Not too long ago I wrote something about looking for the love instead of waiting for the other foot to drop in relationships. Now, as will be probably become a fairly common occurrence around here, it’s time to look at the other side of it.
What happens when you look for the love in someone who doesn’t actually love you?
The problem of looking for signs someone will leave/hurt/betray you is that you’ll almost always find them, whether or not they’re actually real. Looking for signs that someone loves you has the same problem.
In a relationship where love is there, seeking it out can strengthen your connection. It can be reaffirming in times of doubt or discord. There’s a fine line, however, between affirmation and delusion.
It’s easy for me to tell you how beautiful you all are. Even without knowing you. Everyone is beautiful in some way. Everyone is worthy and deserving of love. But giving love doesn’t always translate to getting it in return. Sometimes, you love someone and they just… don’t. Not because there’s something wrong with you, or you’re not enough. I mean it. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, a person that you love very dearly just won’t love you back.
So what to do?
The Zen wannabe in me is preaching acceptance. To see the root of that pain as simply the discrepancy between the desire and the reality. My little inner Buddhist is reminding me that the only way to alleviate emotional suffering is to let go of my own attachments to whatever fantasy I’m longing for and learn to take things as they are, not as I would have them.
The thing, though, is that I’m no Buddhist. Love the philosophy. Fuck-all at the practice.
How do you stop yourself from dwelling? From wondering what’s wrong with you? What about you isn’t good enough, or right? Even if you can admit there’s nothing outrightly wrong with you, how do you not dwell on what about you is keeping this person from loving you as much as you love them?
Because maybe they do. That’s it, right? Maybe, somewhere, deep underneath every hurt and doubt and layer upon later of emotional damage and baggage… They do. So you look. You look for the love.
And you’ll find it. In the way they look at you and smile, when they reach out to touch you and they didn’t have to, when they seek you out. You’ll find everything you’ve been wanting the whole time.
Even if it isn’t there.
I don’t have to tell you how this ends up. You guys know the end of this story, and it isn’t pretty. This is where communication becomes a bafuckingjillion times more important (and I become a bafuckingjillion times more hypocritical for what I’m about to say).
The only way to be sure of how someone feels about you is to ask them, and believe what they tell you. There’s two parts to that. First, the asking. Fuck the asking. Ugh. I, for the record, have never outrightly asked someone how they felt about me when I wasn’t already almost certain of the answer. Just, no. But learn from me. Learn from the things I wish I could do differently. Just fucking ask. Open the line of communication up.
I was walking around with someone at Catalyst who turned to me out of nowhere and point-blank asked, “Just to be clear, are we flirting right now or are we just friends? It’s fine either way, I’d just like to know.” Mind. Fucking. Blown. The key to not making it uncomfortable when you ask seems to be doing it without any expectation or pressure. This is an informational thing, not a confirmation or dismissal of all your hopes and dreams.
The second part of this is believing the answer you’re given. If you’ve got some trust issues (hands up, bitches), this could be tricky. At some point you just have to start taking words at face value until you have a reason not to. If someone doesn’t feel a certain way, cool. At least you know. And if they do, even better.
My super-communicative friend from Catalyst? After he asked, I thought about it for a moment and realized I was still a little on the fence. So I told him that. Literally. Those words. And you know what? It was fine. He modeled that open communication for me, and created a safe space for me to be up front. I am still grateful for that.
Ultimately, we create the relationships we are in. Clinging to reasons to stay is just as detrimental to a healthy dynamic as searching for reasons to doubt. Instead of looking for the supporting evidence of our own theories, maybe it’s time to just start asking people where they stand.