How Do You Know When It Is Love?

When I was younger, I knew so much more than I do now. I knew exactly how my life was going to go and I knew that one day I’d fall in love and recognize The One. I grew stupider with age, apparently, because my life did not go as I planned and I have no idea what The One would look like or act like if I crossed paths with him. What I do know is what doesn’t work for me. I guess sometimes knowing who isn’t the one, is very helpful, but it doesn’t help you recognize him when he appears. It only means that without the red flags, he could be the one.

I also wonder, if everyone who could possibly be the one, turns into not being the one eventually, no matter what.

I mean face it. At some point, everyone reveals their issues. At some point, even if the issues aren’t deal-breakers, they can become so exhausting one just gets tired of dealing with them…again…and again…and again. Sometimes it just seems as though it might be easier to throw in the towel and just go the road of life alone. As people age, the “luggage” they haul around becomes heavier to tote also. It also, on occasion, can bust wide open spilling all sorts of questionable items here and there. This creates conflicting and painful emotions for everyone involved.

I know that my past does not qualify me to discuss what true love is. I’ve experienced my share of failures in the love department. I’m certain that my partner picker is broken, or at least sporadically defective like a watch that works but which goes out intermittently. I pick people who are good people (like my first ex), but who is not good for me. At other times, I pick people who are not only not great people, but who are disastrous choices. (My very first sexual encounter and my last ex come to mind. Interesting that both relationships had so much in common.) In spite of the failures of my past, I think I can adequately discern when a relationship is decent. Sadly, I have a difficult time discerning when it is time to call a relationship quits and when it something worth hanging on to, in spite of all the noise created from our luggage that busts open at the most inopportune times.

So…rather than bust my relational brain (which is of limited capacity anyway) worrying about what love is and whether or not I will recognize The One (if he’s even still out there and available), I have decided to base my decision making in relationships on how it is different than past failed relationships. I know, it sounds convoluted and like I’m sneaking in the back door, but hang with me for a minute.

In the past, my relationships have been a certain unhappy way. Granted, my expectations were completely unrealistic, but also, things were horrible and I was unhappy…desperately unhappy. Of course, I didn’t realize this usually until after the initial glow of infatuation wore off and by then I was usually married to the guy. So, after spending nearly 22 years collectively in very unhappy relationships, and since being divorced, spending a significant time meeting people and learning what definitely won’t work for me, I think I’m getting a little better at sensing when something might be significantly better than anything I’ve had in the past.

Currently, I’m in a relationship that I’ve been in since mid-2010. I mean, I met the guy in the first half of 2010, but we didn’t really get serious until that October. In February of 2011, he moved in and we’ve been together ever since. Now, I’m not saying this is the ideal arrangement, nor am I saying it is always perfect by any means. I’m also not saying it is horrible either. What I am trying to get at is that this relationship is quantitatively different than any other relationship I’ve ever been in. The ways in which it differs from every other are very positive rather than negative and unhappy.

Yes, this is the same guy that said, just earlier this week, that he was “hesitant”. Like I said, things aren’t perfect. On the other hand, what I failed to disclose in that post is that I am also hesitant. Some would say my reasons for being hesitant are far more significant than his reasons, but I kind of think that depends upon who you are and what your tolerance for pain is. (I’m only kind of kidding about that last part.) But from the onset, let it be known that I am fully aware that if this relationship is going to work, it is not going to be trouble free. I have an Evil Ex who is beginning to threaten some ugliness. I have 4 children from two previous marriages and coordinating the parenting plans is a Herculean effort in scheduling. Not to mention, my kids carry their own anger and resentment about how their lives were destroyed through divorce. Yet another adult male figure in the mix can make the relational dynamics a bit tense, at times, even though, for the most part, they really do get on well together. But on occasion, my luggage can spring open and fly everywhere. As can his. He also has an Evil Ex, and she makes my Evil Ex look like Glenda, The Good Witch. He also has 4 children from his liaison with the Wicked Witch. Oh, and did I mention, he’s unemployed and has been for 2 years. Further, because he’s been unemployed for that long, he owes a lifetime of back child support. The Wicked Witch has a stranglehold on the children, so having them come visit us, ever, is not an option. Like I said, I have no illusions that if this relationship is going to last, it isn’t going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. But then, was anything worth having that easy to come by? It’s a question I wrestle with.

I digress.

I was trying to explain how this particular relationship is so very different than any other.

First, we are not only on the same page about things in life, we think in tandem. I can look at him and know what he’s thinking most of the time. We have the same values, goals, priorities, and interests to find a ton of things to talk about with each other. We have enough different interests to provide each other some space and independence.

He’s also intelligent. Like, on the brilliant edge of intelligent, which makes him a clueless geek in other ways. And…for me…it is incredibly important to be in a relationship with someone intelligent. I often find, when dating the less gifted, that there is that point you reach when you both finally just run out of things to say. Now, for me, to run out of things to say, means I have really hit the wall. With my Significant Other (SO) we never run out of things to talk about. And the things we talk about are really, really interesting; not just stuff about the weather.

Another way this relationship is different is that I’m not afraid. In the last two marriages I had, I lived in constant fear that the guy would become angry and punish me emotionally for whatever sin I somehow unknowingly committed. In my first marriage, he punished me with his explosive anger. The Evil Ex punished me by pretending I did not exist. In this relationship, I feel confident enough that I can disagree, and I am not worried that I will be mistreated as the result. Further, I don’t risk straining the relationship when I disagree. Wow. What a concept. I can say, “No, I am not okay with that.” We might have a discussion. We might even argue. We always come back to the table and negotiate an agreement that we both can live with. Always, at least always, so far. This is huge to me since I’ve spent a large portion of my life in abusive relationships where I had to try to anticipate the other person’s mood, and I lived in fear. I could never express myself honestly without fear.

We have fun together, even when we might be having a problem in another area of our lives. We still seem to be able to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, knowing somewhere deep inside, that we will work that problem out too.

He can admit he’s wrong, and mean it. That’s significant. Few men are able to do this. Fewer, still, mean it when they admit it. He actually goes one better and tries to change. And the change sticks.

He is willing to try to grow and change and become a better person. This challenges me to look at where I’m not as perfect as I’d like to think I am, and where I might not be the best person I could be and it motivates me to renew my efforts to improve.

He believes in me. He doesn’t exactly say this all the time, but he does say it sometimes. The rest of the time, he demonstrates it.

He wants to spend time with me. After a year and a half, he still looks forward to spending “just us” time.

I could go on.

Is this love? Is it a good match? Is this something that will last?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this:

  • If he were dying or seriously ill, I would not mind caring for him.
  • I can see us hanging out together at the old folks home.
  • We are working through some really tough single parent post-divorce issues right now and the lines of communication are open and the stress only momentarily flares.
  • I don’t want to be with anyone else. If it isn’t him, I don’t really want anyone else…ever.

So, I’m not sure I’m any closer to defining true love or determining who The One is, if there is such a thing, but I do know this: This relationship is significantly different and far more positive and beneficial than any other relationship I’ve ever been in.

Because of that, while I might not necessarily go racing to Vegas to get hitched this weekend, I’m not exactly going to kick him to the curb either. Will it last? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future. Based on the cards showing in this hand so far, I’m thinking the odds are great that it will last, in spite of the challenges we will have to face and endure in the next decade or two.

One last thought, if something were to happen to him and I were unable to see him ever again, I would be deeply grieved. I’ve never felt that way about anyone but my children before (well, and family and a few close friends but never a boyfriend or partner). I think I have to pay attention to that.

 

 

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Posted on April 8, 2012, in Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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