If you were to look to at my love life as following a trajectory, forming one neat and perfect line (ha), it would appear as if, since the tender age of 17, I were perpetually engaged in an active search for The One. With the exception of what amounts to a total of about a year and a half lost to housebound illness and heartbroken depression, adding in some month or two breaks here and there in between active dating, I have spent nearly 16 years of my life in serial monogamy, AKA some form of a relationship.
These relationships have ranged from the short-lived, failed attempts of one to three months to serious, deeply committed, live-in relationships lasting three to four years. In perhaps too many, I have turned out to be the heartbreaker, but I have also had my share of experiences where my heart had been utterly destroyed as well. Yet each time, I eventually dust myself back off, heading back into the adventures of love, though perhaps with my heart more carefully protected the next time.
My married childhood friends who thought I’d be the first of us down the aisle—as did I—observe my endless adventures with men with amusement and/or not-well-disguised pity. They wonder if I’m too picky, too flighty or, if they’re feeling generous, wonder when a truly great guy will realize just how amazing I really am.
“He’s out there,” they say, not really meaning to come across as condescending, I’m sure. “Be patient.”
Some of my perpetually single friends have expressed concerns that I at times might be too eager to be paired up with a mate, but I contend that desperation has been not my driving urge. On the contrary, I love to give and receive the sincerest form of love. I have been driven by the mission to find and keep that love—I know that is possible, at the right time, with the right person. I have seen in it very close to home, as my parents’ own love affair only grows deeper and more beautiful with each passing year. I know I want that too some day.
In my periods of self-reflection—which by the way can still occur in the midst of a struggling relationship, which as those of you who have lived there know can be even lonelier than being single—I have also come to a realization about love that relationship experts repeat over and over because it’s true. You cannot truly expect to really find and keep the genuine, enduring love from another person until you can learn to find and accept that same love from yourself.
Don’t roll your eyes at me. Think about it. If you can’t appreciate your own inner beauty, your gifts, talents, strengths and what you can bring to the table, not just in romantic relationships but to the world in general, how can you expect someone who may be starting off as a perfect stranger to you to learn to either?
Of course, a great partner can see beyond the b.s. you sometimes hold up as a mask to protect yourself from hurt. A great partner can be your biggest cheerleader and in the most loving and respectful ways encourage you to be your best self that is most genuine to the real you. A great partner can help you to open your eyes to that beautiful person you truly are inside and out.
But you can’t depend on a partner to do all that hard work for you. At some point you’re going to have to take a look in front of the metaphorical and literal mirror by yourself and say, “Damn it, I am an amazing person, worthy of love. I deserve happiness, wonderful friendships, a career I love, success and all the great rewards of life. Regardless of whether I ever find The One or not.”
Your quest for love should be directed inward first and foremost. Because really—you are your One. Anyone else is just bonus.
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