I wasn’t unhappy. I guess I’ve spent the last three years trying to decide if that was OK. Contentment. Safety. Comfort. Companionship. All the things we crave as humans. I had that. But I wasn’t thrilled about it. I never at any point felt that giddiness or spark that people feel—never had that deep connection.
You know what I mean. The giddiness that eventually goes away when you find out that there’s a real human under that first impression. A real human with real struggles and flaws.
And what we did have after five years was a pretty darn good understanding of each other’s struggles and flaws. And a pretty ready acceptance of those things, for the sake of having someone around to rely on and spend time with.
Have I been wrong to want more? Is it too demanding of me to want somebody to look at me occasionally with eyes of admiration, love, and tenderness? Shouldn’t a woman feel lucky to have a dependable man who would do anything for her (I had that)? Shouldn’t that be enough? Why does he have to look at you any certain way? Why does he have to express his tender feelings for you? Why can’t his actions and devotion be enough? Why are you so ungrateful? What right do you have, Janae?
I wish I had the answers. But I am thanking the Lord that I love to read self-help, because the timing of me reading Daring Greatly couldn’t have been better.
Brene Brown seems to put it best. She says, “If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” She also says, “To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.” Finally, she says, “We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging, is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
So when he told me after all these years that he’s “just not wired that way,” I both don’t believe him, and feel confident in my decision. It is normal to seek that connection, love, and belonging—that deep meaningful thing that takes time, and trust, and disclosure.
The brave, courageous thing to do is to navigate through our shame to become vulnerable—to become vulnerable to have a life of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. That is what I want. I don’t think it comes easily. I think it takes a lot of work and time: therapy, self-exploration, rawness, and a real attempt to be your whole, honest, self.
Please understand what I am giving up, for maybe the 11th time in three years. I am giving up companionship, consistency, reliability, friendship, acceptance, a shoulder to cry on. I’m giving up the person who on Monday night when I was going to pass out from a bad plasma donation, lovingly had me sit down, and followed my instructions for weighing and heating up my dinner. I’m giving up the person who answers all my technology questions and fixes all the things around my house. I’m giving up good morning texts, someone who cares about all my unimportant daily thoughts and experiences. I’m giving up reassurances and guiding words, the buoying up of someone who knows me and my intentions and can encourage me through my crippling mistakes and bad days. I'm giving up someone whose priority is my comfort and safety. Am I nuts?
It’s hard to remind myself that I am giving up these things so that I don’t foreclose on my emotional life. I want to find connection. I want to feel someone’s love for me. I want someone who can explore his own inadequacies like I explore mine, who can do this while walking beside me and accepting me as I am, but also as we expect more from ourselves. I want to be with someone who is OK being uncomfortable with me because growth matters.
I know he can’t see that “Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears—the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable.” I know that this is where his inability to connect and engage comes from. I wish I could make him feel safe, worthy, and loved. But I can’t. These are things he has to work through on his own. We as humans have to work through a lot of issues to locate our sense of worthiness, love, and belonging. I respect that he doesn’t want to, but I need someone who does want to. I need someone to be in the arena with me, battling with me to be better and more open.
Because something else I am giving up in all this is someone who could not and would not share his deep thoughts and feelings. Someone who hides things, big and small. Someone who had trouble being grateful and expressing gratitude. Someone who would often complain but do nothing to change the factors he could control. Someone who just wanted to be comfortable and steady in life, without aspiring to more. Someone who would be a spectator and a support, but not take on challenges with me. And these things are all pretty important in my mind. All this is NOT to make him look bad, or make myself look better than he was. I only mean to say that these are important qualities and traits, non-negotiables, as it were. And he is a good, good man. But when “enough” is “good enough,” we have conflicts of interest for life. And that’s OK, we just need to find someone better suited for us.
So? Is isn't it OK to just not be unhappy? Are contentment and stability and predictability enough? Am I ungrateful for wanting more?
No. I’m normal. I am normal for wanting to feel that connection. I am just like every other human.
Will I find it? Isn’t that always the question, even more so now at age 31? Isn’t that why I always come back to what is safe, familiar, and comfortable every time? Because I am afraid that I won’t find what it is I’m looking for? And why am I afraid? Do I doubt my own worthiness? Do I really believe that there just aren’t that many options out there (read: 4 amazing women to every 1 mediocre dude)? I guess these are some things I have to work through with the Lord.
In my quest for wholehearted living, I am taking a huge risk. And I need to work on building my faith and trust that things will work out.
Having courage in these moments is so indescribably hard. But I am grateful for the people who have been there all along in my process, who have let me get to this point on my own without telling me how weak or dumb I am for always going back to what is safe. For listening to the same thoughts and feelings I’ve had for years, and for passing no judgment on me. I’ve felt so blessed this week by the good people in my life, who are probably so much more frustrated with me than they let on.
Here’s to doing the hard work of letting go of something good in the hopes of finding something great.