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Daily Share – Is True Love Selfish?

I have been arguing with myself that love, true love, is basically a selfish thing. And I still can’t decide. I still can’t get over the point that, why would we fall in love with a person, if it wasn’t beneficial to ourselves in some way, it makes us feel good. And if that is the case, is that not selfish? And I think that is the case, but with a difference. One of the truly amazing moments of life and of falling in love with another, is the moment you feel the barrier around your hearts and souls lower, and let them touch each other’s. Sometimes it creeps up on you, or like me, it can happen with a single kiss and seemingly grows. It is the most intimate and amazing thing a person can ever possibly do, and it can feel scary and amazing at the same time. Damage that or betray it, and you stick a pin into the very core of what, I believe, love is all about. I may have lost sight of that at times, but I do believe that.

I fell into the trap of thinking that a true intimate love was about completing each other. You only need to change one word, and that is what it is about. Love is about adding to each other. This mistake has come to stark reality now. There was a half understanding there. I loved the space between my ex and I, a space that could be shared. What I didn’t fully appreciate or understand until last night, are the two “whole” people that should be either side of that space. Two people that can embrace themselves, own who they are and be comfortable alone. It has had to be pointed out to me to see this.

It could be argued that when two whole people come together and touch each other’s hearts in such a way, they are leaving themselves vulnerable to each other. An implicit trust very quickly builds. Break that trust and there is no bigger betrayal. They have put their inner being and soul in your trust. It is not about dependency, but openness, honesty and trust. They give a bit of themselves for you to look after, not take. Break it, and it goes way beyond what I can put down in words.

As I’ve mentioned above, I believed that you only became whole with your true love. Unless a couple are seeking out a dependent relationship, true love, as I see it, will not reach fruition if one, or both of the pair are unwittingly seeking some sort of dependency. If that dependency begins to set in later in the relationship, it can be just as problematic. Now I see that, I feel stupid. Dependency is a debilitating factor in a relationship, and it can be so ugly to the other person. Some people seek it, but not me, but at times, I fell into it.

I find myself now going through a process of pealing back the layers of emotional growth from two years of what was a very intense, intimate and special relationship, a relationship that I soured with drink and deceit. The drink and deceit stopped four months ago, but I didn’t see that a cancerous growth was still there. I understood that there was a lot of damage to be repaired, but I didn’t understand what I had done to my partner’s heart. I had betrayed her opening of herself to me. It wasn’t necessarily just about trust. Some other damage had been done that I hadn’t seen. I thought I could repair what I didn’t actually know in hindsight. I waved the banner of “love” in her face not understanding I was just waving my own insecurities instead.

The breakdown of a relationship interests me now, as I peal back my own emotions, and seeing the subsequent shifting of loves’ meaning to the individuals involved. It is amazing how quickly, for many of us, an intimate love can switch to a destructive force under the banner of “love”. Everything that seemed selfless can easily turn to selfishness. A force filled with a rocket fuel of lose, loneliness, possessiveness, hatred, self-loathing and many more. It is a force with little direction as it fires shots at oneself or the other half of that broken intimacy. From personal, very recent experience, if you can begin to understand the damage that you may have done to the intimate core of a relationship, the lowering of barriers, all the wrath, anger and self-hatred is pointless. It is ugly and goes against all the core meanings of love. I feel a strange calm as that realisation sinks in. I feel ashamed by my recent actions and the further hurt and damage I created by crashing around like a bull in a china shop with this and that statement, waving my self-pity in her face. But I begin to understand.

As I continue pealing back my layers of cancerous love to the true core I felt when I first kissed her, I feel a calm as I see that the original first loves’ heart steadily beating under all the mess I piled on top of it. It does not make our split any less painful, but I feel the self-pity and loathing slipping away and lessen the directionless rage that has been whirling in my head.

So that leads me back to the most painful question. What to do?

I am a far stronger person than I was a year ago, but I am not perfect. I am only human and even with all the above said, I miss her terribly. I have to remind myself that it wasn’t all bad. Even amongst the mess we learnt from each other, we saw each other for who we really were, we respected each other’s wholes, we were happy with what life was ready to throw at us, we touched each other hearts, we gave love and we wanted to add to the world.

Some people may think me stupid, but it can be fixed. There is evidence of it all around us. But I am learning that I can’t expect it, force and generally demand for it or expect it as I have done. It comes back to self-love. You have to concentrate on yourself and get rid or accept those frailties in yourself, and not expect someone else to carry them for you. There are things you can do for trust, though not easy. But love? Very very hard indeed. Someone can still love you if you have broken a trust, but if you have hurt them at the very core of love, the lowering of boundaries, then….?

Sadly I have learnt this lesson by trying to do all these things, not from mature understanding or having a long hard look at myself. I understood I was the cause, but I hadn’t understood what parts of me were the problems.

It is not about me. It is about what I have done to her. It saddens me, because I feel I am about to let her go.

A TDL Reader

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  • Gail_ve

    I am going through the same thing. Just ended a 5 year relationship a week ago. It’s very hard – but the self reflection you have shared here – has helped me tremendously. thank you 

  • ana

    What is wrong with being selfish if loving someone is ‘selfish’? Do you need to come up with an answer as to whether loving someone is selfish at all? We can apply any meaning we choose to our experiences. We can choose to find the blessings, as it seems you are doing now by sifting through your emotional pain and finding the nuggets of golden wisdom. That is a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t judge yourself as ‘selfish’ if that’s what you are doing. People can act selfish in a single moment without that moment defining them entirely. We are supposed to love and care and nurture ourselves, that is how it should be. As children people are supposed to do that for us and as adults, we are supposed to do that for ourselves. That is actually our primary responsibility. If we fail to do that, we eventually become dependent on others, a burden, somebody else’s problem- it’s irresponsible and a bit like acting like a child in terms of roles. Some people can label us as selfish when what they really are communicating is that you didn’t do what they personally wanted from you or expected… so who is the selfish one in those moments? Them. Well it’s at least something to consider as true in some instances if not all. A little short term ‘selfishness’ here and there could be considered a ‘selfless’ act in the long run when you consider the eventual outcome of constantly maintaining yourself compared to always putting others first. You have learnt that cheating on a partner is the sort of short term selfishness that leads to long term negative outcomes for yourself as well as the woman you lost. You sound like you have learnt that lesson now and maybe it was just something you needed to learn at this stage in your life to become wiser. We all need human connection and warmth, it’s on our basic needs list. Is it ‘selfish’ to meet your basic needs, or is it survival? If you approach your love relationships with what you can offer to the other person and you only get involved with people who do the same in return as well as looking after number one, you have a chance at healthy happy relationships from now on. Every situation is different, just like every person… for me, if I want to cheat, I see that as a sign that I should leave the relationship I am in. It may be easy for me to say that given that I am not married or anything… but as a bench mark, that is what I do with such information these days.

  • Tazchick

    Yes, this resonates with me so much! I hurt my ex a lot and miss him so much as well. As you said, I depended on him to get rid of my insecurities and to love me when I couldn’t love myself, but of course he couldn’t do that! So I abused that beautiful relationship. I know we could have been great together, if I had just learned to love myself sooner. 

    But we are talking a little bit now and then, and he has mentioned the possibility of seeing each other again someday. I don’t know if that will happen or not, sometimes I agonize over the thought, but I just tell myself that I can’t control his feelings. If he doesn’t feel anything for me romantically anymore, (or rather, if he can’t trust me not to hurt him anymore), than that’s all there is to it.

    I try to concentrate on loving every part of me each day, to focus on where I’m still not doing my best to love my flaws and forgive myself or others for the self-hatred that grew in me for so many years. Of course, I still have a critical negative voice in my head at times, but it is not as strong as it used to be.

    I still have dreams of both my ex and I being together, but I know that reality can change swiftly. I try to stay present, to appreciate the time we did have, and to be thankful for the limited communication we have now. At least now, I know he is doing okay.  And I feel so much better, although the thought makes me sad, knowing that if my ex moves on to find someone else that I can genuinely be happy for him, instead of feeling jealousy and hurt.

    This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this.