When I commit–to anything–I give it my everything. I will nurture a relationship even as it is being dragged under, spluttering, drowning. I will throw it a life raft time and again, resuscitating it even when I can feel, deep down, that the river is going to win.
When I fall, I fall hard. My heart is an urn, filling with memories. And when it’s knocked down, each beat shatters the ceramic further, fissures growing into chasms until my storage of recollections explodes painfully before me.
I consider myself a strong, confident and independent woman. And while I’m proud to maintain my independence in a relationship, I still crumble in love. But when you give of yourself entirely to something, someone…how can you not?
I am two for three when it comes to unrequited love. I have an excellent track record of being the one who gets dumped in a relationship. And it has been over a decade since a man told me he loved me.
For so long, this had me questioning: Am I unlovable?
One of my first relationships saw an incredibly painful break-up. A few months after we started dating, I told him I loved him. But, notorious for my bad timing, I sobbed it to him to clarify a misunderstanding–that misunderstanding being why I was acting so weird.
I shouted, truthfully: “It’s because I’m in love with you!”
I wasn’t even in love with me at that moment, but I didn’t anticipate having to spend the next year holding back my feelings.
In whispers, I repeated my profession of love to him only three more times in our relationship. “You know I love you, right?” I once said. “I know,” he responded.
And I knew.
You can’t force love.
And you can’t wait forever.
When I called him over one evening to talk, seeing our relationship disintegrate before my eyes, fearing its demise, the night ended with me punching my concrete wall repeatedly. I wanted to break something to counter my breaking heart. But the wall wouldn’t break.
We were both crying, but he was the only one who could see any practicality at that point, that our tears were only sucking us dry. He said I was amazing and beautiful, but we were just too different.
“Tell me it will be okay,” I pleaded.
And he did. He grabbed my shoulders and told me I would get through this, that I would be okay. And then he stood to leave.
But it was past midnight. I wasn’t ready to be alone with myself in a cramped apartment with a wall that wouldn’t break. I wasn’t ready to be alone with the memories of us and the hurt of that night that overshadowed any promise of tomorrow. So I ran.
I sprinted barefoot in forty degree weather down the street in my sketchy neighborhood. I ran from my pain and the puddles of my tears. I ran from the truth and I ran from him.
But he followed me. Goddammit, he wouldn’t let me run.
He walked me back to my apartment and made me promise to stay inside. And because I could see I was hurting him, I promised. I don’t break my promises.
I am an emotional, sensitive and empathetic person, but my pain blinded me to his.
I fight endlessly for my relationships because I believe so strongly in change, compromise, communication and second chances. But I’ve realized another reason I hang on so tightly.
I know heartbreak. I have felt it so deeply that it creates a hole in my chest. It has consumed me so much that I forget to take care of myself. Break-ups are a part of life. And though I always come out stronger, I would never wish heartache upon anyone.
Because of this, I would rather have my heart broken than break someone else’s.
But pain can make us selfish. Yes, the experience of heartbreak is unique for everyone but it is not unique to everyone.
I assumed that when I closed my door and he got in his car for the long drive home, his tears had stopped coming. I assumed that while I was wailing, he was watching the stars through his window, relieved. I assumed that when I dialed my friend to tell her I needed her, he was thinking of what time he had to get up in the morning for work.
Because he never loved me. So how could he be hurting just the same?
While I never fully knew the journey he went through to heal, or how long it took him to get over me, I do know his tears didn’t stop just then.
We didn’t talk much after that night. I try to be friends with my exes; it doesn’t always work out. But he did send a message a few days later to make sure I was okay, in the same breath admitting that he was still crying.
He’ll never know how that one message helped me, not just then, but in future relationships. I’ve never understood why a man doesn’t see that I’m worth fighting for, but at least I know that I am not unlovable. He didn’t love me in the same way I loved him, but he sure as hell cared about me.
Wherever he is, I hope he has found someone worth fighting for.
And one day, I’ll find someone who wants to fight for me.
**Please Note: Some changes have been made in courtesy of anonymity.