I learned about love from movies, and novels, and my parents’ marriage.
Love Story etched in my heart the message that true love endures hardship, and illness, and even death.
Wuthering Heights taught me that love can be dark and punishing, but it is inevitable: not to be ignored.
These were stories of passion and romance, and I yearned for that feeling from the age of eleven.
My parents taught me about the kind of love I wanted to avoid: love born of convenience, fraught with oppression, fear, and denial. “He loves me in his own way,” my mother would say, and I despised her for being weak.
“You are waiting for your white knight to come and rescue you,” one of my high school friends told me. “It’s never going to happen.” Her words stung. I was too young to see the faults in my own brand of idealism.
I married the first chance I got. He was classically handsome, loved to dance, and girls flocked to be around him. I couldn’t believe he was mine. We were nineteen. When the pale pinks and blues of our wedding day faded, reality set in. Unable to hold down a job, my charmer slept till two o’clock each afternoon, then moved from bed to couch, where he consumed packs of cigarettes and watched television. He seldom came to the marital bed, but when he did, he made it clear that it was my fault he stayed away – he despised me. “Life is so easy for you,” he would lament. Working two jobs and running our household did not feel easy to me, and I told him so. The marriage was over before our second wedding anniversary.
“You couldn’t keep it up,” my friend told me. “You were burning out.”
My second husband swept me off my feet with sweet talk and limousine rides. “I don’t want to just live with somebody,” he told me. I interpreted that as a proposal, although he never actually said the words: Marry Me. We’d stay awake for hours and talk about our dreams, and before I could blink we were living together, then married, and having children. He was in a hurry, you see, to ‘have it all’ before he turned thirty. I didn’t see just how convenient I was.
The courtship ended once we were married, and I soon felt very alone, tending house and children. “At least he’s not abusive,” I’d tell myself. “Could be worse.” Even though I couldn’t see it, I was doing the dance my mother taught me, denying that something was missing. I wanted so much for love to work, to be a real thing, that I was a part of, and he played on that, telling me how “if I’d been more loving”, I would be something that I was not. In the end, when he left me, I was convinced that I was not good enough for love.
“You were dying inside,” my friend kindly told me. “I watched your spirit dwindle away.”
I grieved, then raged, but eventually found level ground, where, for the first time in my life I considered loving myself. It was a broken relationship, for sure, and I had to start with simple things, such as: What did I like to eat?
Through therapy, I realized that in trying to avoid my parents relationship, I had actually just recreated a different version. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck!
Loving myself, I decided would be the opening for true love to enter my life. So I played a game with myself, a game I called: What would it feel like?
I bought myself flowers, and allowed myself to feel the simple pleasure that such a gesture offered. When responsibility and obligation started to wear me down, I’d draw a bubble bath and pour myself a glass of wine, imagining that this is what love would do: offer solace rather than complaints. I even went as far as to visualize what it would feel like to be truly loved, not for what I could do for another, but because I am.
Accepting myself, just the way I am, and my life along with it, brought a sense of inner peace and I stopped longing for more. Maybe, I thought, this was the love I was looking for all along.
When Thor showed up in my life, it was already full, and his presence threw me off balance. I allowed the excitement for a couple of weeks, and then, to quote him, ” I kicked him to the curb.” I didn’t need this.
And yet I did.
Curiousity got the better of me, and so I invited him back in.
“These are the ground rules,” I told him at the beginning. “We will hang out for a year and see how it goes. There will be no talk of ‘us’, and no plans for the future. After a year, we’ll see how it goes.”
“What you see, is what you get.” Thor shrugged. “I am afraid I’m pretty vanilla.”
With Thor’s compliance, a friendship began to take shape, as well as a genuine, mutual, fondness. Most importantly, with Thor, I felt appreciated and acknowledged.
We married in a small, personal ceremony, exchanging our own, heartfelt vows. And on our honeymoon night, as I crawled into his open arms, he uttered the words that summed up all my years of searching:
“Let me be your soft place to land. No matter what life throws at you, or how harsh life can be, know that coming home will always be safe.”