Seeing love for what it is

I often second-guess myself in relationships. Am I too needy? Am I unreasonable? Am I asking for too much? Am I offering too little? Is this why I’m alone? Can I ever be made happy? Will I always find fault and focus on it?

I think what’s at the heart of these questions is, “Do I deserve this?” I read something great a while ago about why we victim-blame. It’s a way to assert control over an unpredictable, out-of-control world. We tell ourselves that the victim is at fault because we need to believe there’s something we can do to avoid becoming victims ourselves. If we believe that we can do everything right and still have something terrible happen to us that’s a terrifying thought. So we find fault with victims so we can function.

In a sense I’m trying to wrest a smidgen of agency over the area of my life in which I feel the least control. I victim-blame myself when I tell myself that if only I were less needy, more fun, more easygoing, less anxious, then I could potentially be loved in return. It gives me something to focus on, something to hope for, something to look forward to. Maybe one day I’ll be good enough for love, I think.

But I’m not sure about that. Lots of people who are far more anxious than I find love.

Maybe I do need more assurances that I’m loved than most people. Maybe that’s because I am holding out on myself. Maybe I am waiting to love myself. Waiting until I’m strong enough and accomplished enough and am not so damn anxious all the time. Maybe it’s hard to believe anyone could be in love with me because I have such trouble inhabiting that headspace for any length of time. I am obsessed with myself, sure. But in love? Never. I’m too aware of my flaws. Too suspicious of my motives. I’m afraid of me. I’m afraid that deep down I am not good.

Maybe it’s a lot to ask for someone to show me that they think better of me than I do of myself. That they feel differently about me. Maybe I need them to scream it to drown out my protestations.

I want to believe that I am lovable as I am, while still fighting to be better. It’s a struggle for me. I’m sure it’s a struggle for a lot of people. I hate it about myself. I want to show myself the parts of myself I don’t like and instead of saying “Fix them and maybe I’ll love you,” I want to say “I love them because they’re you.” And then decide what to do with them.

I used to think that everyone should love themselves before entering into a romantic relationship. And it’s still a much healthier, more powerful position to be in for sure. I think the more you love yourself the less likely you are to be abused or neglected.

But I’m not so dogmatic anymore. I think part of the joy of a relationship is what it can teach you. I believe people can teach you ways of loving yourself. But it has to feel like love to you. It has to be legible. Maybe I wonder not so much whether anyone will ever love me back, but whether I’ll ever be able to see it for what it is.