Having a conversation about past relationships recently served up the usual questions.
“You love them, sure. But were you ever ‘in love’ with this person?” As soon as I asked, memories of my own past relationships popped up in my head.
Sometimes the answers are never as simple as the questions – and only leave us asking more.
“Well, this brings up the age-old question.” He replied. “What’s the difference between being in love and loving someone?” A thought designed for debate.
We exchanged smiles across the room assuring one another that neither one of us was up for such philosophical archaeology over morning coffee. The subject was changed and we tossed up ideas on how to spend our day.
Days later, his question was still on my mind.
“So.” I thought. “What is the difference between being in love and loving someone?” I mean, sure I’ve felt love. But with such a poor track record of my own, was I even qualified to know?
A brilliant therapist said to me once: “If you cut off the heads of the men from your past and switched them around, you’ll see they are interchangeable.” I knew what she meant and loved the decapitation analogy. “The pattern is in your choices.” She continued.
Nodding with that look of “holy-shit” glazed over me, I pulled up my jaw from the floor and agreed. The biggest take-away from that session was in the knowledge that I had more control than I thought (we all do).
When we navigate the ghosts of our relationship’s past, it’s safe to say we come to a universal conclusion: our answers have more to do with us – and almost nothing to do with them.
Where we are in life, who we are as people and where we want to be – these all play a major role in who we chose for our partners. And as we evolve, so does our love-barometer. This is why it’s natural for couples to ‘grow apart’ or have their relationships ‘run their course.’ Relationships ending aren’t so much failures as they are successes of moving forward.
“Once they cross a boundary with me, I’m done.” He explained calmly. “There is never going back.” I envied his conviction.
Why does it take some of us so long to leave the toxic hamster wheel of past relationships? The answer is simple. We weren’t ready to learn the lessons.
“I know what you mean.” I agreed. “It just took me longer to get there.” As soon as I said those words I was filled with a feeling I forgot existed – I was happy and whole.
If you define yourself by your relationship and allow yourself to be disrespected but stay anyway, chances are you aren’t in love. You are in love with the idea of being in love. A hard pill to swallow but once you do, amazing things can happen.
An unbalanced partnership, one dragging the other down – or two people who lift each other up and support the other’s dreams. Staying because it’s comfortable or leaving to find someone who challenges you and helps you grow. Living without passion or connecting with someone with the same desires – being in love is another way of loving yourself enough to know the difference. And never settling for anything less.