By Nadia Kardan, Regular Contributor
I never talk about love. I don’t discuss my relationships, or lack thereof, to anyone save a couple of my closest friends. I cannot imagine a feeling more sacred, more personal, more hurtful, and more intense than that of being in love.
I also cannot think of an emotion that comes with more judgment and criticism. In my experience, the moment I utter a word about attraction my character, virtue, and self-respect are immediately analyzed. Even when I write about it, the depth of my intellect is questioned. It’s almost as if I have not been given permission to convey my thoughts on romance without being labeled as clingy or dumb.
I’m mustering my confidence on this one though, because I know these things to be true: I am not unintelligent, I am not crazy, I am not overly sensitive, and I have an abundance of respect for myself.
In plain speech, I am an every day human being, eager to express my feelings on a subject that has consumed many of my thoughts of recent.
I am simply a woman, or that girl, who’s been in love and has had little to no one to tell.
How do you know when you’re in love? My parents presented this question to my sister and me this weekend.
“When you’re apart from someone—and still, you can’t stop thinking about them. You just want to be with them.”
This was my answer. My sister agreed.
I had some validation from knowing my sister agreed with my definition. She’s been married for a year to a man she dated for seven.
I look at my life and consider my dating and romantic history as a series of brief passionate perks and peaks that turned into half-imagined failed affairs and endless hours agonizing over text messages, conversations, and phone calls. Add to this some dozens of crushes between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, failed first dates, awkward second dates, and a plethora of instances where I found myself being blamed for not reciprocating romantic feelings so much that I shunned the idea of even being friendly with the opposite sex to avoid confusion.
I am careful not to forget the not one, two, or even three times I’ve felt myself become enamored with someone only to see the man of my affection in love with someone else. I will never easily forget the sick feeling in my stomach that starts from recognizing that the person my thoughts are fixated on would care to spend more time on another.
I’ve questioned everything about myself in these instances of failed relationships and rejections. Am I too picky? Too intense? Too passionate? Do I come off as insane? Am I too skinny? Are my teeth straight enough? White enough? Is she more beautiful than I am? Why can’t my hair be that way?
Intellectually and logically, I recognize that it’s ridiculous and yet--I put myself through it.
I think back on the affairs with men where I didn’t hyper analyze my flaws and shortcomings. I remember that talking to each other was easy. I remember that there were no long gaps between text messages or moments agonizing over their meaning. I recall that it was easy to pick up the phone and conversations that lasted for hours never felt like a root canal. The conversations happened because we enjoyed being together. Excitement never faded, because we were always happy to see each other.
And when we were apart, I felt emptiness. I likened the pain to grief. I didn’t feel insecure or angry. I genuinely felt sad. I never turned the sadness against me in these moments; I only felt sad for the situation.
These relationships weren’t fueled by physical attraction. They were enhanced by them. These relationships, however long or short, lasting or fleeting, were the glimpses of true love.
The rest were illusions; they were the surrendering of myself to the circumstances of my life. They were examples of resigning myself to the men I met by chance, with little regard to whether we were spiritually and emotionally connected or not.
I am single now. I ask myself why these glimpses of true love have not lasted. I am met with the following explanations:
He did not feel what I felt. Fair enough. Still, I stand by unrequited love being as valid a form of love as any.
He or both of us were not willing to try. Maybe one of us expressed our feelings but conveniently left out some important details, leaving the other confused or unsure or unaware. Maybe one of us expressed our feelings clearly and the other could not stand to change the circumstances of life to make an attempt.
Maybe we both didn’t know where to start when “I love you” came out into the open.
What do we do when we hear this? If we feel the same, do we dive in, unafraid? Do we protect our hearts and give the other distance because we fear the pain that would occur if it were to end?
A person not reciprocating your feelings is painful. What hurts more is a person who feels strongly, but is unwilling to try or unwilling to commit. These individuals have let fear and expectations guide their decisions.
Love can come to exist with little to no effort. If you’re socially sound, you may be able to find whom you connect with seamlessly. But love can only come to last when a fearless effort is made by two parties who are inspired by their connection.
Do greater inspirations lend greater chances of relationships lasting? Or does a conditioned effort between two people lend to a then inspiration?
I don’t know. But I do know I’ve started to talk about love more, and to see it as an emotion that is complex, that is painful, but also beautiful. Not turning my back to it or dumbing it down has been liberating, for every conversation on its mysteries has given me new perspective.
And a new perspective has been essential for believing in its reality, never giving up on it, and never being afraid to try.
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Nadia holds a B.A. in English Literature from Rutgers University and a M.A. in English Education. She is a public schoolteacher, writes fiction, and is enamored with music, film, faith, and all things wonderful. She works and resides in New York City. Follow her @nskardan on Twitter.
image via gcmarie110.wordpress.com