“Love is not just a verb, it’s you looking in the mirror
Love is not just a verb, it’s you looking for it maybe.”
-Kendrick Lamar, Poetic Justice
Confession: I love listening to love songs. The melody. The patience the artist gives every element, creating beautiful harmony, accompanied by smooth vibrations and rhythms that take you into a new universe. But I hate them too. I hate how vulnerable I become listening to every word of patience, hope, monogamy and embracing the imperfections of someone who embraces yours.
I’m only 24, but I have felt the powers of love’s heartbreak, beat skips, control and self-awareness.
The term love has always been a weird one for me. Growing up, I would consider that I was surrounded by lots of love. My mom showed me day in and day out how much she loved me, mostly with actions, but she was never above sitting me down, holding me tight and letting me know that she loves me, all parts. My grandmother was the most intimate. She had such a comfortable hand squeeze, and you just wanted to hold her. Her laughter showed how happy she was with every moment. Her love is unconditional and knows no bounds. Then there was my grandfather who was the first real impression of love I’ve seen from man to woman done well. Not perfectly, but enough to withstand all trials and obstacles that came in the way of the relationship. It wasn’t all gifts and glamour. (Think “Everybody Hates Chris” Father vibes) but it was true and honest. It was “I only see her” and “She is my Rib” (Genesis 2: 18-24).
But as much of the positive sides of love I have seen, I realize that there have been many instances of toxic love as well that I’ve either witnessed, or experienced first hand. For example, I didn’t grow up in a typical father and mother household. At the age of seven, my parents were signing off on a divorce. My first relationship in theory was perfect in the way they showed me love, but as life went on, I realized that I was undergoing mental abuse in the sense of always feeling low and insecure about my abilities to please and keep them around. While I was trying to show them how much I loved them, there was always push back, which often led to accusations of whether or not I was being faithful and if I could be trusted. That set the tone inadvertently for my attractions to men after and overstaying my welcome in relationships or not walking away from harmful situationships.
My last relationship was every piece of right and wrong with a perfect balance. On the one side, I had a best friend I felt I could rely on. He made me feel comfortable sharing my inner thoughts and insecurities, and was very gentle with those things. He wasn’t necessarily a provider, but if there was something I needed, for the most part I never went without. But on the flip side, arguments on my feelings and the validity of actions were very one-sided. I was often made to feel like I read too much into things that turned out to be very true. The level of emotional intimacy given didn’t match what was being poured out, causing ruts of feeling like I wasn’t in a relationship at all. For every “I love you” and “you’re beautiful”, It was almost always paired with something that would make me cry or cause me some sort of pain and loneliness.
Reflecting on each of those instances isn’t being said to make any of those men come off as not capable of giving the right kind of love to the right person. I’m grateful for what has been shared in those relationships. And I value the way they did love me. But it also shows me the red flags I can’t ignore when it comes to allowing someone that kind of access to me. And it starts with me seeing my own red flags.
For one, being a lover of love, I can fall very easily for a person who shows me the level of intimacy I’m looking for. Everything from enlightening conversations, to the way my hands or hips are held to direct eye contact. It’s very easy for me to ignore anything else that taints my vision of that person. But that has gotten me in the most trouble.
I can also be very one sided in the way I love. My love can be overbearing because all I want to do is provide the best physically (i.e. experiences, gifts, etc) and emotionally so that my partner never feels left without. Left without a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent to, a partner to trust and help with whatever is needed, etc. But subliminally it really shows how insecure in myself I really am. It stems from my need to always perform and be validated constantly.
I am learning how to listen more. What is a situation telling me when it comes to what I should do? One of the best words of advice was written by a famed poet, Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I can be very bad at that, but I think in some ways It’s normal. A person really only shows what they want to. You then learn more with time.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that love is very complex. There’s no true guide on how to love and the right and wrong ways to love a person. There’s not enough on how to truly love yourself and how that connects to the way you love others. In my own experiences, I have recently only realized much about myself and the things that need to happen in order for me to truly open myself up to being accessed fully by my next partner. One of the things I realized is that i’ve never fully given myself time to be alone. Therefore, I don’t truly know who I am outside of a relationship. These past several months have been the most uncomfortable because of it. But I’m learning how to better appreciate this time and what it could lead to.
I have plenty of moments where my singleness gets the best of me. Where many days I think something is wrong with me because i’m not in a relationship. Or feeling frustrated when a guy tells me “Yes, You are the ideal girl, but you’re too perfect/good for me.” I am learning, daily, that I was created to be who and what I am, and that is enough. That all of who I aim to become is extraordinary. That even on days when I can’t recognize myself, where I falter because of my desire to be loved (back), or when I’m just way too hard on myself, that I will make an effort to pick up the pieces and try again.