I’m a hopeless romantic. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m the type of cheesy person who believes whole-heartedly in that old Beatles saying, “All you need is love”. I genuinely believe love is the most important thing on the entire planet. And in particular, romantic love. I believe that who you choose to spend your life with is the most important decision you will ever make in your life. And is the most determining factor that decides how happy or how unhappy you will be in your life. Romantic love shapes your life and sets the bar for all that you see as possible. If you settle in love, you settle in life. If you win big in love, you will win big in life. I believe this without exception.
When I was in high school I always dreamed of falling in love and one day marrying my high school sweetheart. While I did experience a love in high school that felt right out of a teen movie, it didn’t last long.
Then in college I always dreamed of meeting the woman of my dreams during Frosh week or at the Homecoming game — you know, we’d catch eyes from across a large crowd and I’d nudge my buddy next to me, “Hey, see that girl over there…that’s my future wife.” And he’d laugh like I was some sort of retarded romantic alien. But then one day at my wedding, during my best man speech, he would choke on his words as he recalled that exact moment I looked over at him like I’d just struck gold. But I never went to one Homecoming game. Even worse, I never even fell in love during college.
After that I hoped I’d meet the woman who would become my wife when I was going through my party years in my early-mid twenties when my buddies and I were hitting the bars every single weekend, and I’d meet someone who would murderously steal my heart and I’d get married at 27. But that never happened.
Over the years I’ve had so many “almost” romances. So many situations of “bad timing” where I was headed one way and she another. I even had one serendipitous romance that extended over half-a-decade, but she was always with a boyfriend whenever life brought us together. Until eventually she left one of those boyfriends, flew across the country to be with me, and then ended up breaking it off after 48 hours together when she told me that something felt “off”.
We’d talked about getting married one day and that we were soulmates and now finally we could be together after all these years of build up and dancing around each other. But no. I guess for her the “wanting” was more than the “having” and once she had it, she no longer wanted it. I remember watching her pull away in a cab from my driveway more than five years ago. I never saw her again.
“You see, like so many dreamers and hopeless romantics, I always wanted to meet my future wife when I was young. I always wanted that story. Like growing up next door to a girl who would sneak into my bedroom late at night up a ladder and we’d talk about getting married one day and plan out our entire adult lives together. God damn Dawson’s Creek ruined that one for me!”
I always used to joke to my friends that I would be that guy who got married at 21 in some abandoned school bus without either her or I telling our parents and we’d run away to California and chase our dreams together and become famous celebrities, and people would see photos of us so madly in love so many years later in celeb gossip magazines and read about our awe-inspiring love story and label us “Couple Goals of the Century”.
But none of this happened. I didn’t meet the woman of my dreams when I was younger. I never met her in high school. I never met her at the Homecoming game. I never met her in my twenties. And I grew up on a corner lot, with old neighbors to one side, so no girls snuck through my bedroom window late at night while I was growing up.
The realization of the passing of this used to make me really sad and depressed. I used to replay so many of these romantic situations from my past and try to figure out if I made a wrong move along the way. I used to live in fear of these romantic skeletons from my past. Would they come back to haunt me one day? I used to scroll Instagram at all the happy couples who had it all come together so perfectly, when they were so young, and I used to wonder if something was wrong with me. Why, me being such a diehard romantic believer, had it not worked out that way?
But I’ve since realized that was not my journey. That was not my romantic plan. The wild and crazy hopeless romantic inside of me had to let that dream die. I had to bury that fantasy love story I played through my head for so many years.
But I’m no longer sad or depressed about it. Because while losing that dream I’ve gained so much that I would never have otherwise. The lessons I’ve learned about love. The growth I’ve gained within myself. The journey that I’ve had. The heartache I’ve experienced. The losses that I’ve endured. The art that I’ve created from the pain of losing. None of this would have been possible if I hit a homerun my first time at the plate.
Perhaps you meet someone in high school, or in college, and your life and relationship run this perfect course. But maybe your seemingly perfect life and seemingly perfect relationship is kind of hollow and passionless like you’re walking through life like Pleasantville mannequins. Maybe your life lacks spontaneity and adventure, and you missed out on doing so many things because you were so busy spending the most defining years of your life compromising and holding onto a relationship.
Maybe you grow apart but stay together anyway, because you don’t know anything different. Or maybe something big happens like one of you cheats and your perfect life course suddenly becomes altered in a way you never planned. And you aren’t prepared. You have no idea what to do or how to recover from such devastation because you’ve never had to. You’re like an indoor cat who’s been patted its entire life and fed nothing but low-calorie cat food and warm milk and now your owner kicks your furry ass to the curb and you’re expected to survive? Yeah fucking right.
“But for those of us like myself. We’ve experienced romantic warfare. We’ve gone through the draft of failed relationships, served our time and heartache, overcome our PTSD and jaded perception of love with vengeance, and now we’re standing here with our romantic medals of honour, battle-tested, weathered, and wise-as-fuck.”
You see, losing in love is what has given me life. The years of failing are what have given me the full scale of my humanity, my empathy, my sage words of wisdom with a story to tell. The scars are what have given me the courage to create, to speak, to be fearless in the face of potential failure. Only by getting my heart broken so many times do I have the courage to create from my heart. Only by losing so many times in love have I been given my voice to write about love. If it wasn’t for my losses — I might be with someone I met when I was young — but I’d have nothing to say. I honestly can say I don’t think I would have become a writer had I not gone through so many hiccups along the way.
“You learn the most from failure. And let me tell you, I’ve failed so many fucking times in love. So by now, I better be a fucking Buddha.”
But while failing in love has given me my stories, lessons, courage, my sense of humour, and my voice. It has also made me wise to the realities of love.
What are these realities?
Let me tell you what I’ve learned about love, which I could have only learned by failing at it.
The fairytale is not coming to save you. Your “one true love” is not on its way. That’s because it doesn’t exist. As I’ve learned through so many failures, there are so many potential perfect people for us. There are so many people on this planet that it’s impossible for one person to supersede everything else imaginable.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that if it doesn’t work out with one person, it will work out with another. Your “one true love” is something you create and continue to create everyday with the person you decide to spend your life. If god forbid it doesn’t work out with this person you label to be your “soulmate,” you will find another. I know it’s crazy to think about that right now, but trust me, you will. Because if you don’t believe that to be true then it means your romantic life ends if your relationship ends, and that’s just not true.
Love is cyclical. We fall in love and it’s amazing, then we break up and our heart breaks, and we mourn the loss of that person and that love we shared together. And we think about quitting the whole “love” thing altogether and moving to some isolated mountaintop in the middle of Siberia. And then we meet someone, when we least expect it, who gives us that forgotten feeling of hope. And we fall in love all over again.
“Love is a mendable circle that we keep creating and breaking. And creating. And re-creating. And re-creating it. Until eventually we find a love so strong that it can’t be broken.”
You see, only by getting back up from rock bottom have I learned that I can overcome anything. No matter how painful the loss of losing someone might be, I will eventually rise again and find someone new and re-create that circle all ever again. Only difference is that previous loss and experience of that circle breaking is going to allow me to help create an even stronger circle the next time around.
Loving against my intuition, and allowing myself to fall for someone when I knew it wouldn’t last and it wouldn’t end well, has taught me that you need more than ‘passionate love’ to sustain a relationship. There is such a thing as ‘unhealthy love,’ which is passionate love that is toxic and disruptive to your life, leading to more stress than peace. And only by experiencing this type of love could I have ever learned what ‘healthy love’ actually consists of.
Staying with someone for a number of years who was a “good fit for me” but I wasn’t actually in love with taught me that by being cowardly in the face of hurting someone, you end up hurting them so much more, and that just because you’re good with someone on paper it doesn’t mean they’re going to be the right person for you.
And by meeting so many people over the years who could have been amazing partners for me, and then having them not work out because of circumstances that seemed out of my control, has taught me the harsh reality of the role timing plays in who you end up with, and that the right person for you actually ends up being the person you meet at the right time as well. The fact that sometimes you can meet someone amazing when you aren’t ready, or they aren’t ready, and sometimes timing pulls you away from each other because it’s just not your time yet. And that’s okay. You are both going to meet someone else and you will both be happy, I promise you.
Meeting soulmates, loving soulmates, and then losing soulmates has taught me that you’re not supposed to hold every soulmate for a lifetime. That you can meet soulmates for a season and love them and leave them, but you can rest assured that they were brought into your life for a reason, and that because of knowing them and loving them, your life and your soul will forever be changed. And you can choose to be angry and confused at the world for pulling them away. Or you can love fearlessly, understanding that everything amazing is not meant to be held onto for forever. A soulmate might be for forever, or they might just be for right now, at this juncture in life, they’re just here to elevate, inspire and prepare your soul for the next stage of your life. Like a Guardian Angel brought to you by divine intervention.
Only by loving and losing soulmates could I have ever learned this. Only by experiencing the true devastation of loving someone when I know I know deep down in my heart that I’m not what they need have I learned what it actually means when people say, “true love is free,” and what it means to love someone selflessly, without holding their heart hostage.
You see, through failing so many times, I’ve learned there is a ‘right kind of love,’ which combines practicality and passion. For so many years I didn’t understand the practicality part. I used to think that love could conquer all. I used to think that your love for another person could overcome any inopportune timing or obstacle that lay before you. And while it can conquer a lot, you need more than love for something to work.
The person you marry, the person who you spend your life with and becomes your life partner, they’re going to be someone who you meet where your heart tells you that you’re crazy about them, your head tells you that they’re good for you, and timing tells you that you’re ready for it.
“Passion + Practicality + Timing = Romantic Destiny. Believe in that.”
You see, by not meeting “the one” I’ve learned everything about meeting “the one”. My failures are my body of work. Without them, I’m robbed the full depths of my humanity. The pain is what has brought me my most valuable gifts. And only by experiencing loss, and then surviving loss, have I learned how to love openly and courageously.
Now when my world does eventually align with someone, only through the years of not meeting “the one” will I be able to recognize why it feels different this time. No allusions. No delusional idealism. Just the right kind of love, a love that is passionate and innocent, with the type of person I see as this special human being who is going to make make me a better person by loving them, and at a time when I feel I’m ready to work everyday at creating a circle so strong that it can’t be broken. But if god forbid, the circle breaks and the love doesn’t last, my failures have taught me that I will survive and love again.