I Love You….but I am not in love with you.

It’s Valentines day, and I’m home alone, because I haven’t found “Mr. Right.”

The truth is, I’m content being single. I don’t believe Mr. Right exists. I’m not looking for him anymore. I’m looking for “true love”, except it’s not what you think “true love is.” I know that when I find it, it will be with Mr. Imperfect. That doesn’t sound so glamorous does it? It actually comes from a beautiful realization and a hard lesson learned.

I love you….but I am not in love with you.

I have heard this statement a lot lately as a counsellor…and my very next thought after hearing it is: “what on earth does that mean?”

I realized that it’s been said to me in a different format, more times than a girl deserves to hear in her life. It was worded slightly different, but it was the same statement. It sounded like, “I love you a lot, but I don’t think we are meant to be together.”

I think we are a generation that is really confused about love. I think the last generation was probably just as confused and I think the next generation will also be confused about love. It’s a hazard of being human.

I think we need to challenge our beliefs about love and realize that our beliefs are not helping us build strong, lasting, and truly loving relationships. I think we need to unpack “true love” and “Mr.Right/Mrs. Right” and “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” What are the core beliefs behind these cliches? What are your core beliefs about love?

That love shouldn’t be hard? That love should feel amazing? That there is a “right” person out there for you, you just have to find them and when you find them the relationship will just work?

These ideas are destroying your ability to be in a loving relationship and are perpetuating harmful relationships. You’re not satisfied in relationships, because these beliefs will always block you from truly being in a healthy relationship that is fulfilling and truly loving.

Someone I loved said to me once, “Love just isn’t enough, Hannah.” The truth is, that the love in that relationship wasn’t enough, because it wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t love. When love is a feeling, it’s NOT enough. Relationships are messy, they are hard, and your partner is imperfect. They will disappoint you, hurt you and frustrate you.

When you build your relationship on unhealthy beliefs about love, it will fail.

I’ve been on a journey for a long time, to figure out what love is. I think there is so much confusion about love. I’ve had people I love, people who are supposed to love me unconditionally walk out of my life. It’s painful. it’s confusing and it’s led me to question this word: love. I’m single – so obviously, I haven’t found “true love”. Yet, I believe I’ve discovered the difference between couples who stay together and have “true love” and those who leave each other in search of “true love”.

Every romantic relationship I have been in, I’ve asked myself throughout the duration of the relationship: “is this the right person.” I don’t even think I knew what that meant, but somehow in my short life I had adopted this core belief that if I find the “right person” I’ll have a happy committed marriage and if I make a mistake and choose the “wrong person” I’ll have an unhappy, broken marriage. I’ve heard people say after divorce, “I knew they weren’t the right person.” Is there such a thing? A right person out there for you? Absolutely not. There is however, a Mr or Mrs. Imperfect out there somewhere that can become “Mr. or Mrs. Right” when you choose them.

What does it mean to choose someone? I think the leading cause of divorce today is that people are choosing each other, but not truly “choosing” each other. What does this mean? It’s easy to get into a relationship, it’s easy to jump into bed, it’s easy to say yes to all the things we want and desire: connection, touch, intimacy, belonging. Chemistry makes it even easier – I can be fully in a relationship with you that has me giving away every aspect of myself, my heart, my soul, and my body, but not be committed to you. WHOA. Back up. Here in lies the problem that’s hurting our souls and breaking hearts. I’m not immune to it. I’ve had plenty of sleepless, heartbroken nights, crying over broken relationships that I hoped for so much more (and gave so much with just a simple choice) and was left devastated and confused. My understanding of love and relationships led me straight to heartbreak.

It’s time to redefine love. It’s been said that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. I believe that love is so much more than a choice: it’s a commitment. Love is an informed choice to commit to loving an imperfect person, and especially when they are imperfect. Stop looking for the “right person”, the right person is an imperfect person that you choose to love. It’s not just a choice, it runs deeper than the initial choice. It’s a commitment to choose that person day after day, when they are loveable and especially when they are not. Isn’t this what “true love is?” We are all looking for that fairy tale, true love – but isn’t true love just a commitment to love someone who is messy? Isn’t that what you want? Someone that will love you, even though you’re messy? Or do you think you’re not messy? Where does this kind of love come from? how come some find it and other’s don’t?

It all depends on your and your chosen person’s core beliefs at the start of the relationship; the beliefs you and they had about relationships and love, before you two ever met. These beliefs will shape your relationship with each other. When the relationship is smooth and things feel good it’s easy to feel like it’s the “right” relationship. This smoothness exists by chance at the start of most relationships, but is something that requires a lot of intentionality if the relationship is going to last. A secure, healthy relationship, only exists when two people are healthy and secure themselves and have healthy beliefs about love.

Often the disconnect happens, and the conclusion is – I’m in the wrong relationship. I rarely have couples in my therapy office state to me – we are not connecting, we are facing all kinds of challenges and issues in our relationship, and we know we have individual issues that are creating unhealthy patterns together and messing up our ability to relate and connect. I’ve had one couple so far in my career as a counsellor say this to me. It’s beautiful and it’s rare. No, most couples say to me, “We aren’t connecting, I think I’m in the wrong relationship” or “We aren’t connecting,¬† I’ve had enough” or “We aren’t connecting, it’s his/her fault” or “we aren’t connecting, I think we aren’t compatible.” You’re not in the wrong relationship, there is no wrong relationship; the issue is your commitment to an imperfect being; it’s the two of you that are creating this mess together; you are compatible¬† – but your issues aren’t compatible. They never will be. So unless you discover how to be perfect and then find another perfect human being – you’re never going to be compatible. Your issues are never going to be compatible with anyone else’s issues. Stop looking for someone to be compatible with – start looking for someone willing to love you in your imperfection. That’s a beautiful person, a person worth being with.

My last relationship was the most heartbreaking and difficult relationship I’ve ever had to get over. Why? Because I went all in with my heart and soul, way too quickly, without the hard conversations, without the intentionality of building a healthy start, without the basis of getting to know, fully, the other person and their core beliefs about relationships/love, without figuring out if they or I were committed to the mess that our issues together would create, without being committed to working on myself, and without knowing if they were committed to working on their-self and working on us. I saw and heard what I wanted and it was easy to give myself fully to the relationship with just the hope that the other person was taking my heart and soul and wanting to be committed to its “imperfect condition.” After all, we had lots of fun together, we enjoyed many of the same passions in life, it was easy to emotionally connect, and we could talk for hours without getting sick of each other. These are all great things which add to a great relationship, but without commitment, our issues would squash even these things.

It’s way too easy to jump into connection without commitment. It was easy to say “I love you.” Those three words are easy to say. They just slipped out. It wasn’t a conscious or thought out thing, they just easily popped out from somewhere deep inside. The truth wasn’t that “I love you and I’m committed to our mess and our process” ….it was more like “I love how I feel in this relationship.” I’m not denying the existence of care, there was deep care on both sides of the relationship….there just wasn’t commitment to an imperfect process and an imperfect relationship and all that this would entail.

I can say with certainty, that that person was my best friend – it was one of the strongest and most meaningful relationships I’ve ever experienced in my life. The mistake: neither of us were committed to choosing the other person fully, in their imperfection. Neither of us understood the intentionality and commitment it would take to be healthy for each other. We were irresponsible with each other’s hearts. Taking each other’s hearts, before we were truly ready to protect and guard them and commit to the process of growing together. Things were great at first. I’d venture they were amazing. However, overtime you’re forced to meet the other person’s imperfect side. The one we all guard at the beginning of a relationship. When my issues met his issues it was like one big clashing and the aftermath was conflict, after conflict, leading to more and more disconnect and the hurt deepened, as the wedge between us broke the friendship and separated us further and further apart. It was UGLEE. Me on my island of issues, separate from him on his island of issues. In this state, it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking, and this is when couples begin to see each other as the enemy instead of banding together against the real issue: my issues mixed with your issues = ugly mess. The most common way to fix this? Find someone else.

Think about your own experiences: once there’s even the slightest emotional connection things move quickly don’t they? We end up in bed beside someone that we feel connected to, but in reality they are a total stranger to us. Did we take the time to be vulnerable and let them know us fully? Did we take the time to get to know them? all of them? Their quirks, their messy and sometimes disfunctional behaviours? Their past hurts? Their fears and insecurities? Are we really prepared to commit to loving this person in their entirety? Are they really prepared to love me in my entirety? That sounds complicated, uncomfortable, messy…..how could that be love? Love, true love, feels good, it makes me happy, I get butterflies, it’s not hard, when I meet the “right person.” It just works, right? Wrong.

Let me ask you – what do you think true love is? how will you know when you have found it? what are the signs your looking for to tell you this is the “right person”. That’s the problem….you’re looking for signs, things that either exist or don’t exist that will tell you, this is the right one; rather than, choosing to pick someone and commit to loving them in their imperfection. How do you do that? Slow it down, for your sake and for theirs. You can have chemistry with lots of people – think about how many people you already have experienced that with in your lifetime – probably a few. It’s not a sure sign of a healthy relationship. So don’t let it be your guiding star. Take the time to get to know the person on a real level, dig deep, be willing to open up and share yourself, even your imperfections with the other person.

Does leaving one relationship for a better one truly work? Can it work? Sadly, I would argue it doesn’t work. Maybe the issues look different, but you’re still taking your issues with you to the next relationship. That includes your issues around committing to an imperfect being, or committing to a messy process. That person that’s bringing the worst out of you, is probably the best thing that ever happened to you – now you get to go to work on healing your issues. But how did you get into this mess in the first place, how did you get this far into a relationship that you’re now wanting to walk away from? It’s emotional right? It’s not an easy decision at this point? It’s sad and hard and painful. Breakups shouldn’t be this painful…

I’m going to say something shocking and you may disagree. Chemistry/emotional connection often gets in the way of building a healthy relationship. It blinds you and all you see is perfection, which leads you too deeply invest your heart and soul, before you’re ready to commit to that person. You can’t truly commit until you’ve see that person’s imperfection and decided you’re in it for the long-haul. A secure relationship is one built on a strong commitment to love unconditionally. Unconditional love is not built on the merit or worthiness of the other person, it is something that is freely, given, and completely undeserved. When you choose to commit to an “imperfect” person, you have already answered the question of will I stay in this or will I walk away, will I do the hard work that it’s going to require to be with someone who might disappoint me, hurt me, or challenge me. When you face the disappointment, hurt, or challenge you will stand on the commitment you made to that undeserving and imperfect soul and you will choose unconditional love. Falling into love is a choice backed by commitment. Falling out of love is a choice, backed by lack of commitment.

So maybe it’s not about finding the “right person”, maybe it’s about becoming the right person. Becoming the kind of person you’d want to be with? Maybe it’s less about what I’m getting and how my needs are being served and more about what I’m willing to give to the other person and how willing I am to serve them in their imperfectness. Maybe it’s more about how willing I am to put someone imperfect above myself and love them selflessly, even when they don’t deserve it? Maybe….it’s about doing relationships differently and starting them off by asking the right questions. Maybe it’s about finding someone else that is willing to love you unconditionally in your imperfection and someone mutually willing to commit to the process of learning to love wholeheartedly with you? If you’re trying to figure this out after you’ve already wholeheartedly connected with that person and you’re already in an intimate relationship, or worse married, maybe you rushed things, maybe you let yourself get ahead of your commitment level. Maybe it’s time to learn to truly love the imperfect person beside you in bed or maybe it’s time to step back and own that you took their heart before you were ready for the commitment that that entailed and then take a step back.

For me it took losing love to realize what it means to love someone. Loving someone is sometimes painful, it’s selfless, it places the other person first, and cares as much about the other person’s needs as it does about it’s own, love gives even when it doesn’t get, love is a sacrifice. To truly love someone, is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Loving someone when I get something is easy – but that’s not “true love”.

I think we chase “connection”, believing it’s love, but it’s not. Connection doesn’t last. Disconnect is inevitable in every and any relationship. So I am looking for “Mr. Imperfect”, but I’m looking for an imperfect man who knows he is imperfect and is willing to commit to the challenging and sometimes messy process of learning to love someone unconditionally.

“I love you, but I am not in love with you” is code for the warm-fuzzy feeling I had at the start of the relationship – when all my needs were met and I felt super satisfied with you, and didn’t really know you – doesn’t exist anymore, because the rose, coloured glasses shattered and I can see imperfections.

Many people ask – can this relationship be repaired? After all these challenges and all the hurt and pain? There’s too much water under the bridge, isn’t there?

I would like to propose that WE ARE NOT THAT FRAGILE. Humans are resilient. We are not perfect, which means no matter what at some point early or later in your relationship there is going to be pain and hurt. Are you willing to work through it? I repeat. YOU ARE NOT THAT FRAGILE. You are resilient. You can heal. Your relationship can heal. But can I invite you to consider, whether you are truly willing to love your partner? Are you willing to commit to loving an imperfect human? How much will it cost you to show them this love? Are you willing to have it cost you something? Blood, sweat, and tears? True love will cost you something. I think that relationships end, because we aren’t willing to pay the cost of truly loving the other person more than we love ourselves. Learning to love unconditionally will change you, and it will change your partner.

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Hannah

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