Why do we subject ourselves to lesser versions of love than the one we deserve?
When I say this, I mean, why do we openly refuse what our gut tells us and instead, accept the lies our heart bleeds out? The question is confusing and comes with endless variables per each person’s situation, but the answer is the same across the board: We need comfort in who we are.
We seek out “a person” to be our go-to—the one we tell everything and anything to—who would never leave us. Humans are social creatures that need our emotions justified outside of our heads and the person you choose to be that “one” often does exactly that for you. In fact, the crave we have in being with our romantic partners can be very similar to using a drug.
Whether you are someone who needs help tying your shoes or knows the best move for every situation, there’s give and take in each of your relationships that often makes you feel like you’ve invested who you are in someone else. That person who compliments your needs and personality has become part of your identity, in the eyes of you, them, and, often, others.
If that relationship becomes threatened internally or externally, one or both partners resort to a defensive mode that can be exhausting or motivating. Whichever style, the way in which both partners react can tell more about a relationship than any moment that happened during times of little to no stress. It is this time that each partner can choose to sacrifice and invest part of themselves to better the situation, or take from the situation, or do nothing.
No response is inherently correct, depending on what caused this defensive mode to trigger, however, I’ve noticed a particularly unhealthy pattern between my friends’ and my own relationships that needs to be addressed.
The negotiation for control can be a huge benefit in a relationship. I know that I can be pretty malleable when it comes to control—preferring to pay for drinks, but being utterly passive about picking a place to patron—and I believe that’s the case for many people. When you’re in a relationship you understand what your significant other enjoys and dislikes in the negotiation for control.
This is an amazing thing humans pick up on, as it can lead to one person inherently stepping up for certain things they enjoy, and backing down for others, leading to the happiness of the unit. However, that knowledge can lead to an abuse of power in the hands of a partner whose intentions are not aligned with the best interest of a relationship.
We date people who know us more in depth than a lot of our friends, even if our relationship is newer than our friendships. It’s important to break down our walls, but we do so at an invite-only vulnerable state that takes quality time to build (I emphasize “quality” because with lesbians these days, that can be days). That invite has no return address, and sadly, sometimes you don’t know the recipient as much as you think you do.
I believe this is why we’re reluctant to take action on our friends’ advice. There’s no way our friends know our partners like we do. We communicate the highs and lows to them, but not all the small things that really built the relationship into what it is. So how can our friends’ suggestions be better moves than what we think?
I once dated someone who never really wanted me, but sought my attention. She knew what words to use to keep me and would give me just enough breadcrumbs to survive, but I was never really satisfied. Despite my friends’ warnings, I stayed because I thought that when I got the whole loaf I’d feast on happiness. That day didn’t come. Due to something unrelated to my dissatisfaction in the relationship I broke up with her—an action I never wanted to take after all of my efforts to make things work. I felt like I lost time and half of my heart, but after a lot of healing I realized that living off of scraps is no way to live at all.
I’ve also been one to know what to say to keep someone around. Without truly bad intentions, I’ve lived through the motions of a relationship that would lead to happy days and okay days. Frankly, I don’t think it was a conscious effort, and my friends knew I wasn’t sincerely happy. I just didn’t want to be alone again, so instead, I said what I knew to say to keep the relationship going. I used the knowledge of who my person was and what she needed to satisfy enough, until it wasn’t enough.
It’s not easy to admit, but I believe we all go through moments like that. They’re messed up, I know. But it wasn’t until after the relationships were over that I realized I was happier; my fear of being alone wasn’t shielded by my relationship at all.
Being single isn’t easy 100% of the time. Like I stated earlier, humans are social creatures who seek out companionship for a reason. We need it, but we don’t need to be stuck where we’re not progressing.
Studies show that relationship breakups lead to the same brain responses of drug addicts going through withdrawal. This is serious stuff, and we know what heartbreak feels like, which is why we don’t want to go through it at any cost. The healing process takes, god knows how much time, and we lose part of the identity that we had with our significant other. Frankly, it sucks, but that is not to say that holding on is an easier method than finding someone who you are generally happier to be with and if your relationship is meant to end it’s going to end at some point.
Life is too short to settle, to fight, and to contemplate how our lives would be different if our relationships were different. I’m not saying all relationships are perfect all the time, they’re not. Some take work—individually and as a couple—but work to change anyone or anyone’s heart about you doesn’t stick for good. So maybe our hearts are trying to prevent us from hurting in the present, but it’s our gut instincts (and our friends) that knows if that effort is even worth it.