Valentine’s Day reminds me of all that is wrong with love.
At the impossibly long-ago age of 24, I’d decided that love, marriage and children wasn’t in the cards for me. I witnessed the tumultuous marriage and divorce of my parents. I’d been in a physically abusive relationship at 20 and decided that dying alone, surrounded only by dogs, was a much better option than falling in love again.
And then I met my husband.
The day after meeting him I wrote my sister a letter (yes, we wrote letters back then) to tell her I’d met the man I was going to marry. His initials were TLC, his birthday was Valentine’s Day, and he had a crazy mother that mirrored the craziness of my dad. Plus as we walked barefoot across a dew covered field that night, he stopped so we could look at the stars and feel the dew on our feet before he kissed me.
People have gotten married for less.
I fell in love with him, or more likely I fell in love with what I thought I saw in him, and I moved in and never left.
He told me years later he wished I’d left.
When my brother died several months into the relationship, and my whole world turned upside down, he was there for me. He was good at appearing solid and trustworthy and all of the things I craved but had never found in a partner.
As the years went by, he revealed himself to be a liar and a cheater, yet I forgave him time and time again. I was honest, at least, as I told him that love was like a well. Every time he cheated or lied, the level got lower. And someday, maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday, the love I felt for him would disappear. And when that happened, no amount of pleading or begging would fill it up again.
I would be gone.
In preparation of that day, I became a nurse so I could make enough money to support my two daughters. As soon as I had my degree and my first job, I threw him out.
He wouldn’t go.
He changed, or he appeared to change, and I convinced myself that at last, he loved me as much as I loved him. But love is never equal like that.
And eventually the well went dry.
It took almost 30 years to get to that point. 30 years of forgiving him, making excuses, telling myself that I couldn’t make it financially or emotionally if I left him. 30 years of being more scared of being alone than of being miserable. But then the well ran dry.
One night I packed up his things, told him to leave, and never looked back.
I’ve learned a lot since then, some bitter, some sweet. I learned that what your children see in your relationships can either send them into the arms of the wrong person, or keep them from making the same mistakes you did. I realized that the only person I can control is me. I figured out that there is always a choice, and sometimes the choice is standing up for yourself instead of some Michael Bolton love song.
It’s not easy to turn your back on the person you built your life around, but maybe the real lesson is not to build your life around another person. Maybe if I’d had a solid foundation, instead of thinking I needed someone else to help me build one, I wouldn’t have ended up wasting so many years loving someone who wasn’t capable of loving me back the way I deserved.
And I do deserve someone like that.
So this Valentine’s Day I don’t need chocolates and flowers and empty promises written on heart shaped cards. I’ve already had all of those and they only led to heartache and tears.
I don’t want to fight for someone’s love. That’s always a losing battle.
Valentine’s Day celebrates the appearance of love, because the reality of love has nothing to do with chocolates and roses and expensive dinners.
To be honest, I want someone to spoil me with honesty and loyalty, I can finance myself. If that person doesn’t ever materialize, I’m okay with that, too.
I can buy my own chocolates.