See? Self-discovery and patience really do have lasting benefits.
If I’ve learned anything from my young dumb loves, it’s this: Before you dive into a relationship, it helps to know what you want for yourself first. Know who you are as an individual. Know what your place and purpose is in the Universe and have some peace of mind before you go and ruin someone else’s party with your baggage. Because if they care enough about you, they will naively waste their time trying to help you, which you will rigidly decline in very scary, selfish and retarded ways. Don’t put other people in pain and suffering just because you’re unhappy or lonely. Figure your shit out and don’t be a douche; the world has enough of those.
Fuck-ups are learning experiences. Essentially, a bad relationship isn’t something to lament because it helps us understand who we are and allows us to measure our capacity for avoiding repeats, ultimately contributing to our genuine, long-lasting happiness. And that’s what relationships are for, right? Happiness and growth? Not every couple can be on the same level of emotional maturity, and this results in some pretty horrible feelings. Don’t beat yourself up or try to change the other person — these are futile acts that lead to nowhere or somewhere worse. It’s up to you to determine whether to stay in the relationship and make it work with your partner (it takes effort on both sides, who’da thunk?), or accept reality and break free from the unhealthy union while it’s not too late. The goal is to not lose yourself and not be miserable in the longrun. As for the hurt and pain after a breakup, it’s a TEMPORARY and necessary part of life. Just try hard to keep your head on straight. Soak it all up, remember everything and regret nothing.
*After more than a year together my ex and I broke up and then started hooking up again a month later. And then he turned 26 and stopped returning my texts and calls. That’s how it officially ended. Real classy!