I can sometimes be a bit cold when I see others performing romantic gestures to and with one another. I go through my phases. I find myself being bitter that the gesture is used as a means to get something from that other person. Sex, money, attention or favours; something driven by selfishness. It doesn’t help with the space that I work in and see these same things play out in other peoples lives in its full glory.
However, I can also appreciate how it can make those people feel in a shared moment; together. The warmth, connection, and selflessness from the person performing the gesture to the other. To show the other person that they are loved and cared for; and that they mean something to someone in this crazy world. I sway between both emotions pending my mood any given time.
I think romantic love is idealised and overrated these days (I don’t know to what degree that applies to indigenous societies in history, however, I do know that village and island connections were strengthened through non-romantic unions – romance was a perk, hence the runaway-bride disease). Like most young-twenty-somethings, I’ve experienced limerence several times, which I think is the slightly shallower-phase of romantic love. I’ve also experienced romantic and committed love at enough of a depth to identify it for what it is and enjoy it for the space it creates between you and another; a space where you feel safe and protected.
I didn’t bother to take the time to differentiate and understand romantic love as an experience and what this type of connection with someone means. Well, no one really explained this to me – I figured it through the process below, self-reflection and reading lol. For a long time after my first serious relationship and attempt at romantic love, I numbed the discomfort from my experience with a few toxic behvaiours (yoyo weight/bfs, career armouring, partying etc.). These behaviours started affecting close friendships and people that I had a different love for and connection with. I.e. my toxicity spilled over into my other relationships. So I did a lot of reflecting and booked myself a mental GP/behavioural check-in if you will. I didn’t want to wake up after 5 years with a set of bad experiences and realisations that I could have had much faster with a bit of therapy, self-reflection, and alone-time. Since doing that, I’ve thankfully had an improved quality of relationships, life, and knowledge of myself (who I was and what I wanted/didn’t want).
At therapy, I learned that I had blocked out the hurt or any risk of potential hurt, that I was also blocking out the joy and anything constructive. Duh. Joy became forboding (quote courtesy of Brene Brown – highly recommend her lit and talks). And I deceived myself into believing that I didn’t deserve joy because of the hurtful things I had done in those relationships, for fear of doing them again. That I wasn’t worthy of joy. So I drifted through “doing” without actually experiencing any deep-set emotion. Only fleeting emotion that I used to trick myself into thinking that I was fulfilled – but not feeling it. Relationships just became transactions for mutual benefits.
I remember the moment when my therapist did some therapist-voodoo where she took me through an exercise that I had mini-breakdown. The exercise was used to address the fear I had around worthiness, belonging, connection, abandonment, rejection, and vulnerability. After the tears subsided she said “it’s ok – some people well older than you never get to this space of realisation in sessions”.
I had been using my career armour, like most yo-pro millenials that have several social enterprises on the side, to be too busy to ‘deal with it’. It was easier to say I’m too busy than address any of it. It could’ve led to high-functioning depression, who knows. But I’m glad I’ve stopped and taken sometime to reconnect with myself – the most important relationship of all.
I’ve had two serious relationships. And even though the last one ended over two years ago, I’m still learning so much about myself from them. I like to think I still astound myself with this self-learning, and I do – not to be self-centered, but to increase my self-awareness. So that when I am in a new relationship, I can share the best of me and even when I am at my worst, I know what I need to do (or what I may need from my partner) to get out of that space, be constructive and overcome. Sometimes when I think back, I am astounded because of the level of self-deception I can weave into my actions lol. But, regardless of the tricky situations I experienced, I am also astounded at the values and strengths I can offer when given the space to.
Getting to know yourself is difficult because you get so busy doing life that it’s not easy to pause deeply and assess why you act the way you do and what it says about who you are. It helps to have good friends who call you out on your bs when they see some of these “whys” so that you can address them. Hence why this space is carved out for active reflection regularly in mini-bursts.
Regardless of who I share my life with for the long-term in future, its definitely important to maintain a reflective practice for nurturing this type of relationship in the various va.