Lesson #6: You can't love for two.
After a year of back and forth - of sleeping together, of trying to label, of trying not to label, I had decided (for the tenth time) that enough was enough. I knew we couldn't be friends despite how well we got along. It was too hard on my heart. I told him so. I cried. He remained his stoic self. I agreed to meet him for drinks at a bar. It was this terrible bar close to my apartment - colonial themed which was appropriate and terrible. We drank too much, like we always did. He said - I can't not be friends with you, it's too hard. I want more. I'm willing to try the relationship thing with you. I want to try it.
I believed him. I wanted to believe him so much that I just did it, even though every part of my brain thought - this is not how this works. This is not how he works.
He took it back. Not with his words of course. With distance. He pulled away the next day, he pretended like nothing was said. I - humiliated and still hoping that if I cared enough for the both of us it would transfer over to his heart - gently asked about it. You're taking it back right? Casually, like it was no big deal. Yea, he said. I cared so much, I wanted SO MUCH for something that was obviously impossible and toxic to work out. It didn't.
I was back at the bar. I picked the same bar again because I somehow knew that this was going to be one of those conversations where you get told that you're too special and too unique and blah blah blah. I didn't want to burn through another bar. So I picked this one.
We had had a discreet and intense affair - though none of us was cheating, it felt illicit for other reasons. We both knew he was headed across the country for an indeterminate amount of time. He was different though - he was so nice. He was so warm. He made me feel safe. He said things that made me melt into a puddle of vulnerable goo.
We always knew I was leaving, he said. You're so great, he said. Who knows what can happen down the line, he added.
I latched on to the hypothetical. I played out fantasy after fantasy of falling in love, of moving East - and soon began to believe it had happened. Not for just me, for both of us. We were incompatible and he had baggage that rivaled my own. Loving for the both of us would work out, wouldn't it? It didn't.
I was in the car outside my favorite middle eastern grocery store. He turned the car off, and said "I have to tell you something." I'm anxious, but I don't know why. "I'm going to take a sabbatical and will be doing some volunteer work for a while in New York." I looked at my hands. I didn't feel like grocery shopping. I felt like throwing up. I remember weeks later when it was time for him to go - he sat down on my bed and held my hand and told me he loved me and he cried. I had only see him cry once before. He said he was coming back but I didn't believe him. He wrote letters sometimes. When he came back, he was a completely different person - physically and emotionally unrecognizable.
I had done something wrong, but I didn't know what. I didn't understand that he was taking this step for himself - choosing his own journey over mine. I pretended like it didn't happen. I let my grandparents and my mom fill the space. Once a family friend said I'd grow up to have issues with my father. I did.
You can't love for two. You can't do it when you're a child and it's your father, and you can't when you're an adult and it's people you love who don't love you the way you deserve or need. In moments it may feel like they are loving you the way you need, but it's just you, filling the space with your own love, your own need, your own obsession. Trying to heal old wounds. Hoping that your ability to love harder and stronger, your ability to sacrifice yourself and your own needs, will be contagious.
You can't love for two. I typed it again because I have to tell myself this nearly every day. You can't do the work for them. You just have to be who you are as best as you can, ask for what you need, and hope you'll find the love you deserve.
Just because they didn't choose you, doesn't mean you did something wrong, therps says. I cry and cry and cry. You can't love for two.