Recently, I had my heart broken.
The kind of broken where you make space in your heart for someone and think that person will be a permanent tenant, only to find that they couldn’t, for whatever reason, move in.
Oddly, despite this heartbreak and the fact that I was missing this person, I have never felt more loved. I had so many friends and strangers touch me in ways I never could have imagined, and that led me to contemplate my relationship with love (romantic and otherwise).
This is what I found.
1) There is no love without risk.
Vulnerability is the key to love. Saying I love you because we feel it and not expecting to hear it back, initiating touch or intimacy and risking rejection—those acts are the price of love. Any expectations or score-keeping renders love a business transaction.
2) Love isn’t always enough—and that’s okay.
Someone can love us with all they are capable of and it still might not work out. If someone cannot meet our needs at our stage of vulnerability—be it because of trauma, past hurts, or fear—they may not be a good match, despite wanting to, and us being as vulnerable as possible.
3) Nice is not enough.
Someone can be kind and honest and care about you but still may not be able to meet your needs.
It is okay to honor ourselves and our needs in that situation. Perhaps the most loving thing for both parties is to give it space, either temporarily or permanently. Saying “we will not compromise our standards” is perhaps the greatest act of self-love we are capable of. It tells others that we will not abandon ourselves and sets the standard for how others should treat us.
4) Love is always with us.
It is in the stranger who gives a hug or offers a tissue. Love is the friends who listen for the umpteenth time as you process your deep wounds. It is in the kind eyes of a stranger who smiles at us and the mother’s phone call that arrives even at inopportune moments.
5) We will never know how beautiful human beings can be unless we make ourselves vulnerable.
I know this because I once ugly-cried through a professional conference, at my AirBnB host’s house, and on a flight back home. My fellow dance therapists held space for me in ways too numerous to explain, letting me be emotional and raw and hurting without trying to change my pain or stifle it. My lovely AirBnB hostess gave me a hug and a safe space to process loss. The airline stewardess on my flight sent drinks my way and gave me a card addressed “to my sweet passenger.”
Perfect strangers will offer love, if we let them.
6) It’s in you.
Even if in this moment, when the love we wish for didn’t appear, there will be and already is love in us and around us, coming toward us in ways we can’t imagine. Maybe we let go of someone but keep them in our heart. Maybe we send love to that person when it comes to mind. Maybe we offer love in a smile or a word or a simple gesture. We are a source of love—our first and more reliable source. We never know how the love we generate touches others and in what ways but know that love is returned and then some.
Lastly, our culture does us a disservice by insisting we focus on romantic love. We need to get it, find it, keep it. Love is so much greater than this narrow definition that we have been fed. If we can come back to the love within us and the love that surrounds us rather than wait for someone to bring love to us the world becomes less lonely and full of possibility.
Author: Lisa Manca
Image: Youtube/Eat, Pray, Love
Editor: Erin Lawson