It’s a two-parter, this. About four months after my last Significant Breakup last summer, I wrote the following: partly as a defence of my continuing closeness to my ex (by which i mean ‘talking to’, not ‘fucking’, for the prurient) and partly because a number of people seemed genuinely surprised that I still cared about and was prepared to understand and defend anybody who’d been – however unintentionally – responsible for the amount of pain they’d watched me go through. Now i’ve never had much time for the automatic rejection of people who hurt us, particularly if it’s unintentional and unpredictable, but that particular situation ran deeper than that, and I felt the need to explain why:
One of the things that’s come up a lot both during my most recent relationship and its disintegration under unfortunate psychiatric/psychological circumstance is the gulf between my ex-partner’s previous experiences/concept of love, and what it meant to him with me. When we were first together, there was a lot of ‘but with you it means something totally different, and so much more…’ And talking to a friend yesterday started me thinking, and here are the results.
Now, i love my friends, beyond a certain level of closeness. Deeply and genuinely. They’re all wonderful people who frequently amaze me with their uniqueness, and i feel lucky to know them. But I love them, I’m not in love with them. For me, being ‘in love’ (or rather relationship-type, romantic love, bc i do know there’s a distinction between the initial rush of NRE hormones and what it becomes afterwards, but for me they’re part of the same thing) is something more. And for me – this is a personal thing, i’d be interested in people’s thoughts – it has to do with kinship and understanding and trust. I’ve always, always, since I was tiny, wanted most of all to be understood and accepted, in that order. Being with the boy, loving the boy, has raised the stakes for me, bc I don’t think I will ever be able to feel being in a relationship without the sense of understanding we shared isn’t in some sense compromising. At the moment, and i recognise this might change, there’s no way I’d get into ‘a relationship’, let alone promise sexual fidelity, to anyone with whom I didn’t have the same sense of emotional synchronicity and compatability. We got each other, on a very deep level. Shared an emotional shorthand.I have a very intense, probably quite obvious, emotional core; i’m very sensitive to emotional things, which is hardly a secret from anybody who’s known me for longer than five minutes. My good friends see that and see how it works and value it greatly; that’s part of the love we have for each other. Boy is the only person – and i do include previous partners in this – who’s ever felt like he had a similar version, who felt like he was in there with me rather than loving it from the outside. Who saw it – me – from the inside. We had all the other stuff, too – we get on very well, he makes me laugh, we like doing similar things, we could do nothing together, or totally different things in the same room, to me he is utterly beautiful (and whilst some of that is still probly hormones it’s also that he personifies ‘my type’ more than anyone else i’ve met), and we just *worked* uniquely and quite spectacularly on all sorts of physical/emotional levels of which I’ll spare you details – but whilst those things are part of the good relationship we had, they’re not, for me, the point of love.
Yes, like most people I love and feel understood by (this would be a separate essay in itself) he was fucked up and officially mental and desperately (and probably successfully) trying to get away from or destroy the person he was and that I loved, and it will never be again; i know this. But that thing about understanding, that he saw me from the inside, cuts to the heart of what love is. And cuts to the heart is right. It’s painful, as I suspect anyone who’s seen me in the aftermath – or, er, ever experienced love the same way – will realise. But that kind of connection *is* love for me, and that’s why I’m still here, and still care about and want to support him, and why tbh I didn’t just walk away months ago because he was ‘no longer making me happy’. Love isn’t *about* happiness, although sometimes they join up. Love isn’t about the other person always ‘making you happy’, for me at least. Nobody’s always going to do that, because life is shitty and unpredictable and blindsides you with problems and passions and pain. Love’s about understanding and companionship through shit as well as sunlight. I’m never going to have a relationship without pain, if anyone ever could, because I *am* sensitive to things and I *do* get hurt, but that doesn’t mean that i’m never going to want a relationship or that kind of closeness with anyone ever again. That reckless emotional courage of mine might not’ve been quite extinguished after all, although it was touch and go for a while. Love for me is about closeness and understanding and caring, and it doesn’t necessarily end when a relationship does. I guess you can have love without relationships as well as relationships without love, although i think i can categorically state that I would when in love rather go through hard and tragic things with my partner than without them if possible. I would not impose these definitions, choices, ways of being or seeing things on anybody other than myself. In fact,I’d be interested in others’ thoughts and definitions. But it does, I think, explain something quite significant about me, and about why I’ve made and continue to make the choices I do.
And I ended up copy/pasting that to so many people in various contexts, and had such a variety of moving and thoughtful responses, that it became one of the flags I nail proudly to the mast whenever discussing such matters. But one of the reasons why this has become the case is the lasting, positive effect that kind of love, closeness, understanding etc has had on my self-worth and everyday experience. This is much more recent:
And in some ways, the pain has saved me. Recently, i was at dinner with one of my best friends in the world, and the conversation turned to my mental state. Which, being me, I explained at length. And she asked, quite understandably given the uncompromising bleakness of a lot of it, ‘you still wouldn’t undo it?’ (where ‘it’ is the boy and all that came after). And I said, quite honestly no, I wouldn’t. I’ve changed.
I feel like i’m worth something, now. it’s been a long fight and battles are still being fought on the outskirts, but by and large, self-worth has won now. Somebody said something disrespectful abt me & sex the other day, and I just looked them in the eye and said ‘and that’s bollocks, because i’m worth more than that.’ But for the majority of my life, i couldn’t have said that and meant it,because i knew that even good sex could only ever be an apology for my irredeemable personal inadequacy. That’s not true, any more, and that’s a big step.
I get much less uptight about things. I’ve known something that really, *really* matters, and lost it, and compared to that the small stuff just don’t cut it any more.
I know what love is, and that it’s possible, even for me, and i no longer know how to compromise. However lonely that is, i wdn’t be without it. Anything that isn’t everything – love, understanding, communication, support, kinship, sexual obsession – i’d rather get from my lovely, supportive, understanding friends, than pretend to myself it’s worth what i know a connection can be.