I used to be hesitant to walk away.
Especially in relationships.
I didn’t realize it at the time, and it’s something I’m still learning to fully understand, but I believed that love was precious and shouldn’t be wasted because there was no guarantee that it would come back around again. That there would be another person who could love me that same way. Or who I could love that same way.
I thought that love came with limits.
But I was wrong. And also, I wasn’t.
Because love is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted. Whether we find it in a romantic partner or a friend or a family member, love is what keeps us from getting lost in the mundane and the chaos. What keeps us from swimming endlessly in the darkest corners of our minds. It’s what anchors us to real life.
It’s also true that when a relationship ends, part of what we mourn is that we will never be loved in that same way again. And we will never love in that same way. Each connection that we share is unique, and that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.
And yes, love does, indeed, come with limits. I was right about that. What I’ve realized though is that I was wrong about what those limits are.
I thought there was only a certain amount of love, or chances for love, that we were allotted. If we squandered that love, if we were lazy or irresponsible with it, if we didn’t try our hardest to make it work, to make it last, we could lose it. And with it, our chance to have that much more love in our life.
Because why would the universe reward us with endless amounts of love if we couldn’t even take care of the love we already had?
And so, I became the person who tried, through every means possible, to hold on to the love in my life. Noble, right? Maybe…
It was also unhealthy and codependent and left me in more than a few situations where I could see that I was being manipulated or mistreated or taken for granted. But instead of walking away, I would double down on doing the work to save these relationships. The way I rationalized it was that people are human, we all make mistakes and get triggered and are trying to connect in the best way we know how.
And if the love is still there, there’s still a chance we can make things work. Right?
I watched as partners and friends walked away though, unwilling to try harder to save the love they claimed they still had for me. I couldn’t understand it. Why would you walk away from love? Why would you voluntarily watch it slip through your fingers?
It seemed selfish. Wasteful, even.
But a few years ago, I found myself in what I like to describe as a period of shedding in my life. It felt like I had been living behind a foggy mirror and finally cleaned a spot big enough to realize that there were so many relationships in my life that weren’t serving me anymore.
Partners who weren’t fully invested. Who didn’t see me as the “right” person but the “right now” person. Who gave me just enough to keep me hanging on, but not enough to feel fully valued.
Friends who were only interested in comparison and competition. Who were happy as long as I was showing up for them, but couldn’t be bothered to show up for me.
Family who made promises they never intended to keep. Who thought only of themselves, regardless of the consequences, and who perfected the art of playing the victim, even while others were suffering.
Slowly, that spot on the window became large enough that I began to see that there are limits to love. But those limits have nothing to do with the amount of love we get to experience in a lifetime and everything to do with the kind of love we get to allow into our lives.
And sometimes, the only way we’re able to increase our chance for love is to walk away from the relationships and connections that are holding us back. The people who may still love us (and who we may still love), but not enough to make holding on worth it.
The only limits that exist in love are the ones we put on ourselves when we allow fear to take over. When we choose to fight for those who won’t fight for us. Learning to walk away, from partners and friends and family, from relationships that no longer serve me, has allowed me to not only let more love in but the right kind of love.
The kind of love that keeps me from drowning in the mundane and the chaos, from staying stuck in my own head. The kind of love that anchors me to my life.