When I was a kid, I’d look at adult couples and think to myself, One day I will have that ––not distinguishing between what that really meant or looked like. I assumed that’s what we do as we grow up. We get older. We find a person, our person, and we end up happy together. Fast forward to now, some relationships later, and I have come to understand relationships in a different light.
All relationships are an invitation to meet ourselves. People don’t change us overnight or by choice. People change us when we let them in ––when we create space for them to seek refuge in our hearts, in our minds, and in our bodies. Life is exhausting, and in the midst of change, it’s easy to make people our sanctuaries. That is why those that carve pieces of themselves out for others end up feeling like they have lost when something ends. That is one way to feel empty.
But those that give up and never give of themselves create a different space. Their emptiness becomes a void ––one that echoes memories of resentment, guilt, or pain ––until one day the echo becomes too loud, so they put a cap on it. They leave that space empty, shut it tight with a lid, and pretend it’s not there.
Despite all the frustration and confusion that comes with being the person who feels the loss more, I actually believe it’s worse for those who live in their void in the long-term. For every loss I have experienced, I have gained more than triple in wisdom. For every chance that I have taken that didn’t work out, I have gained several that have. I have chosen to see the best in people, not because I am naïve or in denial, but because sometimes people need someone to believe in them.
There are some people who have the capability to do good, but at their core they are conflicted souls. I have learned that there is such a thing as someone who is not good, that there are some people who do you wrong and have ill intentions. Yet there are also those who, at their core, you can see that their hearts are pure even if their history is riddled with mistakes and a few left turns.
When I see someone like that, I can’t help but look for the goodness inside of them. There is something so raw about someone who wants to become better. I think it’s more a gift than a burden to see through people––the ability to connect and feel the potential that lies dormant in them. Some of my greatest friendships and bonds have arisen from my willingness to give them a chance. To look beyond the facades and reflect back to them who they really can be. For every hurt or feeling of betrayal, I’d like to think there have been more who have proven me right to believe in them. In a way, we have helped save each other.
When it comes to romantic relationships, this dynamic can be trickier sometimes. The very nature of romantic bonds comes with expectations and deeper attachments. This is where lessons of balancing boundaries with compassionate understanding come into play the most. The ability to create a space for people to feel accepted while drawing lines for how we will be respected and accepted in return is a delicate art. Such a delicate thing, because love kind of makes you lose your mind for a minute. That’s why I’m convinced we keep receiving opportunities to practice until self-love becomes our default ––the point in which we don’t even have to think about what we should do, because we intuitively choose what feels right within us. Self-love to me is when we can unconditionally love others without betraying ourselves.
If I have learned three important lessons about humans and love, it is these:
1. Look for the good in people. Believe in them. Release judgment. Give them space. But when someone shows you who they are, do not stay attached to the idea of their potential. Relationships are based on the meeting of two people, not the ideas we carry of these people. People can grow and change, but only if they desire it for themselves. All we can do is show them how we wish to be treated by drawing boundaries as to what we will accept. Even when I have made difficult choices, I have ultimately felt light in the end because I knew I acted out of a place of truth. I knew that I listened to myself. It was those times when I denied my own feelings and suppressed my needs where I left feeling defeated and disempowered.
2. Not every ending is a loss. We want things to work out, especially when they look and feel perfect. As humans living in this disconnected society, we crave real bonding so much that when we find someone who excites us and also appeases our need for comfort, we want to hold onto them. I have replayed scenarios, conversations, and even looks scanning them all for a deeper understanding of where something went wrong. Did I assume wrong? Did I manifest my own situation? Was it me? Was it me? Was it me? If I had just done one thing different, would this have ended differently? And the worst question of all: Why was I not enough?
I have been moody and annoyed with each ending, because, well, they suck. They remind us that we are not in control and leave us with more questions than answers, especially when they abruptly end in the middle. That “comma” in life drives the mind crazy, because we can’t understand it. I’ve learned it’s so hard for the mind to accept what it cannot understand. Just think about it. We reject things we don’t understand all the time. And when we feel rejected, we turn inwards, tearing ourselves apart over what went wrong. The funny thing is, each time I have finally accepted a loss and made a genuine attempt to move forward, life did bring me a higher level of love.
That pattern makes me question, Why do we wonder if we were enough? Maybe this entire time we had been accepting less than we deserve. Maybe it shouldn’t be am I enough, but instead, was this situation I was in really enough for me? It is necessary to take responsibility for ourselves and to be honest about our own faults so we can improve. But sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We are so quick to think ` how we could have molded ourselves to fit into our situations when, instead, we should be asking our situations to rise to our true standards. When we let go of what is no longer enough for us, we give ourselves the freedom to meet what finally can be enough. As much as it hurts in the moment, sometimes we don’t know what we want or what we deserve until we are crying in the shower with the hot steam rolling down our back, comforting our vulnerable bodies.
In every adult, there is that inner child that just wants the real kind of love. We spend so much of our lives bending ourselves to conform to what is in front of us rather than standing tall and believing we can have what our hearts desire most. Almost always, abrupt endings are actually abrupt beginnings. They only feel like a loss because we want what we have already touched. If we only let go, maybe we realize what we were holding onto was weighing us down.
Those that are meant to stay in our lives will be. Those that are meant to return will. Life is complicated. Love can be messy. But, when two people are meant to meet, I’m convinced the universe brings them together. Who stays is a choice. Not a choice based on what looks right or sounds good. It’s the kind of choice that says ––I am choosing you, because out of all the fish in the sea, you are my mermaid. You know what I mean? It’s a choice based on what feels right, which brings me to my third lesson.
3. To fall in love requires courage. Anyone can be in a relationship. Anyone can love. That isn’t the hard part. The hard part is falling in love and having the courage to let it move you instead of drown you. When we choose to settle and keep our heart guarded, it’s like two people hugging the shore. The waves occasionally come splashing against them, but they cling to that security. Guess what that means? They never move. They don’t experience the rise and falls. They never journey.
Then there are those that fall in love without having learned the tools to navigate fear. Those people drown. They succumb to jealousy, insecurities, and their ego. They lose sight of themselves. Automatically, this makes it impossible to really love someone. You can’t love someone, lift someone, hold them close while setting their spirit free, if you are clinging to them for your life. Our romantic partners should not be our life vests. They are our lighthouses. We guide each other home.
Those who become jaded and close their hearts do so, because it is safer to not want than to want, receive, and suffer loss. But, you know what? If love doesn’t move you in this life, what will? The saddest heartbreak is watching those who settle. Those who were so close to having what they truly wanted but gave up at the last minute.
There have been days in which it took every single sappy self-help quote and atom in my body to get me to smile. But I made a promise to myself years ago that this life will not harden me. My greatest commitment in life has been to live freely and to love boldly. To move and be moved in return. Everyone wants that great love, but they don’t want to challenge their own belief systems to receive it. Falling in love takes courage, because when it happens, you don’t see the shore anymore. It’s you, the waves, and the lighthouse. You have to trust that the currents will lead you home.
I can’t define love for you. I don’t have those answers. But I can tell you that love will always be one of the most beautiful, inexplicable things we experience. Not having all the answers is alright. Sometimes the answers arrive when we have stopped feeling the need for them. Sometimes we simply need to commit to ourselves, so when love comes knocking on our door, we are ready to receive it.