As the setting sun gently began to dip beneath the ocean’s waves, she looked back at me with those deep, brown eyes. Her back was towards the sun and it cast a soft glow around the edges of her slender, lush body. She smiled, a gentle, loving, warm smile, and she asked me the question she had asked me so many times before.
‘When did you know you truly loved me?’
As I bent down on one knee and reached into my pocket, I looked up at her. The breeze was playing with her hair, gently brushing long elegant strands across her face. There was something so tantalizing about the way she tucked her hair behind her ears to keep it away. This time, as I opened the tiny box in my hand, I finally had an answer.
‘When I realized I could never be happy without you.’
HA. God almighty that was painfully cheesy. I crack myself up.
I’ll be honest with you, maybe there was a time when I thought this would have been true and it was the most romantic and beautiful thing you could say to someone. (Who am I kidding, that’s not a ‘maybe’ that’s a hard ‘definitely’.) And maybe (definitely) there are some of you reading this thinking to yourselves ‘God I wish someone would say this to me’ or ‘Man I should definitely use this line sometime’.
DON’T. Don’t think it, don’t want it, don’t use it, don’t look for it, don’t believe in it.
This may be a hard pill to swallow but believe me, it’s the medicine you need to have. I am generally a very flexible and agreeable person. I invite different voices, opinions, I am never above discourse, debate, or discussion. But on this particular matter, I draw a firm line. This kind of overly romantic sentiment is dangerous to relationships, immature, unproductive, and puts too much pressure and strain on both parties involved. Besides, let’s be real with ourselves. It just isn’t true.
I used to think this was what love was all about. Finding happiness. And living a life constantly seeking one relationship after another, constantly finding validation and value in the times I was with someone, it was enough to go by. It was also, after all, the mentality with which I began this entire year-long experiment. That for a year I would be fighting unhappiness in the form of loneliness, because happiness was being in a relationship. But what I’ve come to begin to realize (yes begin, I’m not entirely ‘wise man on the mountain just yet) is that relationships aren’t about finding or gaining happiness.
Let’s talk about how that kind of mentality can affect the times before, during, and after a relationship.
If you truly could not be happy without someone, what does that do to all the times you’ve had before being with this person? As beautiful as it may be to say to someone ‘my entire life before you has been nothing but a fuzzy haze and your love is the brilliance that has finally brought everything into crystal clear focus’ , it just…god I hope it can’t be true. What have you been doing your entire life before this one person happened to come across your path? The truth is you’ve been out there developing and growing and becoming someone interesting. You’ve gained experience, insight, gathered stories, you’ve been living a full life, the life that makes you who you are and desirable to begin with. Someone wants you for you. I’ve no doubt that there were hard times. Difficult times. Times of very deep and profound sorrow. Hardship. But I also believe you’ve known, had, and experienced happiness too. It may be difficult in the scope of a relationship to remind yourself of this, but it’s there. I know too well how easy it is to be so engrossed and enamored with the bliss and happiness of being in a relationship that all the other times before it seem mild and dull in comparison. Being in love kind of gilds those memories so they naturally shine more. But don’t let it take away from the value and worth of everything you were beforehand. If you’ve ever woken up one day in a relationship that you know is nearing its end and thought to yourself ‘who was I before this’ then you know that feeling of being lost, as if the entirety of your being was seemingly attached to this couple mentality. Maybe you were in a relationship for so long you almost forgot, or maybe you honestly have had the wonderful chance to learn and grow and experience and develop so much in the time you were with this person that you’ve forgotten how much you could achieve on your own. Either way, if you are single, are contemplating going back to being single, not looking, or have never looked or been looked at, know that you are capable of happiness, seeking and gaining your own happiness, and enjoying it all on your own.
When you’re in healthy relationship, I know how happy it can be. I know what it’s like to be making those memories that you hope to have and cherish for the rest of your life. There have been times when I find myself in similar situations as a single guy that I was in just a year ago with Beautiful and I was worried I could not be nearly as happy as I was. Last year I went to Cabo with Beautiful and I thought it was the greatest vacation I had ever had. We ate, drank, danced, explored the desert, and just had the company of each other the entire time. This year I went to Cancun with my family and I thought it couldn’t compare. And yet, in different ways, I found a whole level of happiness that came from really spending time and focusing on family. I grew closer to my parents and I feel that this was the first vacation where my brother and I felt like equals with our parents. There were no ‘kids activities’, no branching off. We could go to a bar and drink together and share stories we might not have shared or censored before. Last year when my parents and brother were in Las Vegas and I had two weeks to myself, she was spending the nights here and we were cooking and coming home to each other and living this idyllic simulation of domesticity. This year they are in the Philippines and I have two months to myself and I thought, ‘to what end could I enjoy this on my own’. Yet here I am cooking these incredible meals for myself, spending time on my own, going out and honestly, genuinely, with no need to force or convince myself, having a great time with just my company. Honestly, I haven’t even really desired or had to call out to my friends this entire time either.
The other thing about being happy in a relationship is it casts too much pressure to assign happiness to the other person. No one really seeks the responsibility or task of being the sole source of happiness for another person. Much like the ‘soulmate’ mentality, this idea of ‘I could never be happy without you’ creates a dichotomy between you and the person you are with. Do you know what you were before you were together? You were a fully-formed human being, capable of your own emotions, experiencing your own desires and happiness. Do you know what you should be when you are with someone? Almost exactly the same. I say ‘almost’, but I’ll get to that more later.
Obviously though, this thinking is the most dangerous post-relationship. And god, that’s the worst. Speaking from personal experience, of course. When you’ve hitched your happiness to the same one person for so long and that person isn’t you…you feel lost, empty, hollow when they’re gone. Some people can’t seem to be able to climb their way out of those holes. And those people, they drag the people down around them. They fixate and obsess over this one thing and it starts to flatten someone who once was complex, layered, and fully formed. After the breakup, I had to remind myself of all the things I used to do alone that made me happy. I had to redefine my relationship to my friends before I began to simply proxy them and it created more tension than there already was. It is most important when you are down and feeling your most alone that you remind yourself that you were happy before, happy during, and all indications point pretty overwhelmingly to being happy after it all as well. When you realize that you gain a whole new level of strength and resolve. ‘I could be happy with or without you’ is just as true as ‘I could be sad with or without you’ as well. The truth is there is no one universal shield to any emotion, and besides, who would want that? No one person can promise you to always make you feel one way or never feel another. The truth is we are all free to experience the full depth and complexity of human emotion and the best thing, the best thing about being with someone you truly love and who truly loves you, is not that they deny you one and give you only another, but that they are there to experience it all with you and to heighten the great and soften the not so great. It’s weird. Honestly, what I really desire to be able to tell someone, is to look at this beautiful woman across from me and say, ‘You know, the truth is I could be happy with or without you. I just don’t want it to be without you.’ It’s real, honest, genuine, but most of all, it’s this freeing no-pressure gesture of love.
So I did say before that I think you should ‘almost’ the same when you’re with someone as you were before. And I want to clarify that last. What I mean by that is…what I’m learning and hoping to do…is I want to be someone with happiness to share when it is that I am lucky enough to meet someone again. I’ve spent so long looking and trying to define these relationships as walking up to someone and saying ‘can you make me happy’. And for a time they could, and they would, and it was great, but when they stopped, my happiness went away and it was fleeting and impermanent. But here I am living this life, gathering these experiences, putting myself in a certain position and situation to be truly, wonderfully happy. And it is in that moment that I sit back and think, ‘you know, I want to share this happiness with someone’. And it is in that moment that I want to open myself up to love again and find someone with the same mentality. I want to make someone happy because I have this happiness that is eager and desiring to be shared. Because the truth is, I have been happy. I will be happy. But eventually, soon, I will want to share that happiness.
Man: 186 Loneliness: 32