The fifty-seventh question for the Q&A section of this blog is: “What is the hardest thing about love?”

This question is very well timed, as this is something I’ve had to deal with a lot lately.  See, I’ve been in many relationships in my life, but as much as I’ve been through and as much as I’ve thought I loved people before, I never actually had to face how hard love really is until now…because I guess I never actually felt it.  I mean, I loved the people I was with before, to some degree, but considering how significantly different I feel in my current relationship, and how much it has already changed for me, I have to think that there’s probably a pretty good chance that I was never in love before.  Or maybe it’s just that this is the first healthy relationship I’ve had in a long time, if it can be argued that I ever had one before it at all, so I’ve had to approach it completely differently than I did my previous unhealthy relationships.

Either way, as I said, lately I’ve had to face the fact that real love is not easy, but not in the ways I had thought before.  In the past, I let a lot of bad things happen in my relationships, because I completely misunderstood what people meant when they said that love and relationships weren’t easy, and that good ones took work.  I took that to mean that they required sacrifice, which is true, but not in the ways that I was sacrificing myself in the past…and that because a good relationship is worth fighting for, that that excused any amount of actual fighting that went on, because obviously we wouldn’t fight if we didn’t care about each other, right?  Yeah.  I was very naive, for a very long time, and things got pretty bad because of it. I let things get way out of hand, and stayed in situations I logically knew better than to stay in, because I thought that I must love these people if I was willing to give up so much of myself for them.  What I failed to realize was that if the relationships had actually been healthy, I wouldn’t have had to give up myself.

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Anyway, what is the hardest thing about love?  Being vulnerable.  That’s not something I’m used to.  In the past, I never really felt vulnerable in any other sense than that I knew that the possibility existed that the people I loved (whether my partner, friends or family) could die (which was and is something that worries me a lot more than it probably should on a daily basis); otherwise, while I knew that my partner could leave me at any time, I never really thought that they would.  See, in my previous relationships, no matter  how dramatic or horrible they got, I felt a certain sense of security in them, because I knew those partners needed me (for one reason or another), so even if we weren’t happy, it was less likely for them to leave unexpectedly.  I also never really gave my whole heart to those relationships, both because they were never really my ‘idea’ (that is, I was not the pursuer, and in most cases I actually wasn’t even all that interested in the person in the beginning, I just gave it a shot because I knew it was what they wanted and I felt guilty) and because I was never really all that happy in them, so I didn’t ever worry about how much the loss of them would effect me until it was happening…at which point the upset I felt was more because of how much I had invested into the relationship (time, money, energy, etc.) and how much I hated that I felt that much further from finding someone to spend my life with, than it was because I was actually sad to lose the person.

Ultimately, I knew none of them were “the one” for me, as much as I wanted them to be so I could stop starting over in relationships all the time, so I guess I just never gave as much of myself emotionally as I could have had I actually been in love with any of them…though of course I didn’t know that that was the case until I met someone I actually did fall in love with, and could see the difference.  And the main difference, of course, is how vulnerable I have felt since being with him.  It’s been almost crippling, at times, to be honest…and without the amazing support provided to me by both my lovely boyfriend himself and the best friend anyone could ever ask for (Mike), I would have run away from this relationship long ago.  And that would be the single worst thing I could ever do to myself.

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See, I’ve been through several abusive relationships, on top of a childhood that was largely good but also extremely screwed up in some ways (and, as I’ve learned, was perhaps even more screwed up than I consciously remember), so as a result, I have developed a lot of fear.  Fear of being cheated on, fear of being abandoned, fear of being left for someone better, fear of being abused again, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of taking advantage of others, fear of being abusive, fear of not being good enough, fear of annoying people, fear of being too damaged, fear of disappointing my partner, fear of confrontation, etc., etc., etc…I could go on for days with the things I fear.  The thing is, I didn’t realize how afraid I actually was until I was given someone to love who treats me wonderfully, because the fear of losing him is by far the single greatest fear I have ever had in my life, and has stirred up all those other fears so much that it’s been almost suffocating at times.  And yes, I have tried to run, and I am not at all proud of that, but at the time I didn’t know what else to do, and I thought it would be for the best for him if I left. Luckily, as I mentioned, my incredible boyfriend and best friend both stepped up and helped me see how much I was self-sabotaging, and have helped me find methods to deal with that, so I can move through the process of healing myself enough that I won’t be so scared and feel so vulnerable all the time.

Because, y’know, I really have never felt this vulnerable in my life.  This is the first relationship I’ve ever been in where I feel like I’m the one who loves more, and who is most definitely the pursuer and the one more invested in the relationship, and that is absolutely terrifying.  I am so afraid of screwing this up that even the slightest idea that he could be annoyed with or mad at me fills me with anxiety, and it’s only now that I have realized just how non-confrontational I really am.  I hate fighting, I hate drama; I just want everything to be happy and loving all the time…and I know that’s not possible, and I can accept that, I just really don’t want to do anything to make him leave me, and I’m so very aware, in this relationship, of how real a possibility it is that he will.  Why?  Because he doesn’t need me, he wants me.  There is nothing I can do for him that he can’t do for himself, and it’s very hard for me to accept that, because that means he’s only with me because he wants to be, because I make him happy, and…that’s not something I have ever experienced before.  I don’t know how to be with someone that actually wants me, and respects and loves me for who I am.  It’s 100% foreign.

So it’s a hard process, training myself out of past thought patterns and into better, healthier ones, and I know I’m going to feel very vulnerable and very afraid for a long time, but I also know he loves me, and I know he’ll always be there for me, so…I can do it.  It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is also absolutely the most rewarding, amazing experience of my life, and I have yet to spend a single moment with him in which I wasn’t completely aware of how much I love him.  He is the most incredible person I have ever met, and I can’t imagine ever going through, with him, the things I went through with others.  Hell, we haven’t even been mad at each other yet, because we talk everything out so well. I can only hope to be lucky enough to make that last.  He is so worth it, and I am so grateful to finally be in a healthy, happy relationship.  It is more amazing than I even imagined it would be.

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Sorry for the incredibly long answer!

Check out Mike’s answer at http://emptystress.wordpress.com, and please feel free to post your own in the comments! :)

(Next question: “What is the cruellest thing a person has ever said to you?”)

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