The Limits of Love
As I was carrying my groceries from the car to the front door today, I was thinking about the kindness of strangers. It always amazes me how kind complete strangers can be. There are a lot of douche bags in the world, but there’s also an awful lot of kindness to be found in the most unexpected places.
I was dating this guy a while back who didn’t want to put any labels on our relationship; he didn’t want to call me his girlfriend even though that’s exactly what I was. We didn’t see other people, but we called our relationship “open.”
About a year into this “open relationship” where we had only dated each other, he announced to me one morning that he had met someone and wanted to ask her out. I was pretty devastated, but what could I say? I had gone along with our “understanding,” I couldn’t really get mad at him for being a “dick” when I had been oh so ever understanding all this time.
I didn’t get mad, I did however tell him that I wasn’t happy with this new development and that I couldn’t continue seeing him. The whole conversation took place over the phone, but I had to leave because I had a scheduled appointment for a massage. As soon as I was alone in that little room with my masseuse I burst into tears. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her my boyfriend had just broken up with me, because that’s what it was. Even though I had said the words “I don’t want to see you again,” he was the one that was leaving.
My masseuse asked me if I wanted to reschedule, but I was there and I needed some comfort. I told her I wanted to stay as long as it didn’t bother her if I cried during the whole process, because that’s exactly what I did. I cried into the massage table while she soothed my aching muscles for the better part of an hour.
I had never met this person before, although I frequented that particular salon on a regular basis to get my hair cut, and even though the situation was probably awkward for her, I felt relief. I didn’t feel awkward. The pain was so raw, I would have cried in front of anyone and I would have felt fine about it. It felt good to completely fall apart in front of a stranger and to have that stranger comfort me with her presence, her silent understanding, and the touch of her hands.
When the appointment was over, she gave me some Aveda sample bottles; shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer. Everyone there was so nice and so understanding that it broke my heart all over again, but it also felt good. It was incredible to me how strangers could be so nice to me, while the person who was supposed to love me wasn’t. It really makes you think when strangers offer more support and love than the person you’re with.
A huge bell should have rung in my head at that moment, but it didn’t. I stayed in contact with the guy “who wanted to date other people.” The funny thing is, the girl he was interested in dating turned out to be married. He laughed about it when I asked him if he had gone out with her. He laughed.
We continued seeing each other after that. He never dated anyone else while we were together, but he always had one foot out the door. Eventually, it all fell apart. I might have said the words “I don’t want to see you anymore,” but as soon as he agreed that it was for the best, I felt like I had been dumped. It was like receiving a kick to the gut. How could he so calmly agree when it felt like I was breaking into a million little pieces?
Still, even though we weren’t seeing each other anymore, I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t let go of him. I couldn’t let go of my sadness. Eventually, my broken heart started to define me. We talked and talked and talked, and I cried and cried and cried. I bargained and tried to convince him that he was wrong. I tried so fucking hard. I was a mess. It seems ridiculous to me now.
But I wonder, I wonder about the limits of love. I wonder why love isn’t always enough. So many people break-up after six months, when they hit their first rough patch, and I always think to myself that they left too soon. That if you love someone, somehow that should be enough. And although there’s definitely something to be said about trying to work through the hard time, the people who leave when they realize that their needs are never going to be met; the people who leave when they’re not being treated in a way that they deserve are really fucking brave.
Some people stay in bad relationships, because they can’t let go of that love and some people stay in okay relationships with people they don’t really love, because they don’t want to be alone. Some people won’t give love a chance and leave without even trying and some people leave, because they know that staying will compromise their self-love.
It’s unbelievable to me now just how willing I was to compromise myself to stay in that relationship. I could never do that again. Even though the whole thing hurt like a bitch and there were times when I sincerely wished I could be lobotomized just so I could forget the whole thing, in a way I’m happy I went through it all, because I learned a few things along the way. I learned what it is I truly want in a relationship. I learned how I deserve to be treated, and how to ask for the things I need. I learned to never ever ever let anyone treat me the way that he did.
Knowing all that, I still can’t help but feel like some people give up too easily. I wonder, where’s the limit? How do you know it’s time to leave? How do you know you’ve given it your best shot? How do you stop on giving and giving and giving? How do you know…?