I have the cutest couple friends. They’ve been married just shy of eleven years, together even longer, but what I love about them is their energy. It’s so obvious that they feed off one another, that they bring one another light. So often I’ll catch myself watching them out of the corner of my eye; they’ll be laughing over silly jokes, playfully punching one another’s arms, daring each other to do something stupid in the middle of the coffee shop. Like children, blissful and innocent.
I can’t help but smile when I’m around them—the simple purity in how they love warms my heart every time. He is always asking how she is, especially now that she’s pregnant. He’s her caretaker and she’s always considering what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling—they are always looking out for one another, working as a unit, never making decisions without consulting one another.
This is the kind of love we all search for.
After being around them the other night, taking in the enormity of her belly, the way she was still her silly self even with her back aching, and how he was so protective, his arm around her shoulders making sure she was happy, I started to think about the dynamics of relationships. I started to think about the dynamic of my own relationships, and of the strength within my heart.
I don’t think I’ve ever really learned how to fully surrender to someone in love.
My entire life has been chasing people who needed me to fix or carry them, falling into relationships with men who were still figuring themselves out. I was always a driving force in their lives, encouraging them to step forward as I somehow, in my early twenties, tried to push through alone.
I never really experienced what it was like to have a man challenge me in the sense of empowering me to grow. I’ve had strong relationships with people who have built me into a better version of myself, but most of that building was done alone. Most of that building happened in the aftermath of us breaking apart.
When I think about my friends and the relationship they have—the give and take, the support and vulnerability, the surrender to one another—I wonder if that’s something I could ever possess or emulate.
I’ve always prided myself on being strong, and I can’t deny the fact that some of that strength was born of having to carry the people I loved. I didn’t have the luxury of being what I’ve learned to associate as ‘helpless’—and even the fact that I have such a negative understanding of dependence says so much about what I’ve been conditioned to believe.
I’ve always seen letting other people take care of me as weakness.
It’s always empowered me to be the one to take care of myself, handle my own problems, stand on my own two feet. And sure, I’ll admit a part of that is because I’m an unmarried woman in my mid-twenties. I’ve always believed it’s absolutely necessary to be independent before I’m codependent (which is probably undeniably healthy, to be honest). But beyond the independence, I’ve built these walls of strength around myself and an attitude to match. I’ve pushed the line of independent to someone who doesn’t let anyone else help.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to fully release and let someone take care of me. If I’ll ever let someone answer the group texts on my behalf, or buy my drink at the coffee shop counter while I’m mingling with friends, or drive me because my pregnant belly is too swollen to fit behind the wheel. I wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable having someone put his arms around me, to check in and see how I’m feeling, to love me so much that his only desire is to take care and protect me, every day of my life.
Will I look at that as beautiful, as passionate, as what I desire?
Or will I pull away feeling stifled and less of myself?
I think my greatest challenge won’t be in letting someone in—that’s easy. It won’t be in loving with my whole heart—that’s second nature. It won’t be in wanting to support my person through every trial and change—I’m not afraid of what the future holds.
But the challenge will be in learning that love is letting myself be cared for, in learning to lessen my walls—not my strength—realizing that having someone protect, or dote on, or help me doesn’t make me any less of myself.