On Self-Actualizing, And Why Love Is Never Unconditional


The idea that there is one person out there for you who will love you better than anyone else is deceptively unromantic in practice. Once you realize you have such a person in your life, things easily devolve into a need-fulfillment relationship you can get trapped and lose yourself in. The importance of everything is only important in relation to this person because this person becomes your everything. But where are you?

Other people in your life who genuinely care about you will enable this cyclical self-esteem– and time-vacuum with the best of intentions, perhaps because they are simply unaware of the internal dynamics of your relationship. When your own mother tells you she does not believe you will ever meet another person who could love you the way your boyfriend does, that will naturally inspire two reactions, in no particular order: fear and desperation, then rebellion in the form of self-actualizing. Of course she means well and of course what she really means is that in her own experience, my relationship appeared to exceed all expectations and that I was a fool for jumping ship. What does that matter if we’ve changed and drifted apart, if he’s grown colder and I’ve become warmer and more open to weathering and embracing the buffeting of interactions with other people — the very thing that once made me retreat to his arms as my only source of comfort?

I cannot abide the idea that I am not a valuable enough individual that more than one person could believably fall in love with me. Clearly I was doing something right when we fell in love in the first place. I’d like to think the fact that I’ve got four-and-a-half years of relationship experience quite literally under my belt exponentially improves whatever it is I have to offer.

Perhaps someone who loves you the way you are, even when you are in desperate need of change and growth, is perhaps the last person you need to have around all of the time. People who will challenge you – or better, unintentionally inspire you to improve yourself, to be more worldly, to be more creative in your work, to get in better shape, to give fewer fucks about what the world thinks of you, may also be people who will hurt you. At least you’ll be better for it. At least you’ll have something interesting to talk about.

I regularly imagined everybody I know being immensely bored at hearing me talk for the hundredth time about how easy and great my relationship was (even though it often wasn’t) and how we couldn’t wait until this milestone or that achievement. Appreciating and sharing the good things going for you is not inherently bad, nor am I downplaying what an accomplishment it is to carry on a healthy, positive relationship with a significant other; the common denominator here, the thing that held me back and will hold anyone back, is the lack of independent risk-taking and the acceptance that all activities in your life henceforth shall be as “we” instead of “I”.

Pathetically, I write this while listening to The National’s song “Pink Rabbits” for what Last.fm tells me is the 13th time in the past 48 hours, because the lyrics are too perfect in my mind. “I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now, you always said I always held you too high off the ground. … You didn’t see me, I was falling apart; I was a television version of a person with a broken heart.” This is how I know that I was right in ending things: because I’m hopelessly in love with this person but not the right kind of “hopelessly in love”. It’s hopeless in that it makes me feel hopeless when that person isn’t around. It’s the kind where, even when we’re apart and I should be able to do my own thing, I still depend on him to feel good about myself. I’ve depended on him emotionally both as a friend and as a lover. I’ve depended on him financially in an embarrassing number of instances. I’ve even depended on him to read over and edit my work to give me the courage to submit it to my editors – yes, before I could send a written piece to my editor, whose job it is to edit my writing, I had to have my confidence bolstered by having him read it first. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing for all parties involved is that this dependence had almost nothing to do with his wants or actions and everything to do with me and my low self-esteem.

Sometimes he thinks the things I’m deeply interested in are lame. Sometimes he’d laugh at things I dreamed of, dismissing them as childish fantasies he wants no part in. And when someone you depend on in these ways doesn’t see the magic in things that you see, you stop seeing the magic anymore yourself. You put your project of self-actualization on hold because you want to grow together with this other person, because you see them as some ideal, because they love you wholly as you are so they must be the best mould within which to shape your taste and existence. This all happened in my head, of course, and I do not doubt that he truly did (does) love me. But where have I been all this time?

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image – DeeAshley