You’ve actually answered a question for me before. I’m back again because your advice was excellent. I feel guilty coming back for round two; I want to give someone else a shot. But here I am because I need ya.
I am in love. Absolutely, without bounds, in a way I didn’t know I could be. I know because I am full of goodness and forgiveness and understanding (I guess you’ll have to take my word for it). But the man I love? He doesn’t cherish me. He doesn’t treasure me. He says he loves me. He doesn’t act like it. I’ve carefully and calmly and sweetly explained what I need, what I want. I’m not a princess. I’m not a nag. I’m demanding the kind of treatment I deserve.
My question is, Sybil, does someone cherish you? If they do, how’d you get them to do that? Did you have to ask? Did they just do it naturally? What do I have to do to be cherished? I love myself; I know that comes first. I am loving, and I’m pretty sure that comes second. What am I missing? What am I doing wrong?
Not a Princess
Dear Not a Princess,
Your question has been this little voice in the back of my head, the past week. As I’m doing the dishes, crossing the street, lighting candles or checking the mail, I hear, “Sibyl, does someone cherish you?” And then, when I answer internally, “I believe so,” a further question arises, “How do you know?”
What satisfies the human heart?
I am beginning to believe that only gratitude does. And that gratitude is not some little addendum to one’s spirituality, something you make lists about at Thanksgiving or consider when prompted in a yoga class, but the secret to living a sustainable life of joy.
So, am I cherished? Well, my spouse loves me, in the cracked-yet-beautiful way that humans love one another. I do not always feel the fierceness of his love in a way that I connect with, no. Sometimes it is too tentative, and I lose myself in the complicated folds of where desire turns in on itself and into contempt.
I want it to burn.
But some years, it just smolders. I know it is there, right under the surface, keeping me vaguely warm by its glow. It doesn’t feel like enough and I am cold. I shimmy under a blanket of self-love, treating myself like the most precious, fragile object I can find, trying not to starve out my desire until it can come in the form of the perfectly balanced fire I so crave.
Here’s what keeps me going on those nights when my toes feel like they are going to fall off: I do believe my beloved is capable of loving me how I need and want to be loved. And he is trying, as I am trying, as we are all really fucking trying.
It does not always come natural. Love, like gratitude, is a life-changing practice that starts within but emanates out into action. And I am so, so grateful to have someone who is trying, with his whole heart, to love me as I am asking to be loved. When he falls short, there is grace for that, just as when I do I meet his grace. We share the values of committing to one another while also letting each other change, and sticking with it even when it isn’t perfect. And trying. Sometimes I think it’s all in the trying, in the arching, and that the satisfaction of the actual connection is just a fleeting by-product.
So the main question for you and your partner is, is he built to love you how you need to be loved? For instance, are you asking for monogamy and commitment from someone who is not oriented towards that kind of relationship? Are you asking for a quiet, steady kind of love with someone who loves in these huge bursts? Are you simply asking for kindness, which everyone can learn how to do? Can you be grateful for his form of love, or does it really not even register as love to you?
If what he can offer is not what you need, and if you do not share the same values around love, then you’ve got to let him go and find another heart to attach to. But if you see a glimmer in there of the love you want, and he has the willingness, then keep trying. Keep arching. Keep coming back to love. Even if it all ends, you won’t regret the striving towards love. You may even find you are grateful for it.