It’s often said that, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”
I beg to differ. At least, somewhat.
Today, I was sorting some important paperwork which left me feeling a bit emotional. As I was processing how I felt, I decided to watch Netflix to distract myself. I started to play one of my favourite TV Shows, then I realised watching drama with a bit of comedy wasn’t what I needed in that moment. It was full comedy that I needed. Something to totally lift my mood. On my screen appeared a show I hadn’t watched in months, a comedy recommended to me over a year ago. By someone I had been dating.
This person I originally knew when I was only 17 years old and we reconnected almost two decades later.
When I knew him back then, he would insist, “I am too messed up for you.” He would tell me how his now ex-fiancée had cheated on him, how he’d been in the army for years and was “fucked up”, and how boarding school had affected him to the point that he really struggled with girls. He would tell me all about his history with anxiety and depression and how counselling how done little to help him.
Despite all that, I saw something in him. I wanted to care for him, to show him that he was worthy of love, and to show him that he didn’t need to be anything but himself.
That, however, did not last, and the relationship we had never became anything close to anything serious. At least, until 16-17 years later.
Fast forward almost two decades, him now heartbroken following the sudden collapse of his marriage and the birth of his daughter, and me with my own marriage breakdown and three children – and somehow, our lives became intertwined again. What started as friendship began to transform as something else. I thought that maybe this was our chance to finally make it work.
But the same roadblocks were in the way – this time, his now ex-wife had cheated, he still struggled with his feelings but, he was at least a lot more honest in why it didn’t work before. He said, “I was so messed up. I thought I was going to ruin your life.” He told me that he wanted to give things a shot, this time. I agreed, on the premise of taking it slow.
Things started off well. As I was going through a really hard time in my life, he listened. A lot. He reminded me not to focus on the negative. He told me to buy some bath salts and relax in the bath because I deserved to. He gave me recipe suggestions to make life easier for me and the girls – as he had been a professional chef before.
He even told me to watch the show I opened up tonight because he told me, “Whenever I feel down, watching funny stuff cheers me up.” And that show made me laugh. A lot.
Whatever we had, for that short period of time, fell apart quickly. With my own unresolved trauma and open wounds from my past, I struggled to love myself enough to stop questioning why he wanted to give things a shot. And with the pain of his own divorce, he could not talk about his feelings at all and pushed them down so deep that I was constantly questioning how he felt about me – which pushed him away further.
But I did not let that relationship break me or ruin me. I eventually found true love and I am now marrying the only man who has ever made me feel completely safe and truly loved.
My fiancé once asked me when we were reflecting on our pasts, “Do you think you loved him? Or do you think he was a rebound?”
As easy as it would be to say he was a rebound, I believe otherwise.
By nature, I find it easy to see the best in people. If someone does something out of character, I try to understand rather than judge. If someone behaves in a seemingly “inappropriate” manner, even a stranger, I like to consider their perspective, their past, their personality, their values/beliefs. Nothing is ever really black and white for me.
The man I was dating would cook me an elaborate dinner before my night shift, then once work had finished would cook me breakfast too. I know that 17 year old past me was right for believing in him, for seeing him when he couldn’t see himself.
I remember how he bought these electronic soldering toys for his daughter and told me to give some to my own children. I remember his concerted efforts to help me look for rentals as I was fearful I would have nowhere to live.
Everything in my life has worked out exactly the way it was meant to. I am spending the rest of my life with the person I am meant to. He is definitely the right person for me.
But now and again, when I remember this funny TV Show that used to cheer me up during my darkest moments – I remember how he told me, “I never forgot you because you have been one of the few people who actually treated me really nice.”
I could easily hold anger in my heart towards him for the way our relationship ended years later. But I don’t. I feel gratitude for the few memories we had together, for his efforts in making me feel important even for a short while, for his acknowledgement that I saw his worth even when many people didn’t.
It’s true – you can still love someone even when you don’t love yourself. Except, the love is not so stable, it is not so pure. It is not the love that lasts.
And the love I now feel for my fiancé is everything that love is meant to feel like – the commitment to challenging each other to become the best versions of ourselves, the appreciation of our true authentic selves, the undeniable belief that any storm can be weathered, trust, open communication, respect, and treating each other as equals.
And lots and lots of joy and laughter.
I am finally with someone who does, indeed, truly love themselves. And by being with him and feeling completely safe, I finally love myself completely too 🙂