Every since I was little, I craved an intimacy that would tear me from my murky internal world and into the clear sunlit day. I watched movies, and I read books, and I decided two things:
One, that suffering was unavoidable. Life could be terribly cruel and dark.
Two, that love was the only salvation. It was love, not hope, that was left at the bottom of Pandora’s box; for love was the only thing that made life worth living.
Love could bring suffering. But it was worth it, it was always worth it. What could be more pure than finding someone to hold onto in the dark? A partner to go through life’s trials with? We were all along, wandering in the dark, until we weren’t. We just had to wait until that moment.
And so I waited. And waited, and waited. Only that time never came. I never found someone. I never felt much love at all, even when the words were all around me, even when my parents, my friends, threw it around as if it was a dirty football on Thanksgiving Day. It felt outside of me; it did not penetrate me and bring me into the sun. It did not make my soul feel warm and held. In fact, I started to doubt that there was even a soul at all.
No one cared. No one and nothing felt special. Desperately seeking someone, anyone in the darkness, I latched onto whoever I could find there. Whoever understood life’s darkness. Whoever had been through hell and was hoping to find someone to travel back with. Whoever had a soul, had depth, could possibly understand the vast world I had created in my mind in the absence of a partner, of a life. Whoever was willing to say forever, to see my own soul and show me theirs. I was so desperate for it that anyone broken would do; for wasn’t that a sign of depth? Anyone lonely would do; didn’t loneliness count as a wish for eternal companionship? Anyone who wasn’t scared off by my dark words would do; wasn’t that just as good as understanding?
And so I went on a hunt for intimacy with a shattered soul, and as I should’ve known, in a world ridden with strife, it was not hard to find one. It didn’t matter anymore, what the connection was: it could be love of any sort. Familial, romantic, anything. Just someone who would see me, really see me, and show themselves. I felt it was me against the world, and I wanted it to be us against the world. Never did I stop to consider that my initial assumption – that I had to be against the world at all – had holes. No, the universe was bad – and if I wanted to be good, well, I had no choice but to be against it. I was a moral warrior waiting to settle down with her prince.
But I was in a damaged fairytale from the start. Because I courted broken souls, they weren’t always capable of the love I so desperately desired. Because I courted those with dark and secretive inner worlds, they weren’t always willing to talk about their great well of pain. Because I courted those that were unstable themselves, whose pain had made them selfish, they weren’t always aware of how to be there for me.
In fact, most of the time, they weren’t even listening to me. They needed me; but they didn’t even know a single real thing about me. They only cared that I was there – living in constant fear that I would leave. And I would console them, convince them with vows of commitment; saying, I am not going anywhere. Waiting for them to put the focus back on us, on what we could learn about each other, on how deep into each other’s souls we could dig.
But they never really wanted to dig into my soul; they didn’t even want to dig into their own. And so, unsatisfied, inevitably, I would leave, just as they’d feared. Not because of their problems. Not even always because we lacked intimacy, though that was sometimes it. No, it was because in the depths of their damaged heart, they didn’t have an ounce of real love for me. You need a whole heart to love. Our bond was an illusion – built out of desperate, unhealthy need for intimacy we could never achieve. Not out of real love.
Yet still, I couldn’t keep myself from the cookie jar of intimacy, and each time I would dive in, again and again, only further proving to myself that nobody loved me, that no one would reach the intimacy I wanted. I was selfishly searching for something in them, just as they were in me; and so of course it never worked out. It never made me happy. I turned into a greedy monster, always wanting more, more, desperately seeking intimacy even as they gave it to me. It would never be enough, not as long as they didn’t truly know and love me.
The relationships descended into chaotic messes of blame and resentment. Both of us resented the other for not loving the other enough to change.
Only now do I realize that you cannot fill holes in yourself with others’ pain. And the search for real, true intimacy is inherently flawed – people are not supposed to know every thought in your head. And if they do, it won’t guarantee they will know or love you.
What it might guarantee is that they feel like they own you. That you may cease to feel like your own person, with your own power. You may feel they know you better than you know yourself – and that everything they say about you, every way they characterize you, is true. Which is a dangerous slope to play on.
Love is not a contract; it’s freely given, even when it’s not returned. It’s not a threat or even a promise – it’s just there, a warmth that covers us all as we go on our own journeys. We cannot find anything in anyone else that we cannot create ourselves.
And you cannot fix a broken person if they don’t want to be fixed.
Especially if you’re doing it to avoid fixing yourself.
I was right: life can be incredibly dark. And love does make it worthwhile.
But you must be careful which definition of love you are using. Because things like hate and fear and codependency and shared trauma often disguise themselves as love.
And I promise you, those things will not make life worthwhile.