“Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” ~ Maya Angelou
In a book I read recently, the author described that when she was without a lover, she “failed to thrive” in the same way that babies fail to thrive when they are not touched, cared for and loved.
I immediately paused as I read this.
I’ve since paused many times on this idea and reflected on my own failure to thrive moments. I can relate to the author’s experience, yet my ability to thrive has never been based on whether or not I have a lover in my life.
I thrive in my solitude as much as I thrive in the presence of a lover. In fact, my failure to thrive moments are actually found more when I am in the presence of a lover—specifically when I have chosen an unhealthy one.
These failure to thrive moments tend to occur when my codependency and addiction to love are in full swing—when I am in a toxic partnership that is filled with a longing to truly connect, rather than just holding hands and lying beside one another with a sense of suffocating disconnect and tension.
They occur in partnerships that offer emotional abandonment instead of support. In partnerships that destroy instead of build. In partnerships that yell and call names instead of practicing deep, healthy communication during arguments. In partnerships that involve walking out instead of stepping forward. In partnerships where the self is prioritized over the other—over the person they claim to love.
It is in this space that I am unable to maintain a healthy weight, that I stop practicing yoga and singing, that I become insecure and close my heart. It is in this space that my joy and my light fades. I begin to settle for mediocre. I fail to thrive—in the name of love.
Oh, the irony. This seems obvious enough to most, but for some of us, it takes months—or even years—to realize that we are not thriving at all. We are simply surviving, at best.
When we fail to thrive, we cease our search of passionate, life-giving, soul-satisfying work and relationships. We cease to observe the miracles of love and the Divine in nature and in ourselves. We no longer pursue our own hearts, let alone our lover’s hearts, because we can no longer hear its messages. We instead give all of our energy to merely surviving, to keeping our heads above water enough to push through.
In our defense, we are wired to do this. We are wired to protect and preserve our partnerships, believing they’ll insure our very existence. There was a time in our human evolution that necessitated the need to preserve our partnerships at all costs if we were going to physically survive.
I have always been relationship-oriented. Relationships are something I value and treasure. They are my prized possessions. The years I have spent on my own have had their bliss, but my years spent in partnership have always been where I’ve longed to be.
Sharing my truth about this longing requires extreme vulnerability, as we are taught that we should be delightfully happy alone, loving ourselves above all. We are taught that we shouldn’t need a lover to make us happy or whole.
I agree with this idea, but only to a point. There is incredible value in knowing ourselves, knowing our worth and cultivating our gifts—but my greatest teaching moments have always been found when I’ve been in relationships with others. It is in a relationship that I am able to see myself and humanity in the largest mirror available.
If our personal and collective evolution—thriving—is truly the goal, we must first do the work on ourselves before we can begin to selflessly serve others for the greater good of all. We, as individuals, have to become that fertile soil. There is no comparison between the mirror reflected back to you by the healthy, whole, loving partner and the mirror reflected back to you by the partner that has not taken the time to tend to themselves.
This is the difference between thriving in love and surviving in love. Thriving does not mean you will never argue or fight with your lover. Thriving does not mean that you will not have difficult family members, children, exes, illnesses, arguments, losses or roofs that leak. Thriving means you will have all of that, but you will be touched, loved and cared for as the inevitable drama of life and relationships play out.
We cannot stop ourselves from being human. We cannot stop these things from occurring, but we can choose to thrive in the unfolding.
I thrive when I am deeply loved. While I can love myself more than anyone has ever loved themselves in the history of everything and anything holy, I still thrive the most when I am deeply loved by another.
I thrive when I am accepted and forgiven.
I thrive when, instead of defending myself in an argument, I open my heart to the possibility and opportunity of my partner’s reality as my own, offering them compassion, grace and mercy.
I thrive when I am deeply loving another. This is where I connect. This is where I honor not only my evolution, but the evolution of the people I love. I have spent years loving the wrong man, failing to thrive. I lost my truth, my light, my self-worth and my joy. I’ve also spent years recovering these lost items in the aftermath.
Once I did recover, it was ultimately the love of another beautiful human being that brought me back to life, that brought me from surviving into thriving once more.
Author: Rian Rochelle
Editor: Callie Rushton