I am the world’s best partner. I swear. I know, you’re sitting there, thinking – no way, I am. I do SO much for my person. I give them my all.
And this is how we’re actually the worst.
Have you ever left a relationship and just felt completely exhausted? Or maybe you’re still in that relationship and you’re feeling drained. That’s because your partner is a fucking energy vampire. And you love being the meal.
I want to talk about emotionally owing someone. This is something I’ve cultivated in all my relationships, and it looks a little something like this; we meet, we fall madly in love, we date, and I give you the moon, stars, and sun without expecting anything back from you. Except that I do. I do expect things back, however, I just don’t tell you this. I don’t set clear boundaries and expectations. And my love is never for free – it’s at the price of yours. You just HAVE to love me the way that I love you. And then when you don’t, when you fail to meet the expectations I have for you, you fail me without even knowing it.
Fucked up, right?
I am a very strange paradox of a human. I separate myself from others, I keep everyone at a safe distance so I can’t be hurt. But I am also a very loving person. If I choose you, I’ll give you every-fucking-thing I have. Its not much, but its everything. I’ll do anything for you, go anywhere, be anyone. Its an incredibly unhealthy pouring out of my soul. I have this ridiculous notion that to love someone is to become one with them. Its been much easier to lose myself in others than it is to show them who I truly am and risk them not loving that person.
We’ll get into my obscene separation techniques in another post, today we’re focusing on how we can fix this strange love tally system.
How do we stop putting one another in debt with love?
For starters, love is an action. Not just this warm, fuzzy (or if you’re me, sickening) feeling inside of you. You actively make a choice to love. You make gestures, you take the time, you make the effort. You do so without expecting anything in return. You do so by doing it because you want the other person to have these things, not because you want the recognition, or the validation, or to feel loved.
Another important part of this is setting your own boundaries and expectations. These are two different things. Lets start with boundaries. I almost never know what I want, but I know what I don’t, and how I learned this was receiving a lot of things from the “don’t” column. The things you don’t want, those are your boundaries. For example, I don’t want to only see you for sex; I don’t want a relationship that is only physical; I don’t want to be with someone who does drugs; I don’t want to be disrespected; I don’t want to always be the person reaching out. The list obviously goes on, and it will differ from me to you.
By knowing what we want, we can lead ourselves to what our expectations are. Which look a little something like this: I expect you to take me on dates; I expect you to stimulate me intellectually; I expect you to not do drugs around me (or at all); I expect you to respect me; I expect you to make an effort to see and speak to me.
Our boundaries and expectations are where we see the give-and-take aspect of relationships. You cannot expect someone to meet and know these unless you tell them. Communicating your wants and needs is so important. No one is a mindreader, and you cannot make actions of love and expect people to know how to love you only through those actions. I’ve tried, I’ve failed. Many times. You only end up exhausted and disappointed. No one asked you to love the way you do. You gave yourself over, you wanted to be taken and emptied the way you were because you don’t want to keep those parts for yourself. Trust me, I know. Its easier to give everything away than to try and keep it for yourself. But you’re deserving of the same love you keep giving away.
Let me say it again for the voices in your head – you deserve to be loved the same way you love others.
So start asking for it.
Start having those conversations.
Start having realistic expectations of others, and make your boundaries known.
Another point I need to drive home here, is that when someone crosses your boundaries, you need to make that known as well. If you are always allowing others to disrespect the lines you have drawn that make you feel safe and loved, then you are enabling this behaviour. You are conditioning that individual to know that it is acceptable behaviour. I’ve done this countless times. I’ve allowed others to treat me in ways I would never another because I didn’t really care for myself, or because if I love you, you can do anything to me and I’ll still love you. Emotionally owing people traps you. You feel as if you’ve invested so much into someone that you can’t leave. But you can, and most likely should. You gain your energy and your power back when you learn to stop giving it away so freely.
I lived with someone for the better part of a year. I truly believed this individual to be the love of my life. My be all and end all. We had our issues, of course, but I felt as if I had invested so much into him, and believed in us to the utmost extent, that it HAD to be for good reason. Notice I say ‘him’ and not ‘us’. I put him before everything, myself included. And he never asked me to, but he never stopped me either. People will always be willing to take as much as you’re willing to give. I’d change plans for him, I’d comfort him whenever he was feeling down, even if it meant I was losing sleep, or busy at work, or whatever else. He had anxiety over seeing my family? We wouldn’t go. I’d trade it all for him to be comfortable. I was asked to be in a music video for an artist I’ve loved for years, my friend was producing it, and it was my style of dance. He didn’t want me to do it, so I declined. I did these things in silence, with a smile on my face. I did these things without holding him accountable, I did these things without thinking I wanted anything back. But I did. I wanted him to be willing to sacrifice for me, even though I would never ask him to. The end of our relationship came fast and hard. There was no affection left. I felt so unloved, so unwanted. I felt as if I was his mother because all of these things I had freely given him were now expectations of his. After we broke up, he still couldn’t be bothered with caring about me. I told him one day, in my early recovery, that I woke up and felt like dying that day. That I had no will to live and my life would be far easier if there wasn’t one. He told me I chose this path. And that he could be no comfort to me.
I brought those hurtful words on myself. I taught him to love me little because I did the same. I taught him he was the Sun and I merely spun around him. It’s now been months since we’ve been together and he’s chosen his lifestyle over any type of relationship with me. I set no boundaries, no expectations, merely debted him with my love and left with nothing.
Its not always easy knowing who and how to love. I’ve become a master of sorts on giving myself away, and it’s obviously proven unhealthy for me. I guess practice makes perfect, and the only way I’ve learned these lessons is from loving others, over and over again.
People learn to love you by the way you love yourself. Not by the way you love them. So by keeping to your boundaries and expectations, they learn how to. The lines you’ve drawn are an act of self-love.
Be gentle with yourself, and please keep loving. Despite the mess, despite the hurt, despite the sickness in your chest.
I wish you love.