‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. You know what, Tennyson? I appreciate your contribution to mankind and all, but seriously, shut up. If this quote was a shoe, it would be a pair of crocs. I have wanted to throw this quote into the pit of relationship hell since the very first moment that I gazed upon it.
I hate this quote because, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than being the recipient of recanted love. Sometimes people are careless with your heart. Sometimes people change. And sometimes, the person holding onto your heart isn’t equipped to hold it. Whatever the case, lost love is intensely, painstakingly dreadful.
I once dated a man. A great, kind, hilarious, motivated man. but we were in very different places in our lives. He was ready for something big and I was struggling to adult like a normal person. I broke it off. I loved him, I truly did. But it just didn’t work. The worse part? The moment I ended things with him, I regretted it.
I spent the next two years of my life waiting for him to come back to me. I don’t know if I thought it would be different or if I thought time had changed us and we would magically work. He didn’t come back. In fact, he met a wonderful, beautiful woman, fell in love with her and married her. I’ll never forget the night that I found out that they were engaged. I sat in my car and cried for 2 hours. Wept, from the deep, deep parts of my soul. I wept in only a way that love could weep. I had missed him so dearly, and at that moment I knew that I wasn’t the one that could bring him happiness. It was a chilling and harsh discovery. I’ve never felt that feeling before, and hope to never feel it again.
It’s always funny to me how we can so quickly go from, he’s not the one for me to My god, I can’t live without him. It’s almost as if we don’t know what we feel. And maybe that’s it. We don’t know what we feel. We only know what our heart tells us in that moment.
The fricken heart, let me tell you, it’s so deceptive. The only hearts that I fully trust are the Reese’s Valentine hearts. They’re constant, trustworthy, and unchanging. They are the 1 Corinthians 13 candy. Beyond that, the heart is untrustworthy. Why? It changes so much. It tricks us into thinking that we want one thing when we really want another. It guides us into feeling love when we’re actually feeling lust, loneliness, or longing. The heart is vital to every single relationship that we will be in, but is it the most important thing? Is love enough?
In my relationship with the-one-that-got-away, love wasn’t enough. The connection wasn’t enough. The times that were spent laughing till our sides hurt with each other weren’t enough. And that’s where we got tricked. We thought, We love each other, this must be it. This confusion- the confusion that can only come out of misplaced love- caused things to end badly. We didn’t talk for months. We disliked each other…despised each other, even. It ended on a cold night with us screaming at each other. He told me that nobody would ever love me the way that he loved me. I believed him. Sometimes, if I’m being honest, in really dark and lonely moments, I still believe him.
I missed him. My god, I missed him so desperately. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I never told him how I felt. Why did you I never tell him that I regretted it and that I loved him? For me, the answer has always been the same and is relatively easy: I never told him because I knew that I couldn’t make him happy. Let me rephrase: I knew that I could make him happy, just not the happiest that he could be. Let’s be clear: I’m not going for martyr status here. I’m no Joan of Arc and I would definitely flirt my way out of being burned at the stake if need be. I’m not saying this so that you all realize how wonderful I am, although you should have already realized that. I’m saying it because I think that sometimes we think that mourning a love means that we have missed it, and that, my friends, is also a pair of crocs. Camouflage crocs, even. Arguably the worst kind.
I never told him that I loved him because I knew that I wasn’t the best for him. Good lord, that realization blows. But in my head, if I loved him like I claimed to love him, wouldn’t I want the best for him? Wouldn’t I be able to sacrifice my loneliness without him and let him go? That was the thing- the ONE thing- that kept me away from him.
It’s funny (and by funny, I mean intensely annoying) how God speaks to us in our moments of lonely realization. Recently he spoke to me very clearly about the pain of lost love. I was mad at him. Completely pissed off, honestly. Like mad-dad-stuck-in-traffic kind of pissed off. I was yelling at him for not keeping his promises to me. You promised me a husband, I told him. You promised me happiness and love and kids and dance recitals and family barbecues. You promised me these things, God. And here I am, alone. Why won’t you keep your promises to me? Why am I not as important as everyone else? Why am I forgotten?
His answer was clear and tender (Which is also super annoying when you want to just be a mad dad and somebody fires back with kindness. Like come onâ€¦let me be angry).
“Leah,” he said, “I have kept my promises to you. I have kept my promises by not allowing these relationships to work. I have kept my promises to you by not letting you become physical with men that you aren’t meant to be with. I have kept my promises to you by showing you the character of these men before you fall in love with them. I have kept my promises to you by ending these relationships before you had to claw your way out. I have kept my promises to you not allowing you to love before you were supposed to love. I have kept my promises to you by allowing you to go through painful breakups. I have kept my promises to you by allowing you to feel the sting of missed love.
Leah, I have kept my promises to you by not allowing you to edit what you think the promise is to fit the moment.
You see, daughter, my promises haven’t changed. They’ve remained constant. I see your heart and know your desires, and my promises line up with them. But sometimes you want to change those. Sometimes, you want to exchange a promise for a wish. I’ve kept my promise to you by not allowing that to happen. I’ve moved men out of your life, sometimes in very discouraging and painful ways, to make sure that my promises are secure. I’ve loved you enough to let you go through moments of loneliness and frustration- why? Because when that moment comes where the right man, the promise fulfilled, walks in to your life, you will know. There will be no question, no insecurity. He will be the fulfillment of my promise to you, the final puzzle piece. He will be the reason why every other man seemed to drop off the face of the earth. He will be your promise, not your wish. He will be your forever, not your now. He will be yours. He is your promise.”
Do you ever say something that just unreasonably emotional and then someone fires back with the best and most sensible answer of all the imaginable answers, and you feel like a large donkey? Me too.
In that moment, God showed me my worth, and it wasn’t found in the love that I had received, but the love that I would receive. One day, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 40 years, I will experience a love that will make me beyond thankful for the fact that it never worked out with this guy. Or that guy. Or any of the guys. I will rejoice in the love that was lost. I will savor the fact that I didn’t try to force a promise onto a man who wasn’t the one who would help bring it about.
In that moment, every hurt and every pain will be erased because love- the right love- will have won. And that’s a moment worth waiting for. That’s a moment worth a thousand moments. That’s a moment that I will be hopeful for. How can I make it clearer? That moment won’t be a pair of crocs.