So, my sweetie peeps know I began this blog to have an outlet for the myriad of thoughts that run through my mind 24/7 and to hopefully show that living with a mental illness isn’t easy. Like anyone, we have good days and bad days…we just have this additional issue that’s always lurking in the back of our minds and that can pop up and take us by surprise anytime.
Anyhoot, I’ve been thinking about the concept of ‘love’ a lot lately. It’s no secret I’ve been married (cough cough) 3 times and have had 2 partners I’ve lived with. On the surface, that sounds like so much but really, that’s not much for a 54 (blech 🙄) year old but still an embarrassing number to admit too.
I was never a girly-girl…I never had dolls and preferred to climb trees at grandma and gramp’s and work in the yard with my dad. But, I did always want 3 things: a marriage where I would celebrate 50 years with someone who loved me throughout, kids (I got the perfect one the first time around 😍), and a home full of pets and family and security. Hmmmm…maybe 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
You would think after all of these years in relationships, all of my book-learning regarding the study of marriage and family, and the lessons I’ve learned from each experience I’ve had that I would have this whole ‘relationship’ thing figured out. I don’t.
Really, the question for me comes down to what love is. I mean think about it…what ‘is’ it really? A feeling? A passion? A cognitive connection? A sense of responsibility? A sense of care? A willingness to always continue moving forward even after you’ve taken some steps back? Forgiveness? Appreciation? Promises that are kept? Compassion that’s freely given? An ability to empathize with the person and see/feel their point of view? All of the above? None of the above?
I think one of the issues in relationships today that partly stem from this ‘me first’ attitude in our society is instead of asking ‘What am I getting from this relationship and am I happy?’ we should first think ‘What am I giving to this relationship to make it better everyday?’ But, that’s freaking hard to do, isn’t it? For all of us.
Until R (Hubby 3 – shutty the mouthies 🙄) left our house on Christmas eve, I was pretty sure I knew what love was all about. O’s dad and I had a really good marriage for 13 years…and I know it could have continued had we gotten help. His family doesn’t ‘believe’ in counseling so that pretty much set us on course for divorce when issues started to pile up. But, I know he loved me and I know I loved him. I think that my first marriage was a college/youth/not-prepared-for-this situation and can understand how our lack of readiness led to the demise but it was different with B…it was the ‘real’ thing.
R and I loved each other so much…for the first couple years of our relationship, I didn’t think I’d be able to breathe without him in my life. I adored him. And he reciprocated and still tells me he loves me. I believe it as a best friend but also know this: you don’t leave who you love. Period. I never imagined we’d divorce: after raising teenagers together…going through the deaths of his parents…taking care of his schizophrenic nephew for a couple of years…it was like the ‘bank’ was full and nothing would be able to diminish all of those deposits. I didn’t know that if someone wants to clear out the account in one day, they will.
Then J came into my life. The one who I thought: “OK. This is it. My soul mate.” Yes, he was younger than me (cough cough 😳) but because of what he’d been through as a kid and as a vet, we were pretty well matched. He had his kids and I knew we could be a family; it’s like that dream of the long life being a mommy and wife again was coming back. But we all know how that ended…terribly. Here’s the funny thing though: up until the very end, he said he loved me and I believed it. I always believed it. Even when he took my hands one day and swore he’d never cheat on me again and that he loved me all while having tears in his eyes…and then cheated on me 12 hours later. When he later came back, it was ‘I really do love you’ all over again. And I believed it. Again.
Looking back now I know he never actually did. Maybe he ‘wanted’ too. Maybe he ‘needed’ that family as much I as I did. But the love on his part never really materialized. I was a toy. A resource. A comfortable place to be. But love? No…because you don’t purposely hurt those you love either.
I thought I had this again not too long ago. I got with a man and actually was so giddy over him that I would have married him in a heartbeat. We exchanged rings to show our commitment and swore to one another that no matter what…good or bad…hard or easy…happy or sad…we’d persevere and be together ‘forever.’ We even took ‘vows’ together and for me, these were as strong as ‘real’ ones.
And this was true at first and I was so content. Then, we got COVID, and Dottie died, and I had 3 surgeries in which 1 was performed minutes before I could have easily died, and I was hitting my breaking point with being home from campus for a year and a half and not having that outlet I so badly need, and being on meds that were creating a manic episode like no other I’ve experienced. He had his own stressors as well that were tough on him but I thought: “OK. This is the rough spot. This is the one that’s going to cement us together and we’ll get through this and come out stronger on the other side. This is the test.” And? We failed it.
We started taking things out on each other and as much as I felt he didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand him either. And we were so busy being angry about that, we got to where we didn’t try. When he walked away from me for something I said (he had spoken some pretty bad words to me a few times before this incident too, but I forgave him and wanted to move forward), I figured that was a good thing…we’d cool down…I had an appointment with a specialist to help me figure out the mania…and I was heading back to school which finally got my life back to normal in terms of work.
That didn’t happen. I never heard from him again. Never. Like the year together never was…like it didn’t mean anything. But here’s the thing: throughout our time together, he’d tell me how much he loved me…adored me…needed me…wanted me. He even said if something happened to us, he’d never be with another. And I believed it 🙄. Did he mean this? Obviously not.
Getting through good times in relationships is a piece of cake. Anyone can do that…it’s nothing. Going through bad…and coming out stronger on the other side…takes work. Commitment. Forgiveness. Understanding. In other words, it takes love. How do you LOVE someone with all of your heart on Saturday and then hate them on Sunday? Maybe that’s possible for some…but I’ve never been able to do it.
I love this quote that’s attributed to Marilyn Monroe (although some say she may not have said it herself):
“This life is what you make it. Not matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up…” “…as for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soul mate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” ― Marilyn Monroe”
So now he’s already back with an ex and that’s great…I’m happy for him because once someone is in my heart, they never fully leave and I want the best for them; there’s always that box they’re inside of which I never get rid of. But it also makes me angry and sad. Sad that moving on was so easy for him and angry that he must have never stopped loving this other gal. Maybe that’s why he could walk away so easily after all of the forever platitudes. She was already waiting on the sidelines while I was trying to figure out why he had started treating me so differently. So coarsely. I forgave him for those times…I had anger…but I wanted to keep moving on. He couldn’t do the same the 1 time I did it back. So he’s gone.
I’m to the point in my life that I’m not sure I’m ever really going to find that ‘true love’. That one who isn’t going to walk out when things get tough. The one who stays and tries and loves with his heart…not his words. The one that understands I’m going to say things and do things and make mistakes because I’m human. The one who doesn’t try to hurt me with words or threaten areas of my life when things are going bad. The one I know will have love for me through the easy and tough. Does this exist? I think so…because that’s what I do. Because when I love…I love.