Anything less than mad, passionate extraordinary love is a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life and love shouldn’t have to be one of them.
– “Dream for an Insomniac,” 1996
My best friend Sarah and I were bored one evening and went to Blockbuster to rent a movie. There was one of those 3 movies for 10 dollar deals going on, so we started sorting through the video cassettes on the table. (Yes, this was back in the day before DVD players.) Picked up this random film that neither of us had ever heard of, but it sounded interesting. Turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Nothing spectacular, just a lot of intellectual romantic cliches…and Jennifer Aniston speaking in about every accent imaginable. But the hopeful dedication to love that the lead character possessed was so inspiring to me. This quote is one that I’ve repeated to myself many times and tried to share with my friends in times of despair.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that it is not my place (nor anyone’s for that matter) to make judgments about a relationship between two people that are not myself. I’ve been on both the receiving and giving end of these sorts of interference— having friends of my boyfriend critique me, or telling my friends to get out of unhealthy relationships. Both scenarios are heartbreaking and usually do not resolve the issues at hand.
Analyzing close relationships in my deceptive communication class has taught me that all relationships have to take their course. You as the observer may get annoyed with those couples still in the honeymoon, bonding phase– blind to their partner’s faults, or frustrated with couples who remain unhappily in the avoiding phase– wondering if one person will ever muster the courage to be honest about their dissatisfaction, or if someone is just going to continue tormenting their partner to the point where that person will no longer be able to tolerate it and leaves them.
When friends come to me with relationship problems, my heart immediately wants to help them, but my head holds back, considering whether or not my advice will truly be productive in the long run. When my friend told me today about how her on-and-off boyfriend’s guy friends were saying horrible things about her which caused him to end their relationship, I realized that if I were to repeat a list of all his flaws so that she felt better without him, I would be stooping to their level. She kept blaming herself for the failed relationship and I searched for some way to convince her otherwise.
Something that I’ve been forced to accept: We are all innately flawed. Despite our natural tendencies to place blame, the truth is that relationships are doomed from the start. We go through a period, usually after the oxytocin kicks in, that we think we have found the perfect person for us. But ultimately, one person comes out of that phase… before the other. So that one person begins to see the little things they find irritating… they start regretting the attachment and long for autonomy. Some try to be honest about needing space, which sends the other person into a panic, clinging even tighter to the bond. So in order to prevent hurting each other further, couples eventually stop talking about what makes them unhappy. They avoid the topics and sometimes each other. Even if a couple manages to survive this imbalance and return to a period of integration, they will usually find themselves in the same spot again. And so, no matter how many times you tell someone to break up with their significant other–or that it is for the best, ultimately you will find yourself repeating conversations and realizing that your advice was never taken.
So this time, instead of telling her that her boyfriend is this monster, I gave her the advice I wished someone had given me when I stayed with a boyfriend who told me that it was my fault he was seeing other girls behind my back. I asked her why it was that she would let his friends, who don’t know her, who are clearly immature and spiteful, make her feel so badly about herself, when someone like me, who has seen her at her best and worst, is telling her that she is an amazing woman with a huge heart. Why it is that we can forget about the hundred times we have been told we are beautiful, every time a guy finds one girl more attractive than us. You can’t force someone to tell you the truth. We can only be honest with ourselves. People have more intuition than they acknowledge. We know when something is not right. She knows that she deserves someone that would not sit back while his friends are bringing tears to her eyes.
There is someone out there who would stand up for her.
But she has begun to wonder whether this guy exists. She says that with her luck and mine, she has doubts. I realized then the only way I can help her. I have to show her that I am not going to let my bad luck with men affect my expectations and quest for happiness. That I have learned not to prolong the inevitable by kidding myself into thinking that a relationship is healthy when it is not.
There is too much at stake. Our lives. Our last month together in college. Which she could spend warring with herself and trying to stay afloat while her boyfriend’s friends are doing everything in their power to bring her down. Or with the people who care about her. Who are trying to find ways to reach her and remind her that the fact that despite everything this man has done to hurt her, she is still in love with him–which shows how forgiving and unselfish a person she is. How it crushes me to see her confidence– the confidence that she shared with me when I needed it most, and helped me become stronger (and at the very least, more spontaneous and willing to dance on a bar when the occasion arises) — falter from the cruel words of small minds.
The truth is, I don’t know if either of us will find that true love. I’m hopeful… yes, but there are no guarantees. The one thing I am about which I am absolutely certain, is until we find that person, any amount of time we spend with someone who takes away our ability to love ourselves, is worthless.