The things I’ve learned about love
I’m still too young to know all there is to know about love. But I sure have some experience.
In my 26 years of life I have loved a lot. I’ve loved my father, my siblings, my grandparents, my friends, my pets and two men in my life. With the two men I have learned the most about myself and about love.
My first love was also my first many things. I was young and naive and he was older and more experienced. He was also manipulative, emotionally abusive and selfish. But I loved him, and for four years (only two of which we were officially together) I wouldn’t let him go. I was hopelessly devoted to someone who only wanted me around when he needed something from me. But I gave and I gave. My time, my energy, my support, my ideas, my money, my commitment, my body, my soul, my love. It was all under his name.
And I held onto his love, no, the idea of his love for me, in a locket around my neck. Thinking that this one small gesture would continuously protect me within his love, that it would forever provide me with his love, that he would never let me go. But the acts of love cannot manifest out of a silver necklace. Love is more than a cheap gift. It is support, trust, quality time, listening, honesty, appreciation, respect, and kindness.
I was fooled into thinking that the way I loved him would be returned to me in time. I was giving with no hope of receiving anything in return. I tricked myself into thinking that I had a great relationship. No one is truly happy. Everyone spent their nights crying. You say “I love you” out of habit instead of meaning it every single time. Until one day (and a couple self help books later) I realized that I no longer wanted to be tricked. I no longer wanted to be imprisoned. No longer would I be just another girl to someone. I wanted to be appreciated and adored, most of all respected.
One day I was able to fold up that love, leave it on his doorstep and walk away forever. I honestly thought that the day would never come, I thought that I would be bound to him for good. I never imagined that I would let him go. Only now I wish I had realized sooner that I was the one who had to free myself.
See, what I learned in this relationship is that I was putting myself second. It never occurred to me that I was being too selfless. My father had always taught me to be selfless. He too was selfless in love. I hate to realize it as a bad habit, but you can lose yourself in it.
When I woke up to this reality I was able to free myself from it. It took time and effort to say no, to please myself first, to not run when I was called, to not obey every whim. It was a challenge to think about what I wanted for a change. I wasn’t used to it. It felt strange.
After I made the switch to look after myself first I started to become so much happier. Around that same time I moved out of a bad living arrangement and into my first apartment by myself. Finally I was able to do whatever the hell I wanted and it felt so liberating!
Little by little I started the practice of self love. I made space for myself, and I didn’t leave any room for what other people thought of me. I started to write again, something I had stopped for that entire relationship. I began traveling, started to date, went out dancing with friends, went for long walks, had friends over, listened to my favourite music and danced. I stayed in with myself and dressed up however I wanted to. I put myself back on top of my priority list, and nothing could knock me down.
It’s a powerful feeling, to be free of someone who held me back for years and become the most important thing in my life for the first time as an adult. Suddenly you become transformed from the Cinderella that tended to everyone else, to the Cinderella that finally goes to the ball herself. But in this case I was my own fairy godmother. I did it for myself.
I got to the point where I was so full of love for myself that I attracted it right to me.