I hate women who don’t know how to be on their own. You know the ones – the girls who say, ‘God, I don’t know how you cope with being single!’ when their longest period of being out of a relationship is 2 weeks, or, worse still, the ones who say, ‘Oh, I love being single,’ when really, they never are.
But often I think strong feelings like that towards a particular group of people are born out of something uncomfortable that that group reflects back at you. It’s similar, in a way, to what I was getting at when I wrote this.
I’ve been single literally my whole life. It makes me uneasy when, on shows like ‘Take me out,’ girls say ‘I’ve been single for 3 years,’ and everyone gasps. Because if I talked about being single in terms of years, what would I say? When do you start counting? From birth? Sixteen? After uni?
I’ve been single my whole life, but I’ve never truly been without a man. Since my teens I’ve slipped effortlessly from one infatuation to another. The thought of being truly alone, without even a crush to provide that rush of emotions, that sense of being alive, scares me.
In the past I’ve used the word ‘love’ pretty indiscriminately to describe how I felt about those crushes. I grew up in a family where the word is used freely – I tell my parents and sister that I love them pretty much every time we speak – partly through force of habit, partly because it’s true, and I want them to know it.
It’s not a word I’m afraid of, essentially. But when the boy said, during an argument, something along the lines of ‘I was talking to a friend about this and in her view the problem is … that you’re in love with me and I’m not in love with you,’ it really jarred. It felt like a cheap shot, and I told him so.
The bit that bothers me isn’t the bit you’d perhaps expect. He doesn’t love me, I know that, and so it doesn’t come as a particular surprise to hear him say it. Sure, it stings a bit, because no one likes to hear stuff like that, but that’s all.
Being told that I love him, though? That I’m much less comfortable with. While I’m aware that if you read this blog regularly you might well have come to that conclusion, I’m still uncomfortable with someone else telling him that that’s how I feel. ‘I love you,’ is a pretty powerful phrase and I felt like they were my words to choose to say or not to say, as and when I felt ready.
I don’t feel ready. In this relationship (or whatever you want to call it) I can’t imagine I ever will be. Not that I haven’t conjured up its spirit on occasion: a few weeks back I was having drinks with a friend and she challenged my claim that I’m happy enough with the way things stand.
‘You don’t get it though,’ I countered, ‘I love him.’
She smiled sadly. ‘I don’t think you do,’ she said. ‘You talk about him like he’s the enemy or a battle to be fought and won. That’s not love.’
And you know what? She’s right. If you love someone, there shouldn’t be that much conflict, with yourself or with them. Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, loving someone doesn’t mean having to fight for them, or waging a constant battle against incompatibility. Of course, it is possible to love someone and for it not to come up roses, but if that really is how you feel, what should be coming across is affection, not aggression.
The other thing I think you realise as you get older is that love should be less about you than it is about the other person. Yes, that’s trite. Yes, it’s cliché, but it is essentially true. Most of what I get from him is still about me, selfish though that is – it’s about my sexual confidence, my thrills, my needs. If I’m brutally honest, my attitude to his needs is more often than not that if he doesn’t like what he’s getting from me, he should end it and get it elsewhere. Because I’m compromising so heavily on the open relationship side, I tend to think that all other compromises should be his.
I’ve never been a big fan of the line ‘You have to love yourself before somebody else can love you,’ – hey, we’ve all fallen for people with flaws – but I do think it’s easier to love someone else if you already love yourself. If you believe in what they see in you, it’s easier to look outwards and focus on them. If you don’t, love is just a line you’re feeding yourself to keep fear and loneliness at bay, and that can’t be healthy.
With all that said, I’d be gutted if, when it ends, I, or anyone else who knows about us, writes the whole thing off as pointless because we didn’t love each other. I think society still has a tendency to gloss over situations that don’t fit a standard narrative – especially the media. It’s bullshit. Love isn’t the only thing that can change you; it’s not the only thing you can learn from. It’s just one potential happy ending in amongst a whole heap of others.