It seems like everyone around me is going through some serious relationship stuff: falling in love, moving in together, getting engaged, getting married, adopting pets, having kids, breaking up, getting divorced. We are all putting together or breaking apart families of different sizes and shapes, trying to find that elusive thing that “works.”
On the surface, many of these couples seem similar to one another and they seem similar to my own romantic relationship. I know I love my partner. Even if things don’t work out for some reason, I am fairly confident I will still love him in some way for the rest of my life. But sometimes – because I’m an analytical person, a worrier, a planner for worst-case-scenarios – I ask myself, “How do I really know this is the right thing?”
My criteria are pretty simple:
- Does this person deserve my love?
- Does this person want my love?
- Does this person love me in return?
These questions are my sanity check. It’s not perfectly conclusive or thorough, but it works for most types of relationships, just replace “love” with “friendship/advice/help” or whatever. The closer I am to someone, the more confidently I can answer yes to all of the above. If I’m unsure of the answer, I find a way to get clarification, usually by talking to the relevant person. If I’m uncomfortable having that conversation, that’s a pretty good sign I need to GTFO of that relationship.
When I think of relationships that have made me genuinely happy, I can confidently answer yes to these questions. On the other hand, when I think of times I’ve been hurt, the answers are more hesitant, like “umm…I don’t know…probably not…?” Occasionally, it’s a flat out no: I was trying to tough it out because I didn’t want to admit I misjudged someone.
We’ve each got a whole lot of love, affection, kindness, generosity, and other good stuff inside of us. I truly believe that if we pour these parts of ourselves, the best parts, into “Yes!” relationships, we’ll get back more than we put in. We’ll get back love, comfort, safety, and cuddles.
The opposite is true of “No” relationships, and that means no to any of the questions. You can hollow yourself out, pour everything you love about yourself into a relationship, and it will never work if the other person doesn’t deserve, want, or reciprocate what you are putting out there.
So when I got back from my sunrise run this morning and tiptoed around our bedroom because Jay was still asleep, I asked myself –
“Does he deserve my love?” That’s a yes, shouted from a rooftop in a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
“Does he want my love?” Aw hells yiss.
“Does he love me in return?” What a stupid question. Yes. Duh.
Maybe my answers won’t always be like this. Maybe circumstances, feelings, whatever will change. Maybe it won’t always be this simple.
But for right now, this is enough.
Photo credit: D. Sun