I’ve learned a little something about love, and I’d like to share.
Andrew and I met almost ten years ago. I was 19, playing soccer for IPFW and could be found, on any day of the week, having consumed so many keystone lights that my walking skills were that of a toddler. Andrew, 22, was a professional poker player who was deep in the underground cash game and tournament circuit. He had a sweet demeanor and history of taking on the role as knight in shining armor to girls who were a mess. We used to joke about how I was the first girl he dated who had her shit together, but looking back, I’m sure that wasn’t true. On our first date, we played poker in a smokey bar. We fell in love immediately.
In our nearly decade relationship, we began with many fairytale-worthy years. He helped me through cancer, we moved to Vegas, got engaged in Paris and married two years later.Then, somewhere along the way, we got lost and what followed were a few really tough years. We had lots of fun and traveled the world together, but something was off. To the outside world, we were still, “The perfect couple,” but behind closed doors, it was different. There was a melancholy in him that I couldn’t fix or understand. And an anxiety in me he couldn’t soothe and hated to be around. We grew increasingly distant, and neither of us wanted to face it.
With no foreseeable answers, I think Andrew began making decisions that would ultimately force us to a breaking point. Force us to change. That point came last winter. It was unclear whether or not we would get a divorce, but we both agreed that we should try. Try to stay together, try to save our marriage, try to repair our friendship… I’m not sure I knew what “try” meant at the time. All I knew for sure is that I would regret, for the rest of my life, not giving my best fight.
The next few months were turbulent to say the least. We had explosive fights that reached new levels of volatility because we had absolutely nothing to lose. No reason to hold back. But we also crested new heights of intimacy as well. It was as if the wedge between us, which had been widened by words left unsaid, dissipated with every spoken truth. It was an emotional pendulum that swung swiftly and evenly between hopefulness and hopelessness.
Just as the pendulum had swung towards hopelessness, I decided to go to an audition in LA for a hosting roll with Insomniac Events (the company that puts on EDC). Andrew was supportive, told me he was proud of me for going and wished me luck as I left. But at the time, the words felt hallow. I didn’t trust him, and I couldn’t count on him. That week, there were numerous things he said he’d do, but didn’t. I was angry. Angry that I was trying so hard, and he wasn’t.
I drove the four and half hours from Vegas to LA contemplating a life without him. In moments, most likely when it was a Beyonce song blaring in the background of my thoughts, I felt empowered. Look at me, I’m going to an audition. I have a job. I’ve always supported myself. I can make it. Right?
I could do it if I had to I told myself. I could be without him if I had to.
When I arrived at my destination, I attempted to find parking. I pulled into a metered spot on the street, but could only scrounge up a few cents from the change compartment in my dashboard. Across the street, there was a pay parking lot, but I was promptly informed by the attendant that he only took cash. I had none so he pointed to an ATM. I searched my back pocket, where I usually shove whatever cards I can find when leaving the house, only to discover that I’d only grabbed my Driver’s License and Amazon credit card. No debit card. I became increasingly panicked because I was running late already and still needed to put make up on before the audition. I google mapped the nearest Wells Fargo, hoping that I could show them my ID and they’d give me cash. I drove and drove, remapped and remapped, and there was no Wells Fargo in sight. I pulled over. Pent up emotion erupted in that moment. I burst into tears and screamed with frustration. Then I called Andrew.
“What do I do? I tried everything! This is so stupid and ridiculous!” He was calm and urged me to breathe. No doubt taken aback by my seemingly unwarranted overreaction, he quickly became annoyed with my hissy fit. After going in circles, no closer to a solution for my problem, he finally said, “I don’t know, but you can figure it out.” And hung up. At the time, I was enraged. How could he be so insensitive? So curt? So impatient? But the truth was, I was blaming him to cover up what I was really feeling — scared. I was scared because I HAD to call him. He was the one I always called when I needed anything. He was my direction giver, my mosquito killer, my tear wiper, my security blanket, my everything. Maybe I did need him. Maybe I couldn’t be without him. But I buried all that with thick layers of anger.
“Yeah, I’ll figure it out without you. I don’t fucking need anyone.” I said out loud. I cursed myself for allowing such weakness, and pulled up my proverbial bootstraps. I mapped myself back to the location of the audition and discovered that the venue had its own private, free parking around the back. Go figure.
When I returned home from my day trip, it was more of the same for the next few days.
After another fight, one which I deemed as “the last straw,” I left the house angrily, planning to go somewhere. I didn’t know where, but I got in the car anyway. As soon as I slammed the car door behind me, the summer heat trapped inside suffocated me. But I didn’t care. I let the scorching heat raise my body temperature right along with the anger growing in my stomach. Beads of sweat rolled down the sides of my face. Soon, tears came down too, traveling down a different path on my face but like rivers flow into oceans, they met and mixed with sweat at the base of my chin.
How could our love that once seemed so solid and abundant, have gotten here? It now felt strained, tired, and emaciated beyond recovery. I turned the car on and contemplated the how. As I waited for the car to cool, I leaned back in the seat and pulled my leg up to rest my foot on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. Hand on my forehead and elbow resting on the ledge of the window, I gazed outside, and felt sorry for myself. He doesn’t care as much as he used to. He doesn’t treat me like he should anymore. He doesn’t love me.
As if prompted by an internet search engine of my life experiences, my mind listed, in order of egregiousness, links to examples of, “Andrew doesn’t love me.” I thought of my most recent birthday which came and passed with nothing more than a verbal acknowledgement that it was, indeed, another anniversary of the day I was born. I thought of the impatience with which he treated me. I thought of the cold, blank stares.
Soon, the car was blowing air brisk enough to give me goosebumps. I sat up and dropped my foot to the floor. On the way down, I kicked open that small compartment reserved for coins that had just recently failed me. In it, were a handful of quarters and a crisply folded $20 bill. I stared at it for awhile. My eyes went blurry from more tears welling up in my eyes. I blinked hard. Andrew must have put it there. It was an attempt to make my next conundrum alone in the car, easier. I wasn’t sure, but it felt like love.
Maybe he did love me. He was still with me, after all. With this discovery, I began to make a conscious effort not to make sweeping assumptions about his intentions or his feelings. I reprogramed my brain as if I typed into my search engine, “Andrew loves me.” Slowly, I began seeing and experiencing his love differently.
I recognized that when I asked him for a bottle of water, he’d twist the top just enough to break the seal but not enough to leak, before handing it to me. I realized I hadn’t filled the gas tank in months because it’s always full. He fills it because he knows I hate pumping gas. The last three movies we saw in the theatre were chick flicks. And if I’m really paying attention, when we’re in public, I can tell he loves me by the way he gently guides me with his hand on the small of my back or the edge of my shoulder — like when we’re crossing the street, near any narrow store isles with breakables, or in a crowd of people— all situations in which, I’m highly likely to fuck up.
Once I’d opened myself up, I could see and feel he loved me. Soon after, I came across a book called “5 Love Languages.” What I learned is that we all experience and receive love differently which explained exactly why I was blind to it before. The ideas we have about what love is suppose to be and what it’s suppose to look like are generally learned as a child. A person who was hugged, kissed and doted upon will likely grow up wanting the same and showing love the same way. A person who’s parents were largely absent but who provided well may feel that they must do the same for for their family to show love.
In my home, instead of physical affection, love was given with words of praise. And words of affirmation were mostly freely given when I was winning or succeeding. So, that’s how I showed love to him. I told him, and I succeeded for US. For so long, I felt like I did EVERYTHING to show him love, but I didn’t. I never really listened to him and I was almost never vulnerable. These are what he needed most. I also gained a deeper sense of compassion, which helped me understand that his own sorrow, confusion, and disconnection were his suffering during that time. Often, I made his coldness about me, when it wasn’t.
So what is love to you? Can you name it when you see it? Can you define it? Can you know for sure, without a doubt what love is and what it isn’t? If we know that we all see love differently, isn’t it unfair to expect others to view and show it just like we think they should? [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]I suggest that love is fluid.[/inlinetweet] It has no absolute definition. It’s a feeling, it’s an action and it’s a place to come from.
As I began seeing and appreciating his love, I gave it more freely. Which, in turn, created a safe, fertile space for more, you guessed it, LOVE. Love creates love.
When I wanted more love in my relationship, I chose to BE LOVE! I became love to him, to my friends, and also, love to myself.So to you I say, show love in every way you know how and sprinkle that shit everywhere like confetti on New Year’s Eve!
When you have thoughts like, “He doesn’t listen to me,” or “He isn’t romantic anymore,” ask yourself “Do I listen to him?” and “Am I romantic anymore?” —Maybe the answers are are varying degrees of yes and no, but it’s likely that you’re not showing up the way you want your partner to show up either. And it has to come from a place of sincerity. Not like, “I’m gonna listen to you know because I want you to listen to me.” More like, “I’m going to listen because what you’re saying is important to me.”
Now, it certainly isn’t a 100% guarantee that your relationship will be magic if you do this, but it is however the ONLY way it can get there. The only way to get the good stuff is to give it. There’s no other way. Being upset or withholding love or attention because he/she doesn’t give it won’t get you there. Because just like love creates love, contempt grows contempt, and anger fuels anger. And that does not make a fun relationship.
Andrew and I were faced with going through the most emotional pain we’d ever experienced, as I’m sure many couples do, in totally different ways, at some point in their relationship. In the space of a little over a year, Andrew and I have come to a place of deep mutual respect, honesty, trust and incredible, unconditional love. We’ve come a long way from that 19 and 22-year old that met 10 years ago, to now, but through it all, we’ve remained best friends. It hasn’t been easy, but there’s beauty in the imperfection of it all. It hasn’t been a script fit for fairytales, so it’s a good thing I’m the author of my own life’s story.
And with that, I’ve decided to embark on writing a memoir about what exactly we went through, where I got my ideas about love, and other notes about love, life and happiness. The working title is, “An Unconventional, Unfinished Love Story: A memoir.” So please, if this blog post resonated with you, I’d love to hear any kind of feedback. I know at some point in the process, I’ll probably want to shove a stick in my eye and quit writing the book, so I’d love some encouragement for the road. As always, thank you for reading.