A few years ago, I had written an entry in my journal, when I was feeling particularly sad, that I wondered what it would be like to be the kind of person that someone throws a surprise birthday party for. I always thought it seemed wonderful to have so many people truly care about you and your happiness that they would all come together, going completely out of their way to plan something for the sole purpose of making you happy and to show you that you are loved. I also wondered what kind of person you’d have to be to have something like that in your life—and without a doubt, I knew that I wasn’t the kind of person for who things like that happened.
That isn’t to say that I am not loved—I have family and friends who value and cherish me, and they show it. Sometimes I even wonder if those relationships are deeper and more valuable than the ones between people who throw surprise parties for each other, because I feel so lucky to have the people in my life that I do. But I’m different. Most of the people in my life, the ones who matter at least, are different too. And amongst us different people, things are perceived differently. We are the outliers.
I was just struck with a similar thought, which is why I decided to start writing, for the first time in weeks. I was struck with the notion, definitely not for the first time, that I might be one of those people who no one ever truly falls in love with, someone who isn’t meant to find love. And I wondered if the kind of person I’d have to be to find love is also the kind of person that I’d have to be for someone to throw me a surprise party—and if so, my fate is already sealed.
I’ve been in love a handful of times. I know myself, and I know that when I fall in love with someone, I fall completely. Their happiness becomes one of the most important things to me. I’ve loved so much that I let someone go because they would never feel the same way about me, despite how much we cared about each other. Twice. I know full well that I am capable of love in all its forms, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world—even the parts that hurt. Knowing that you care about someone enough that it causes you pain reminds you that you are alive, that you feel, that you’re part of this world and everything it has to offer.
Unfortunately, nearly all of my forays into the world of romantic love have ended, with some obvious differences, in the same way.
I seem to be irresistible (I guess) at first—people fall for me quickly and easily, for whatever reason. Being attracted as I am to people with certain energies, I fall pretty quickly right back if I see that they’re falling for me. Things go on contentedly for a little while—a couple months, usually—before things start to change. Suddenly, these people start getting to know me, and upon that, they find things about me that they want to change. Suddenly, I’m not as irresistible as they thought I was; surprisingly, I’m just a flawed human, like they are and like everyone else. And once this magic wears off, various things will happen, but they all involve some sort of effort to control or change me.
In my first long-term relationship, my ex tried to control me by belittling me for the things he didn’t like about me and praising me when I did something to his standards. One time, he argued with me for an hour about why I shouldn’t get my nose pierced, telling me that I would end up getting more piercings and look “trashy” or like “someone who’s been to jail.” He was also jealous and possessive; male friends that I’d had since before I met him were treated with criticism and mistrust in an effort to isolate me from them. We were engaged after 2 ½ years because, as young as I was, I just figured that’s what you DO when you’ve been with someone for so long. By that time, I had started to feel like someone else, and I didn’t like who that someone else was. I felt dissociated from life a lot of the time; I had completely stopped writing for over a year!
My next long-term relationship came about as a result of meeting someone who I felt more like myself around and, realizing that I didn’t feel that way with my fiance, I promptly ended the relationship and dove in again with this new person. In this case, the form of control was actually that he gave me me most of the control, which is something I did not want or ask for. By giving me control, he felt justified in criticizing me and also in punishing me by withdrawing affection or kindness.
I made most of the money; he complained about how he never got to buy things he wanted to buy because I “took” his money for part of the bills. When we moved out together into our first apartment, I paid everything, while my ex sat at home in a growing pile of filth because his mom had done everything for him for most of his life, jumping at his rescue when he needed food, money, laundry done, etc. I became his new mom. When it was time to move, I picked the place, otherwise we would not have found a place to live. I arranged for the moving truck, I picked the furniture—I continued to pay most of the bills. If I had left things up to him, the bills would never have gotten paid. I was in over my head–and for all my efforts, I was told that I needed to loosen up, that maybe if I did, he’d be more loving, more appreciative, etc. “If you act the way I want you to, I’ll give you what you want me to give you.”
In my latest relationship, things felt exactly on track for the first few months. In this relationship, I had tried something new; I was single for 6 months, I had tried online dating just for fun, and I didn’t have the expectation of falling in love—it just kind of happened. Then, as soon as I felt that way, and I could tell he did too—he got scared and put on the brakes. I understood; he was less than a year out of a divorce, I was less than a year out of a 5 year relationship. We dated for almost a year, but in this time, he never told me he loved me, introduced me to friends or family, or even called me his girlfriend. He wouldn’t even add me on Facebook, and we don’t have a single picture of ourselves together to document the time that we were together. The memories I have with this man are some of the best I’ve ever experienced, and I am thankful for every one of them. But unfortunately, even with this genuinely good person, the ending came the same way.
His method of control was to use his priority for independence to avoid intimacy with me after he took his initial step back; blaming it on his admittedly hectic schedule, he had trouble making plans with me and committing to those plans in the few instances they were made, often showing up late, having to reschedule, and ending each meeting with the promise that we’d see each other again “soon.” Never knowing when I might be able to see him next, I left a lot of my schedule open “just in case,” which made me feel…lame, honestly. His favorite phrase was “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” This, coupled with his inability to help me understand my role in his life, made me frequently insecure because I didn’t know where I stood with him. This led to me becoming the pursuer when it had begun the other way around. By keeping me on my toes, he took complete control of the dynamic of our relationship.
Everyone who is romantically interested in me adores me until they get to know me better, but there’s something else, too. Every single person I’ve fallen for still wants me in their life. Every long-term relationship has ended with an apology to me. The ones who have gotten to know me end up accepting my flawed humanity and suddenly find value in my presence in their life. “Regret” is a word I’ve heard a handful of times from the mouths of people who didn’t value me when they had me. What does that say about me? That the people I’m attracted to are not capable of loving me in the way that I hope someone will? That love exists—but within people that I don’t have anything in common with, who I will never be attracted to, where I then become the one who doesn’t value what they have until it’s gone? Those both sound like the recipe for disaster that makes me wonder whether or not there exists a person in my life path who can fill the role that I thought I’d filled over and over again.
In my mind, I envision two families sitting at a Thanksgiving table and actually enjoying each other’s company. Champagne glasses are raised, turkey is carved, people are laughing…and I’m sitting among them, laughing and smiling as if I completely belong there. The atmosphere is fuzzy and warm; I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me back, and the handsome gentleman next to me grins and looks at me in a way that makes me feel like I’m the only other person on the entire planet, with the deep appreciation and wonder that accompanies being in love with someone. Really being in love with someone–with who they are, not who you wish they were.
But that life isn’t meant for me any more than I’m meant for surprise parties. Most of the time, I’m completely okay with that, because, let’s be real–my life is pretty awesome. I may not fit in, in a traditional sense, but I do fit in someplace, and that someplace is the home I’ve built within the walls of my tattoo shop, and in the creative community where people are just as weird as I am. But sometimes I still wonder what kind of person it takes to find those other kinds of things, and I wonder if it’s possible for me to still be me and maybe someday find them. Would I still even want them if I did?