Have I Ever Experienced Real Love?

Let me explain.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I began to think about all of the different relationships I’ve had with men from my past (and with 16 years of dating under my belt, that’s a lot of men). Some lasted a hot minute, some a season, and some lingered for years emotionally, long after the relationship was actually over. And while flipping through my mental Rolodex, I began to wonder–have I ever experienced real love?

I write about love, but I’m not sure that I know what love looks like when it comes to a romantic relationship with a man. Of course I’ve been in serious relationships, but I’ve never been in a relationship where I didn’t have to compete with something or someone for their affection and attention. Whether it was drugs, alcohol or other girls, the men I dedicated my heart and energy into never made me feel like a priority. Hell, some of them never even made me feel like I existed.

Internally, I always felt as though I had to fight to be there.

I never had that love that people talk about. The type of love that changes your life. And I’m not talking about fairy tale love, I’m talking about the type of love that is innocent and pure, and although not absent of hurdles and arguments, always had the solid foundation of “I got you, you got me, and we’re gonna get through whatever storm together” because the partnership is undeniable.

I always had their back, but did they have mine? I couldn’t count on that.

And, I don’t know. That makes me really sad.

I understand that a lot of this is a reflection of me, too. I chose these men, and regardless of seeing myself take a backseat to their vices, and instead of leaving and letting go, I stayed far longer than I should have, because my insecurities and false hope clung to their “potential.” Nothing I can do about that now, except acknowledge where I went wrong and return to those lessons should I become aware of old behaviors and patterns creeping up again in new relationships.

But, it’s still crazy to think of relationships I was in for years–relationships that talked about a future together and marriage–and find myself questioning if there was even genuine, sincere love there. I think that’s what scares me the most. “When your heart’s on fire, you get smoke in your eyes.”

I never want my desire of love to blind me from what love actually is.

And when it comes to what love actually is…well, I’m still learning. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop learning, but I know I’m not foreign to it, because I experience love daily.

I experience it through friends who constantly replenish my heart, through my mother who is always thinking of me, through my nieces’ excitement in seeing me, through strangers who share kind words with me. I experience it when I wake up every morning and show up for myself, and through the way I am able to love others selflessly.

As I continue to write this impromptu post, I’m beginning to realize that perhaps I do know what love looks like. Maybe not in the dynamic of a romantic relationship (yet), but love, in its purest form, is not a stranger to me.

And that alone is something to be grateful for.

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