It’s not wrong.
It’s not wrong to love someone, even when they’re not right for you. It’s not wrong to want something out of love that isn’t what you were taught, told, or pushed towards. It’s not wrong to want something out of love just because it’s what your parents have, what your siblings have, what your friends have. It’s not wrong to change your mind. It’s not wrong to persevere, even when it seems futile to everyone else. It’s not wrong to give up, even when other people can see a way forward.
I have wanted something different out of love at different points in my life, and I’m willing to bet you have, too. We emulate the things we see around us, we are products of the company we keep at different times of our lives, and what’s good for us then might not be what’s good for us now, and that’s perfectly fine.
It seems frustrating, when your standards get more and more stringent as you age, trying to find someone as the pool seems to be narrowing. The realization that if you can’t have what you want, you’re better off on your own. The freedom that the right relationship doesn’t have to be the “good enough” relationship. The pain of understanding that the relationship you thought you wanted isn’t what you actually want, come to think of it.
I thought I had found the one at 19 years old. A lot of people will laugh and roll their eyes at that one, what does a child know about finding a forever kind of love? They’d be absolutely right, I knew nothing. One has to learn somewhere, though, and 19 is as good an age as any.
I was a product of my environment, and wanted what my friends had. I wanted a man that I could show off and brag about, look at all the sweet things he does for me, and he can sit and roll over and everything! I wanted a guy who would like exactly what I liked, plan the Pinterest-quaint wedding of my dreams, and turn a blind eye when my eye inevitably wandered. Do you see where I’m going here? I was specifically looking for someone who was like me, but a version I didn’t respect. I could get all internal psychology and talk about how it presented a deeper understanding of my lack of self-respect, but let’s not delve too deep.
It still wasn’t wrong. It was still okay for me to want that, and it was still okay for me to experience that.
We have a tendency to judge people, younger or older or whatever, about their relationship choices. I know I catch myself doing it often, shaking my head and clucking sympathetically when I can see someone making a bad romantic decision. Sure it might hurt, and sure they are going to feel it, but it’s something they have to feel. It’s something they have to experience, for one reason or another, in order to eventually decide what it is they really want in their romantic lives.
I learned that respect was not only an important facet in my love life, but a KEY facet in my love life. The idea of there being a mutual respect between me and my partner was something so unromantic that it didn’t even cross my mind before, but here I am declaring it one of my cornerstones. For me, love isn’t enough when there’s no respect.
I remember the times when older, wiser friends tried to step in during my “learning” relationships, and my emphatic claims that I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t wrong, technically speaking. I was learning, and even though I was making some big errors, they were necessary ones. These much more knowledgeable people would try to explain exactly where I was going wrong, and there were times when my mind could almost grasp it, but then there were others where I shook my head and vehemently declared them to be absolutely wrong.
I can understand where they were coming from now, as I watch friends and acquaintances at earlier stages make mistakes. It’s so easy seeing them from an outside perspective to judge, warn, and lecture. It’s not so easy confronting the fact that you’ve made a mistake, or to walk away, or to hurt someone.
In the end of my learning relationships, I knew I had made mistakes. I knew it would be easier and simpler to stick it out, and “love the one you’re with”. Wasn’t it only a few short decades ago that the dating pool of available men and women was so small that they had to choose, and then fall in love afterwards? Where they perfected the art of the “good enough” relationship? When you marry someone, or move in with someone, or get a dog with someone, isn’t that reason enough to renew your commitment despite all your misgivings?
You have permission to give up. You have permission to walk away. You have permission to decide that you don’t want to try. You don’t want to keep going. You don’t want to be satisfied with “good enough”. You can do all this, but there’s a price and a risk to everything. You risk being alone. You risk being the bad guy. You risk hurting someone. You risk alienating people, losing friends, losing money, your dog, your home, your entire known routine. You are stepping out into a completely unfamiliar, lonely world of your own.
Someone once told me that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. The more you sacrifice and change, the greater the potential for something good beyond your wildest dreams to enter your life. Logically, this makes sense. If you only half leave a relationship, cheat on someone while maintaining your safe little life, change the world around you in half measures, you’re not going to end up with the best possible outcome. You’ll likely end up with something that’s mostly unsatisfying and not quite as good as it should be. In the karmic sense, the statement is complete and utter bullshit, but I love it and believe it with my whole entire heart.
There comes a time in every person’s life when they realize how cosmically impossible it seems to find someone who wants the exact same thing they want at the exact same time. After years of chasing people who don’t want to be in a relationship but are perfect for you otherwise, or years of being chased by someone who wants to nail you down, or years of swiping through dating app after dating app, it’s daunting to realize how perfect the storm has to be in order to bring you what you really want.
Respect. Someone you think highly of, and who thinks highly of you. Someone who doesn’t always understand your opinion or agree with it, but will defend your right to have it and speak your mind. Someone who will respect you enough to be honest with you, even when it’s difficult. Someone who will talk through fights with you instead of with their friends over drinks or all over social media. Someone who knows you can do anything you set your mind to, and will cheer you on. Someone that you won’t ever badmouth. Someone that you’re proud to call your partner. Someone whose individuality you admire deeply.
Care. Someone who wants to work at things. Someone who wants to help out around the house, and do things that are hard and not fun. Someone who isn’t afraid of the sticky situations, who isn’t going to avoid them just because it’s easier. Someone whose happiness and comfort you value as dearly as your own, someone you would sacrifice your own happiness for, just to give them a moment of peace or respite. Someone who cares enough about your bad days to make sure you have a good ones.
Love isn’t listed anywhere on the list, because it’s comprised of all those little things under the umbrella of the two bigger things. At the end of the day, everything we do for our partners and everything we come to together comes back to respect and care. It does seem daunting to find someone who will have the same level of respect for us as we will have for them. Or care just as much as we do about the state and health of the other person as well as the relationship. It is ridiculously hard, and way over complicated considering how big our pool of possibilities. However, it is OKAY to hold out for that. It is okay to make some relationship errors in order to find what you want.
It is especially okay for those errors to be public. It is okay to love someone publicly and unabashedly, even when other people say it’s wrong. It is okay to keep plugging away at something, when other people can see the effort isn’t reciprocal. You will hurt and fall and feel pain. It might be embarrassing, people will go on about how they told you so, and the hurt pride at having to admit you were severely delusional about someone you were effusive of all over your Facebook, Instagram, and twitter will make you want to destroy your smart phone forever. You’ll live, though.
When you do finally get to the end of the road, and find the special someone you’ve always been meant to be with, there will be serious skeptics. Wave them away and enjoy being in love, because you have worked hard for this. You deserve this.