The Soul Mate Epidemic: Why I don’t believe in love at first sight!

I am a hopeless romantic. I love cheesy RomComs and my Spotify is filled with love songs that could make your heart skip a beat. I love flowers and chocolate, and the idea of pinterest-worthy dates fills my stomach with butterflies. 

But I am the first to admit that I am completely and thoroughly fed up with the number of people my age waiting on “love at first sight” and “soul mates.”  

Before you write me off as simply bitter, hear me out. 

Too many people in this generation expect too much of love. This isn’t just a personal opinion; it’s a scientifically proven fact: “Since the 1960s, sociologists have found a steady progression of American men and women who demand more and more of love — yet we’re getting less and less out of our marriages.” (Thomas, 23) 

What’s interesting to me is that, when we grow up, we generally stop believing in fictional things — we stop expecting that we will find the door to another world hiding in the back of our closets or that a half-giant will magically appear on our doorstep to whisk us away to the world of witchcraft and wizardry (despite what we might hope in our hearts — I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd).  

And yet, so many of us hold on to a fictional idea of love

Why? Well, because it is so much easier. Our generation is built on instant gratification, and so we have come to expect it even from love. As a consequence, we are stuck on this fictional view of love that we have been fed most of our lives, which suggests that the perfect love that we desire is a thing of fate, that it shouldn’t require much effort from us. And when we cling to the idea that “true love” will magically “appear” when we are ready for it, we abdicate our personal responsibility to go out and find it. And, better yet, we can use this fictional view to avoid true confrontation and talk our way out of any difficult relationship on the basis that it “just doesn’t feel right” or that they aren’t “the one.” 

At first glance, this might actually seem like a wise stance to take. It might seem selfless and noble to not date anyone for which you aren’t sure about your feelings. But, “wisdom says we should try to make a relationship work not because we have strong feelings, but because it is a good match” (Thomas, 34). 

Unpopular opinion time: Too many of us believe that “the one,” and our relationship with them, is a perfect thing that we will magically stumble upon when life/God/the Universe decides that we are ready. Well friends, I hate to break it to you, but this “romantic mindset is based on the false and harmful notion that a good relationship is something you find, when in fact it is something you make. Infatuation is something you find. Sexual chemistry is something you find. A lost cell phone is something you find. But a strong, intimate [relationship] that leads to a lifelong partnership and fosters a sense of oneness? That’s something you make, and it takes a long time.” (Thomas, 133)

Because (unpopular opinion number 2!) love, even in its most genuine form, takes work. That’s right: WORK! I think too many people have forgotten this. You have to put in effort to know, respect, and love another person in the way they deserve, in the way that will sustain a relationship: “Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in” (Thomas, 67). 

So, I don’t want love at first sight, and you shouldn’t either, because it isn’t love at all! I am looking for “the one,” but not in the mystical sense of the word. I don’t believe that I have a single “soul mate.” I am looking for the one who treats me right, respects me, and shares a similar mission in life; beyond that, love is a choice that I have to make, a risk I have to take. 

I mean, think about it: if someone walked up to you and proclaimed that they wanted to marry you based on how you looked, or even after spending a day or two with you, you would sprint in the opposite direction. I don’t think most people would disagree with me on that. And yet, so many people my age are betting their love lives on the emotional equivalent of love at first sight. So many young people refuse to go on dates or enter a relationship unless they are completely certain they have the “right” magical, lovely feelings for the other person. A lot of us, because of the culture that we were raised in, and the many broken relationships we have witnessed, want certainty before we commit to anything at all.

Yet how many times have you heard someone end or not even start a relationship because they weren’t certain it was right? For me, the number is too high to count. But it is shocking to me that someone can decide that someone they previously cared so much about and greatly respected isn’t “right” for them, often without even officially dating them for very long, if at all. 

Oh, I’m sorry! Did I scare you with the word “date”?? It must be a very scary word because no one seems to use it anymore. 

What in the world is so scary about “dating?” My theory? People my age think it suggests too much commitment. There is this notion that going on a “date” means you are suddenly committed to this person and their feelings, and that can be scary, I know.

Well, sorry to break it to you, but whether or not you speak the word “date” aloud, you do not forfeit your responsibility for another person’s feelings. Any time that you choose to let someone into your life, you are responsible for being stewards of their hearts, despite labels that you do or don’t use. 

Many people seem to think that they can curve hurt or confrontation by not committing but they’re wrong. In life, commitment is inevitable; by not committing to anyone or anything, you are simply committing to being alone. This fear is far more likely to keep you from successful relationship than anything else you might be worried about; there is always risk in relationship. So I’d argue that being honest about your worries and expectations from the beginning is actually what prevents you from unnecessarily hurting someone.

And, entering a relationship that you don’t feel entirely emotionally consumed by isn’t actually a problematic thing, contrary to popular belief: “Two relatively secure individuals can love each other without experiencing obsessive thinking, euphoric mood swings, or desperate clinginess. The absence of these markers doesn’t mean they are less in love than other couples; it might just mean they are more grounded as individuals.” (Thomas 32). 

So I don’t want love at first sight; I want a love that grows. In my opinion, it is so much more beautiful and romantic to think that someone would choose to love me, over and over again, despite my flaws. 

Simply looking at someone, or spending time with them for a few weeks and placing them on a pedestal, feeling like they are perfect for you from the start, is not love. It is impossible to be fully loved if you are not first fully known.  

This instant gratification many people are looking for is called infatuation, and it is a concept has become all but lost in our society. When we base our relationships on feelings, when we expect to want and need someone all the time in order to date them or love them, we are setting ourselves up for failure. “How foolish to insist on a short-term neurochemical relation to consider a life-long decision. Is it possible that you’re neglecting getting to know some very fine marriage partners simply because the initial romantic attachment wasn’t strong enough? Are you staying with someone who isn’t good for you only because the romantic thrill makes it so hard to leave?” (Thomas 40) 

We need to start making wiser decisions in our love lives and give up our fictional ideas of love. We need to stop expecting perfection and be brave enough to handle honest, well-meaning confrontation. And most importantly, we need to stop relying on our momentary feelings to guide our life-long decisions. 

“How do you truly know whether you are committed to this person and that you truly love him or her?…Analyzing your feelings is the worst way of arriving at a measure of (affection); to count the cost is the best way.’ Your love is measured by your willingness to act unselfishly, to even let that person think less of you, (or allow someone to walk away from you) if in doing so, you are serving their spiritual advancement…analyze instead the fruit of love; your willingness to sacrifice; your commitment to the other person’s welfare” (Thomas 228). 

 

*All the quotes in this post are from a book called The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas. If you found this article interesting, I would highly recommend it! 

Honesty in Expectation

“Being enslaved to other people’s expectations has the ability to imprison us in a life that we didn’t choose…Far too often, I let my high expectations diminish the greatness of my reality.”

Expectations.

We all have them. It’s pretty much impossible not to.

But I have discovered that we allow our expectations to get the better of us on too many occasions. I am beginning to understand that letting go of expectations is the best way to find happiness with what you have.

Other people expect a lot of us. And that is something that we absolutely can’t change. Let me say that again; we can’t change other people. I learned that lesson the hard way. But what we can change is how we respond to others. We can let their expectations take control of us or we can choose to live unique lives. When we become overly worried about how we appear on the outside, about our material or social appearance, we are in danger of falling into a trap of winning the approval of others. When we let other people’s expectations control us, we choose lifestyles that are pleasing to society, rather than listening to the longings of our own hearts.

“It’s so easy to get stuck. You just get caught in being special or cool or whatever, to the point where you don’t even know why you need it, you just think you do.” – An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

Being enslaved to other people’s expectations has the ability to imprison us in a life that we didn’t choose.

And our expectations of others are just as, if not more, dangerous as the ones that people place on us.

Now let me clarify something before I move forward.

You deserve the best. You deserve to be treated like you matter. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to have people in your life that want the best for you and will listen to you when you’re at your lowest. You are allowed to expect kindness and love and friendship and generosity. These are not the expectations I am suggesting you push away. To do that would be self-destructive.

The kind of expectations I am talking about are the unrealistic expectations.

For example, I have a personal tendency to carefully plan out or write down (shocker) the things I am going to say before I actually say them. I throw different scenarios at myself, adapting to how I would react to different responses. Now perhaps this is somewhat extreme and is just the dramatic writer and performer that I am shining through into my personal life. But I know that I am not alone.

How many times have you planned out a conversation in your head and been extremely disappointed, even angry, when it doesn’t go the way you planned? How many times have you said something to someone expecting, or at least hoping, for a certain response? And how many times have you been disappointed when something you thought was going to go one way went completely in the opposite direction?

And we all do it. Every one of us. We tell someone that something doesn’t matter, expecting them to turn around and say “of course it does.” We tell someone that we are leaving them, expecting them to turn around and fight for us. We say or do something kind and expect to be recognized for it. And none of us want to admit these things, but they are true.

We build up expectations that don’t match our reality. We create people and things in our minds that are far more perfect than they actually are. The danger in this is obvious: no one is perfect, so no one can live up to our perfect expectations.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” – Paper Towns, John Green

And if we think about it logically, this way of living makes no sense. How can we possibly be upset when other people don’t live up to an idea that lives only in our minds?

And yet we do it. Constantly.

So I’m trying to change this for myself. I have a new goal: to be honest and live life without expectations of perfection. Because I have found them to be nothing but dangerous.

Holding on to unexpressed, impossible expectations is the easiest way to destroy happiness and relationships.

Because we are human. If we ourselves are incapable of loving other people perfectly, or responding to every situation perfectly, then we can’t expect that of others. We can’t test others, telling ourselves that they really care only if they respond exactly in the way that we expect them to. We can’t expect people to feel the way that we feel. We can’t expect them to understand everything going on in our lives, especially when we don’t tell them. We can’t expect people to read our minds.

And friends, I am going to be really real here. I am the biggest culprit of this. Far too often, I let my high expectations diminish the greatness of my reality. I read into every word of a phone call. I let the unanswered text message spiral me into a place of self-doubt. I start to think “if they really cared about me, they would have [insert my own personal, unexpressed expectation here].”

“Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.” – The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

The only way that I have come up with to fix this issue is honesty. We need to have the courage to discuss expectations, the ones placed on us by those around us and the ones we place on others. We have to be willing to lay our expectations on the line and we have to be willing to tell others that some expectations are too much for us.

And just think about what would happen if we were honest and learned not expect things. If we were able to limit our own impossible expectations, everything would become a blessing. Our days would be filled with moments of joy, instead of disappointments. Instead of being upset when something doesn’t go the way that we expected, we might be pleasantly surprised. Instead of being sad about what doesn’t happen, we would be happy about what does. Everything good that happens would be an unexpected gift. 

So I am going to try to learn to let go. I am going to make a conscious effort to be surprised by the good and the bad. I am going try to appreciate people for who they are and understand that the fact that they may not think and love like me is what makes this world unique and creative, albeit challenging. Because how boring would it be if we were all the same and just simply lived to live up to expectations?

“I was beginning to understand, though, that there were no absolutes, not in life or in people.” – Just Listen, Sarah Dessen

A Letter To the Boy Who Couldn’t Love Me…With Love, The Girl You Took For Granted

Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? The person who knows you the best can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care about you. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and chooses to use them against you.

“We’ll be like best friends.”

You said that and I believed it. I believed it because it used to be true and I hoped that after we broke up we could get that back.

But I was wrong. Because friendship requires a kind of love. And you didn’t love me. You couldn’t because you don’t even know what that means.

Over and over again you invite me into your life. You share your favorite movies and music. You invite me to do things with you. You are one of the only people who will sit silently with me and just listen to music, look out over the town, and think. And so I continued to come back when you asked me to, again and again, as your friend, because I thought we were connected. Even though we didn’t always get along, we had shared history, and I think that is one of the most powerful forces between people.

But every time you invite me in, it is only to push me away again when something better comes along. You never stand up for me the way I stand up for you. You are so busy trying to find your place and purpose in life, so busy not knowing who you want to be, that you will throw me under the bus to find it.

And you think I would learn, but I didn’t. Because that’s who I am. I don’t give up on people. It’s one of my best traits. And also one of my biggest flaws. I am terrible at letting things go.

And you know that. You know my flaws and weaknesses. And that’s what hurts.

The problem we have in life is that we expect that the people who know us best are the ones who will care about us the most. But that’s the wrong assumption to make. Someone can hardly know you and love you more than you’ve ever been loved. But the flip side? Someone who knows you so well can not love you at all. That’s what hurts the most: when someone knows you better than anyone else and chooses not to care. When a person knows your biggest weaknesses and uses them against you.

You know I am loyal to a fault. You know I’m a perfectionist with a fear of being not good enough, of being replaced. Yet you continually replace me in your life, thinking that you can come back anytime you want to. You know I don’t give up on the people I care about and you take advantage of that and of me.

Over and over again, I would pick you up when you were down. When we were upset, we talked. Sometimes you showed up at my house with a movie. And sometimes we didn’t have much to say because we had already discussed important things and had lived through a lot of them together, as friends for years.

I thought that meant something to you. I thought you cared about me, too.

But I was wrong.

Every time, everything was just about you. It has always been about you.

You can’t love anyone else because you don’t love yourself. You can’t make other people happy because you can’t even make yourself happy. You are trapped in a mind that tells you no one cares, so you take affection wherever you find it. You find temporary happiness in the excitement of something or someone new. Until that new thing loses its excitement, until that person leaves you or changes. And only then do you come crawling back to me, when you are hurt or frustrated or bored.

But no more. I’m done.

Because all those times that I tried to be there for you and stand up for you, it broke me. And not in the way that you like to think. I wasn’t so devastated when you left, that I broke. You broke me because you broke my faith in you and in the people I care about to care about me as much as I care about them. You increased my fear of being replaced by consistently replacing me, trying to prove that you didn’t need me, and making me look like the needy, desperate one in the eyes of everyone else. And you don’t even know how much all of that hurt me because you don’t even give things or people a second thought.

But did you ever tell anyone you were the one that called me? Of course not. You have to look like the one that is needed, not the one that needs someone else. You have to convince your mind that you don’t want or need anyone else so that if people give up on you, it is that much easier to say you never cared.

I hoped that deep down you cared, that you were grateful, that you wanted me in your life like I thought I needed you. And I didn’t even want anything from you. I just wanted a friend who understood. Someone I didn’t have to explain myself to because they were already a part of a lot of the things that made me who I was. Someone I could just have fun with.

But if you can’t love someone, at least tell them the truth. You owe them that much.

And the truth is, you just needed to feel needed. You just needed a cushion to fall back on, someone you thought you could throw aside again and again because she was too nice and too desperate to give up on you.

Well she’s not.

I did it because I cared and it’s against my nature to let the people I care about suffer alone. When she hurt you, I wanted you to know that even when people leave you, it’s not the end of the world and that you can’t believe everything people say about you.

You taught me that.

You taught me a lot of things. And the craziest part is that you didn’t even mean to.

You taught me to stand up for myself. It’s best to say what I want to say and be honest with people, even when it’s scary or painful. Long term regret is worse than temporary shame.

You taught me patience, with myself and with others.

You taught me that I can’t control everything. The perfectionist in me had a very hard time with this one, but you made me just sit and breathe in the times when I was freaking out over the tiniest details. You told me to stop writing letters, because life isn’t letters (yet here I am still writing another one that I probably will never send, because some things never change).

You taught me the beauty of silence. It’s nice to have someone you can talk to all the time, but it’s sometimes even better to spend time with people you are so comfortable with that you don’t have to say anything.

You taught me I was beautiful and worth something, even when I felt like I wasn’t. When I had crazy hair and makeup down my face you told me not to worry about it. It didn’t matter.

You taught me that it’s okay to be alone, when we chose each other over the parties we didn’t really want to go to or people we didn’t really like spending time with. But then you left, and I also realized that it is okay to say no and take time for myself. Standing alone is what makes you stronger than anything.

You taught me that I am much stronger than I thought I was.

However, you also taught me that despite my own strength, I can’t change people. People only change if and when they are ready.

Most importantly, you taught me what love is. You taught me that love isn’t just being there for someone. Love is doing things. Love is standing up for that person when they aren’t there to do it themselves. Love is taking their hand and holding them when they are broken, at their lowest, and hardest to love, because that’s usually when they most need a reminder. Love is all the things I waited for you to do, as my boyfriend or my friend.

So I am giving up. Because now that I have learned these things, I refuse to be treated as anything less. I always thought there was strength in not giving up on people, but I realize now that there is a lot of strength in letting go, too. And it’s time that you taught yourself all the lessons you taught me. Because you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself.

And you deserve to love and be loved. I still believe that.

And I don’t blame you for anything, really. I understand. And I don’t think you really meant to do half of what you did. Just because you couldn’t love me or her or the other one that broke your heart, doesn’t mean that you won’t one day learn what love really means to you. Sometimes you have to have your heart broken to find what makes it whole. I found what makes me whole and I didn’t find it in a relationship. I found it in the people and things around me that I took for granted when I was busy trying to find myself, when I was busy trying to find you.

I hope one day you find the strength to dismantle your pride, apologize, and then say thank you to those who have loved you, those that you took for granted. Because there are a lot more than you even realize. And I hope one day you learn to love them.

But most of all, I hope that you learn to love yourself, because I didn’t fall for a fool. There’s so much of goodness in you. There’s so many things you do right, too. You are amazing and I hope that one day you can see it, too.

But I know now that I can’t be the one to show you.

So now, I will care from afar and I will wish you the best. But I can no longer afford to answer every half-hearted, one-sided invitation into your life. I will no longer be led to the belief that you care only to be replaced or left behind. If you ever needed me, I would probably be the first one at your door, but that doesn’t mean I will let you control how I feel.

If I could go back, would I do it again? Yes. Because, the truth is, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. Because of you, I learned a lot of things about myself. But not everyone that comes into your life is meant to stay. So, as Stephen Chbosky wrote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “I would die for you. But I won’t live for you.” Not anymore.

Love,

The Girl You Took For Granted