‘You’re in love with the guy. You find time to be together each day. He makes you happy and giddy and all your dreams come true,’ my mentor starts off nonchalantly. ‘Now, tell me about your buts.’
‘When it comes to this relationship, where do you stop loving? Where do you say that you like him, you enjoy him, you cherish him, but…?’
‘Oh.’ I quiet, unsure how comfortable I am with revealing my doubts to this hawk-eyed woman. Is honesty always the best policy?
I breathe in.
’Well actually, there’s this thing with his ex…’
Turns out I’m not the rainbows-and-butterflies-saint I thought I was.
I got buts.
I love him, but I find it difficult to deal with his tardiness and time management.
I love the fact that he’s a father, but I’m cautious about the rage I see in him when he talks to his ex.
I’m happy now, but also scared we will somehow f*ck this up and then I’ll be a miserable mess.
This, but that.
That, but this or these, or those.
When I feel a ‘but’, I get the urge to rein everything in. To build walls against potentially feeling pain (again). To cast wishes upon the heavens and hope that the world turns the way I want it. That I may somehow avoid getting inconvenienced or hurt or worse, betrayed.
My buts are there to protect me from my own feelings… through attempting to change the person I’m supposedly in love with.
There is no love in fear.
The buts are where love leaves us.
Imagine finding a person to love… or remember when you did.
Feels wonderful, doesn’t it?
Did they arrive for you to control them?
Or for you to love and learn from them?
When I throw buts at my beloved, it’s as if I’m flinging the dirt of my fears on his light, casting a shadow of my doubt on all that he does. My frightful imagination makes him weak and unable to deal with his own life.
Inside, those ‘buts’ remind me that I don’t believe in myself or him to deal with our respective parts in life. That I don’t believe in my own strength.
Now, if I don’t believe in myself, can I truly believe in him? Or anyone?
At the beginning of the year, I was training to become I relationship counsellor. One day I found myself arguing with the teacher on the fact that since Love is always present in every person, all relationships must be based on that love which is always lurking in abundance.
The teacher disagreed, ‘Love is unconditional, but relationships are not.’
‘Why?’ I argued. ‘Why can’t relationships be based on simple love and trust?’
‘Because relationships are formed between people and people operate from Ego,’ he shrugged, ‘Ego can not love. It always wants something.’
That shut me up. I knew he was right.
In my previous relationship I also claimed to have loved my partner. Yet I could never fully accept him for who he was, for he didn’t fit my idea of what I thought I wanted. Nor did I fit his.
We argued for months, until we ran dry from exhaustion and eventually admitted that we couldn’t be what we were looking for.
Curiously, as soon as we decided to put an end to our misery, we fell in love again. Only this time we were too tired to care and too wise to do anything about the sudden flood of appreciation. When ego’s and models and ideals were out of the way, love returned. Relationship didn’t.
As long as we are looking to get something out of the other person, we can not truly love.
Love only wants joy for all, no matter what.
Do I want happiness for my beloved, no matter what?
Do I want him to learn and grow and make his own mistakes?
Or will I choose to fight who he is to secure a measure of profit or justification for my own fears and feelings? Ask him to tread carefully around my landmines and insecurities? Give him dominion and blame for my own troubles and triggers?
Do I need him to be anything except the man standing next to me?
These past weeks I’ve given it a go… to love him just as he arrives, second by second. When he loses his temper. When he starts acting from fear. When he’s late. When he snores really loud.
To simply love the man, not the idea of one.
It’s been surprisingly easy.
Even if I’m overwhelmed with frustration, I can take a quick turn towards doing something for myself and still stay in love. It costs nothing.
I’ve found that love itself does not ask for perfection. Love glorifies in being loving amidst mistakes, stupid decisions and sheer silliness.
Even if we eventually grow apart. Even if we no longer share a meal or a bed together. Even if he becomes a wistful memory of a wonderful time in my life. Love doesn’t oblige, doesn’t question the decisions our hearts or minds make. Love has it all.
Still, I agree with my teacher. Relationships are conditional.
Bonds between us can and should end as soon as love reminds us that we are grander than the webs we weave, the projects we begin and the buildings we inhabit. The love we feel is like the ocean – larger and stronger than any agreement or signature bound in time. Always present and always new, love carries us on waves of relations and connections, coming together and growing apart.
It never runs dry.
This love will ask us to hold on. To fearlessly celebrate the person, just as they are.
When time comes – and we never know when – that same love will remind us to let go.
Only heart-shaped, rose-tinted glasses.