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Mark Manson wrote some great things about this subject.
Here’s something I wrote on the subject:

This idea that I have to stop loving people because we couldn’t make a romantic relationship work doesn’t work for me. I never stopped loving any of them. I just stopped being in their soap opera. I stopped worrying about their day to day or being there to take care of what I took care of. I stopped hurting over them. I stopped wondering where they were or what they were doing and I stopped thinking the worst about their safety. I stopped thinking about them every day or waiting for the phone to ring.

I didn’t stop loving any of them. I just stopped having a role in their drama. Some people think that’s weird or think it means I don’t love my husband enough. That’s the thing about love, the more you give away the more you get back. Having love for many people doesn’t deplete the stores. There’s always enough to go around and there’s always more. I have no qualms about that. But having love for someone doesn’t mean it’s enough to keep me in the drama.

I think it’s unhealthy to be everything to someone. I don’t want to be “enough”. I want to scratch itches but not sate every flavour that gives one an appetite.

I was repeatedly lied to about love from the time I was first read a fairy tale. It’s a lie that there’s a Prince(ss) Charming that will ride up one day and sweep you off your feet or blow your mind in a stunning moment of Awesome and Forever. It’s a lie that you’re just going to “know” from the second you lock eyes that this is “The One”. This is going to be the person you co-parent with or buy a condo with or hike the Great Wall of China with. It’s a lie that Forever is a thing to aspire to. It’s a lie that intimacy means love everlasting. It’s a lie that sex automatically implies intimacy and that intimacy must only be love.

These are truths:

You can love someone for a lifetime but not want them in your life for a second longer than they were in it. You can love someone for a lifetime and not want to have babies or buy real estate with them. You can love someone in a moment and then hate them so much you need them to pretend that you’re dead. You can love someone and not remember what they looked like 20 years later. You can love someone then not love them all in the same day. You can love someone for one day and never stop loving them even if they die or go away forever. You can love your friends with the same ferociousness that you love your lovers, just with less fluid exchange.

There will be kisses that seem to last four days and intense orgasms that overwhelm and make you cry. You will hold hands in movie theatres, you will rest your head on a strong shoulder, you will fall asleep fully clothed in someone’s arms, and you may spend hours online reading words on a screen that will move you to want to be a better person.

Those moments, those people, made me want to do more and be more so I could feel like I deserved their love. I wanted to tell them all that I love them without that sounding crazy. But I’m not allowed to because you’re only allowed to have one love. At best, you’re only allowed to have one love at a time.

I think of my loves far too often. I remember birthdays and old songs. Favourite foods, video games, catchphrases, and pathological hatreds of benign objects. I remember the movie you made me watch so I would “understand” you. I remember the way you cracked your knuckles every time I looked you in the eye. I remember throwing the crystal ashtray at you from across the room because I had never been more betrayed in my life. I remember making eye contact with you and melting into your arms for a kiss before a word was spoken. I remember you giving me (probably stolen) cigarettes when you drove me home from school as a way of showing your appreciation for the blowjobs I was giving you without having to call me your girlfriend. I remember you demanding that our time together was a secret because no one was ready to know, and sealing our pact of silence with a kiss.

I remember that I love(d) you. Even when I don’t want to.

It’s not that you didn’t mean anything. It’s just that it didn’t mean what they told me it was supposed to. As a general rule, if I fucked you more than once, that meant I liked you or it meant that you were willing to acknowledge my existence in public. If I fucked you and did that thing you liked that meant that I loved you. If I loved you that meant I would do anything for you except cover up your crimes. A girl has to draw her line somewhere.

I was told that I had to want to spend the rest of my life with you but I couldn’t make that decision. I was told that I had to love you until the day that I died but I didn’t like you like that. I liked the way you pulled my hair and held me down but I didn’t like the person you became when you were around your friends and I didn’t know how to tell you that. I told you I’d spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy but I didn’t understand that there isn’t a legal contract that you can’t get out of if you’re willing to pay the price.

I need you to know that, no matter what you thought of me then or think of me now, that it wasn’t meaningless. I loved you but not in way “they” told me I was supposed to. I loved going for drives with you. I loved sitting on a blanket with you, watching fireworks and holding hands. I loved it when we would share a bottle of Southern Comfort and talk about whether we saw god or witnessed our brains dying when we were high. I loved you when you would hold my face in your hands when you kissed me. I loved when you would spend the night. I loved you when you would let yourself out before I woke up so I wouldn’t have to explain to anyone why you were there.

I loved you when you showed up because I said: “I need you now.” I loved you when you broke up with me when we were high because the world was dying and there was no future and then we spent the next two days together in bed for the same reason. I loved you when you didn’t get mad that I fucked your friend because I loved him too. I loved you when you didn’t hit me when you were angry. I loved you when you did hit me but didn’t try to stop me from leaving and never spoke to me again.

I loved you and I still love you. Or I didn’t love you the right way. If you thought that I would love you forever you were wrong. Or I loved you and I never said it because I thought you would think that I was a crazy stalker chick. I’m sorry if you ever thought that. I never wanted to make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable or angry. I would never impose on your life as it is now. But that love will never be enough to change a thing between us.

I can’t remember so much. I see your name and the dim bulb of name recognition glows momentarily. Unless you dashed my heart upon the rocks early or recently or memorably, you’re gone. Or rather, the specifics of you are gone. All that is left is just the gauze-filtered soft focus of time. Where did we go? What did we do? What music did you listen to back then? What was your favourite thing about me? About us? Do you remember me at all? Do you think of me at all? Am I a great shame, a rueful story, a sexist-misogynist locker room tale that only gets shared after a few beers? Since I don’t remember a thing about us, I suppose it’s possible that you could be any and all of those things to me.

When you don’t remember things about entire years of your life it’s easy to fill in the blanks with half-truths, virtuous ideals and pseudo-psychological rationalizations. The selective amnesia took over and all I could recall was the euphoria of the moment. Euphoria’s the pain-killer. Euphoria looks and feels a lot like happiness. Neither are long-acting. Neither are feelings worth chasing.

If I work at it, I can surface your face in my mind’s eye. Gun to my head, I might be able to remember making out with you on a sofa in your mother’s basement. If formally accused, I might admit that I also made out with your older brother on that sofa a year or more later. If you asked me why I was with you, the answer is just as likely to be “because I loved you” as it is to be “because I was bored and I thought you were too.” But that doesn’t mean I remember you, or dates, or actions, words, sounds, or the goofy face you made when you came.

It used to bother me that I spread all these pieces of myself across this tiny part of the world and felt like I had to crawl back to you to collect them to be whole again. I don’t have to do that. I don’t ever have to see you again. The lessons of my time with you were either heeded or discarded as irrelevant. I was never the same after you. I didn’t know how to feel whole when I was left with all these holes.

I wonder sometimes if telling this story is important to anyone but me. I want to think so, because while these stories don’t mean shit to you, I can’t believe I’m such a delicate, precious flower to be the only person who has loved often and often loved unwisely. I want everyone to know that the slutty girl doesn’t have to die for her sins. If I could do it over, I wouldn’t be able to change a thing because it landed me right here with the friends and partners in life that I want. I want to believe I’m close to having the life I wanted and I want to believe that everything to get here was worth it.

But I remain skeptical.

If I wasn’t the same after you, it was okay because I hated who I was before you. You are the greatest example of everything that was wrong with me and everything I thought of myself and my worth at the time. You got better at being there the better I felt about me. You got to keep fewer and fewer pieces of me as I learned to not hate myself.

There is a belief in evangelical Christian circles (and popular rape culture) that if you give your body (and by extension, your heart) to someone it’s like you’ve been chewed up like gum or you’re now like a half-licked lollipop. You’re garbage that no one else would want. This attitude of “sexual = damaged goods” is part of the normalization of women as victims of men.

I gave love, my body and my heart without question because I wanted to. My motives may not have been pure. My reasoning may have been clouded by drinks or drugs. I may have made those choices without all the information and by operating under a set of facts that were not true. But I chose love. I chose love for that night, those days, during that month, for those years because I thought my beloved was wonderful.

We didn’t end up being wonderful. Our individual wonderfulness wasn’t compatible. We wanted different things. We wanted the other to be someone they were not and got angry when those needs didn’t get met. We tried to make each other want what the other was giving. Sometimes that was not enough but more likely it was too much. All I ever wanted was to be your inspiration and muse and I never was. I’m still sad about that and now I’m too old and not beautiful enough to be that to anyone in the future.

I loved you even though it didn’t mean what I was conditioned to think it had to mean. I may have given pieces of myself, my heart, to you but you gave me pieces of you to fill them in with. I’m forever changed by your kisses, your laughter, your presence, your hands on my body, the loss of fistfuls of me that you ran away with. I loved you and I love you but I don’t need that shit back. I stopped thinking that you were someone that I must do something about. I have to believe that our time is done and there’s no unringing that bell or going back to the start. I loved you and I love you but please stop haunting my dreams like you’re someone I need to apologize to. Or apologize for.

Our love didn’t work out the way they told me fairy tales and the great romances do. I don’t want tales and greatness. I want to be a partner-in-crime. I want to see the sad tawdry bits. I want to know what you’re afraid of, what you’re hoping no one ever finds out, what you want to create, what you want to tear down, how you want to get better, how you want that thing you like. I’m afraid I’m of no use to anyone if I can’t fuck you better. If I can’t cure the feeling with a blowjob-induced orgasm, I fear I have nothing for you. Love and lust isn’t enough for anything.

And I will smile. Because I’ll know that in this lifetime I had the sheer pleasure of meeting you.


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