Do we want love? Or do we merely want to skim its surface?
The distinction is not subtle but it is often overlooked, as we get lost in idyllic fairy tales and seductive images of romance. The picture of love we fantasize is not always what we want in day-to-day life, and this is what I mean by wanting only to touch the surface of love.
But many, like myself at times only wanted the surface of love, because we are afraid to be alone, to accept and acknowledge that we only truly have ourselves. Thinking about being alone can be a scary thought, if we let it, or it can be the most fulfilling realization we will ever have.
For years I refused to see what I had inside, flitting from one partner to the next. At first, each one seemed to have what I was looking for, the answers to my every question. But the first time a partner left to resolve something on his own, I moved to the next. I felt abandoned and trapped by looking into myself.
It took me a few trips, wandering like a vagrant in search of that one person who would make everything feel okay, and just when I thought I found him, he looked at me one morning and said, “you are terrified of yourself.” So I quickly walked out that door, never to turn back.
It took a few more love journeys but I could not shake the irksome feeling of his question: why Why was I so terrified of myself? Why couldn’t I just sit still and stop this exhausting search to feel complete? That is when I decided to challenge his accusation, and prove that I could be alone.
So for the next three years, I engaged in no romantic relationships and did some deep soul searching—that is when I found love.
It wasn’t the kind in fairy tales, in novels or celebrity romances, it was a deep and unfettering commitment to myself. During those years, I traveled to foreign countries alone, ate out alone, went to law school and moved a few times. Each time I did it without fear that someone would leave me.
The fear of abandonment evaporated as I learned to love and trust myself.
And for the first time, I wasn’t searching for someone to make me feel okay—I was okay being by myself.
This is the difference between love and merely skimming its surface—it’s about compromise. We do not view compromise as a sacrificing our individuality, it is a way of meeting the needs of an enduring partnership while at the same time maintaining our own inner identity.
Love is complex, and to do more than touch its surface, we must first fall in love with our own visions and dreams.
The surface of love is the idea of it, without the commitment. It is the romance, the long walks in the park and hours of making love, but it stops at that. The surface of love is easy and uncomplicated because it does not involve the mundane details of living together while respecting one another’s independence. Yet it is unstable, inconsistent and always leaves us wondering whether love will be there at the end of the day.
Secure love for ourselves fills us, makes us feel completely.
Whole love, we want to feel more than just the surface, we want to dig deeply into this partnership that inspires us. From this process of uniting we explore ourselves and life in ways that were unimaginable alone.
This type of strength and endurance comes when we have committed to ourselves in such a way that our confidence in our own abilities is unwavering. And with this self certainty we are wiling and ready to dig deeply into developing a committed relationship with someone else.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock