(2016) Lessons In Love

I’ve always been the “relationship” type, if I can say that. I’ve always preferred journeying with 1 person at a time, for several years, until we eventually were called to go our separate ways. There’s something about connecting (mentally and physically) with one being for consecutive years that brings a sense of comfort and security to me. And while I’ve learned a shit ton about human relations over the last couple of years, I realized in 2015 that when it comes to intimate connections, I had it all wrong.

I used to (falsely) believe that relationships were solely about getting my needs met. I was convinced that a partner was meant to meet, satisfy, and in many occasions, guess my desires. Like the majority of women, I am a (very) emotional creature, who loves intensely, passionately, and both selflessly and selfishly simultaneously. I will cross oceans for the man that I love without a brink of hesitation, but will expect a bouquet of 52 roses with a heartfelt ‘thank you’ note and a singing mariachi band to greet me upon arrival. I will gladly cook, clean, do the laundry, and have our home spic and span with dinner served on the table waiting when he gets home – in return for a little praise and acknowledgement. Although this (seemingly ideal) bargain of needs appears to make perfect sense to any reasonable person, I’ve come to realize that that’s not how (lasting) love works. That’s not how lasting love works, because that’s not how (most) relationships work.

While catering to your partner’s needs and making them feel loved is expected in a relationship, it’s not always a given. Even less of a given: getting something, – anything – in return for your TLC. Like many women (including my own mother), I spent a lot of time frustrated with my partner because I felt that my efforts were either unmatched, or unappreciated. These kinds of assumptions, the ones that trick you into believing that you will always be praised for the work you put in, only lead to tremendous disappointment and an unhealthy build up of resentment for the other. The truth is, your partner (or people in general, for that matter) won’t always acknowledge or be appreciative of your efforts. Most men are completely oblivious to the details that we, as caregivers, pay so much attention to. What’s truly important at the end of the day is that your relationship feeds you in other ways; in ways that make the unreciprocated catering worth the occasional frustration, doubts, and apprehension; In ways which are important to you, and which make you feel alive and good about yourself. Even more important is understanding that people can only meet you as far as they’ve metthemselves. I cannot hold another accountable for not seeing or doing things like me, because we’ve all been through such different and marking experiences that have complexly forged our perception of and behaviour in love.

It’s taken me yet another failed relationship this year (amongst many other life experiences) to come to understand that romance is not meant to compensate for my lack of self-love by constantly feeding my ego with recognition and acknowledgement. True love, the kind that propels both yourself and your significant other to change, is completely independent of what the other gives you. You don’t embark into something to receive something else in return. That’s what business transactions or barter exchanges are for. When it comes to human relations, our overall happiness and fulfillment in life are directly correlated with how much we give without expectation of return. Once you understand how the world works, there’s no difference between being selfish and being selfless. Because we are all tied and however we treat others is an immediate reflection of ourselves, you eventually become selfless for selfish reasons – because you understand that life will always give you what you, yourself, give more of. As my sense of self grew as a result of my resilience to life’s challenges and obstacles, so too did my ability to stop compromising my character out of frustration and reaction to someone else’s. I chose to love again and again, because that’s who I am – not because I wanted a pat on the back every time I did.

Paradoxically (and almost quite ironically), to be able to do that requires the strength to be able to walk away from whomever takes your selflessness for granted. The kind of self-love and awareness of your truth that is needed to give of yourself freely is the same that is required to be able to let go of whom/whatever you recognize is no longer serving your journey. While I struggled with this contradiction for a long time, I finally understand that true strength comes not by fighting to make a relationship work, but by knowing when to let go when it no longer does. There’s a very fine line between being selfless and revolving your entire life around the happiness of someone else. Being attentive to my partner’s needs does not mean neglecting my own. Not expecting anything in return for your love and energy is very different than accepting to receive less than what you inherently, intrinsically know you need. “Do not set yourself on fire in the process of keeping somebody else warm.” Wrapping my head around this confusing, yet illuminating dichotomy was the key to my freedom.

Intimate relationships can be the greatest catalyst for growth, if we allow them to be. By allowing I mean releasing ourselves from attachment to their outcome, and living them out for what they are/were meant to be. Remaining stuck with a perception of what I thought should be only constricted the flow of energy from my life, and restricted my relationship to my limited perception, as opposed to the divine purpose that each and every single human encounter is destined to be. 2015 showed me what it meant to learn to fill myself up with love before attempting to give it to someone else. This year taught me the importance of self-care, above all and anyone else. Because my ability to love another to the point of no condition is immediately related to my ability to love myself to the point of no excuse.
As within, so without.
As above, so below.

…It all makes so much sense now.
p.s: My best friend just tagged me in a quote that says, “It’s important to realize that you can miss something but not want it back”… #NoteToSelf

By Daniele-Jocelyne Otou