Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Real Deal


True love feels like home.

It's the feeling of sitting in your favorite spot on the couch that conforms to your body just right. It's walking through your dark living room and knowing all the right steps to avoid bumping into the furniture. It's putting on your favorite pajamas and sitting down to rest with your favorite drink. It's the exact moment your house quiets - after the chores are done, the kids are in bed, and your time is your own - and you can breathe freely and settle into just being YOU again.

True love is the place you feel... Safe. Free. Familiar. Comforted. Completely yourself. At home.

I have desired real love for as long as I can remember. I spent the entirety of my teens and 20's frantically searching for it, but never really knowing if it was just something that people fake or if everyone really just gives up and settles. I frequently hopped from relationship to relationship. Some of them were great relationships with good men. Some of them were lackluster relationships with men that were obviously not a good fit for me. And some of them morphed into terrible relationships with truly terrible human beings.

No matter the relationship, I always tried to "force the fit" for as long as possible. Early on I knew that something was amiss in the relationship, but I rationalized it away believing that angst is just part of the day-to-day deal in a relationship. I usually felt edgy. Sometimes I was taken aback by my partner's behavior. In every past relationship, I made unfair compromises that I, as a person, felt uncomfortable making. But I made them nonetheless. I accepted that compromise was part of being in a relationship and felt I was doing what I should to meet the needs of my partner.

What I did not realize is that those compromises are why I felt so uneasy. I had compromised what I believe to be fair, right, respectful, and considerate. With each compromise, I moved further and further away from who I was and what I consider my core values and driving force to be. I'm not referring to a compromise about what color couch to buy; I'm referring to compromises about priorities in my life, how I spend my time and with whom, and what I consider to be admirable, respectful, and loving behavior. I just rolled over and accepted things that didn't FEEL right to me in my gut. This is how I "forced the fit." I wanted love so badly that I was willing to sacrifice all of my core values to have it.

At some point the tension between who I had become and who I knew I was reached a fever pitch. That's when it became clear to me that I had to leave the relationship - after wasting a ridiculous number of years and energy forcing it to work. Apparently, I'm not a quick learner because I lathered, rinsed, and repeated the shit out of this pattern for decades.

When I ended my marriage two years ago, it broke me. I didn't know what I had done so wrong. I was lost for a while - until I realized that I had chosen someone from the get-go that did not have all the qualities that I hold so close to my heart. Someone that did not see the world the same way I see it. So I made a list of qualities that are important to me in a partner before I ever started dating again. Qualities that represented the kind of person I can admire, respect, and love for the rest of my life. Qualities that would allow me to be who I as and would garner admiration and love from me for my partner.

Then, I became absolutely petrified. There was no way I was going to find someone like that. In fact, I had a debilitating anxiety attack (the worst one I've ever had) last summer because I had never held so firm to what I needed and was devastated that I might never find someone who possessed all of these qualities. I broke down in tears in my therapist's office and finally said it out loud. "I'm scared I won't ever find someone who 'gets me.'" The odds of meeting this person, it seemed, were virtually impossible.

Three days after my anxiety attack I met the love of my life. I had finally found my true love. My home.

I have not had to compromise myself once. I have admired and respected the way he's handled every situation life has thrown at us (and trust me, it's been complicated). He always allows me to be myself, talk about what's on my mind, and do all the things that make me happy (and vice versa). He shows me every day that he gets me at my core, and he loves THAT person. He doesn't ask me to be someone who I'm not for HIM. He doesn't require that I accept things that are unacceptable to me. We are flexible with each other, but we always have a focus on each other's needs and an understanding that those needs stem from who we are on the inside. It's a dance we do almost effortlessly. We speak the same language.

Our relationship feels comfortable and familiar. I feel safe. I feel free. I feel loved. I feel like I'm always home.

That's what real love feels like. It exists. Don't settle for less.

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