I never knew true love until I learned to settle.
Not settle as in give up those things that are important to me for the illusions of happiness or fulfillment, but settle like the silt in muddy water which makes room for clarity as it steeps in stillness.
In today’s hyper-connected world, the internet abounds with the idealistic spew of youthful optimism dangerously combined with millennial entitlement.
As I write this, I’m 29. As a millennial, I understand the concept that we must fight for what we believe in. We must never give in to the devilish temptations of our parents’ “good enough.” And we must forge bravely forward with unrealistic expectations in order to stand some chance of surviving the apocalyptic reality into which we were born.
But when it comes to love, I think we’re missing the point. Our fire is burning more forests than it is releasing seeds. I cannot open a web browser without at least one mention of encouragement to “wait for the right person,” or “wait for someone who deserves you.”
And to an extent, I think this is helpful. After all, we do live in a world where more love is made by swiping right than sitting contentedly on a park bench, getting to know someone. Slowing down and waiting for depth is good advice.
But if we defend with ferocity the heavenly ideal of someone who perfectly complements us in all our self-actualized glory, I fear many of us miss the entire premise which allows such beautiful loving to become manifest.
You see, we must first work on ourselves.
The kicker is, none of us is the sort of lover we’re holding out for. We claim to be searching for our King or our Queen, but royalty doesn’t marry down. And I hate to break it to you: chances are, you’re not really as ready for that level of love as you think you are.
Make no mistake, no person should ever settle for an abusive, manipulative relationship. No person should ever quiet their feelings of resentment toward a partner who loves them poorly because they feel themselves inadequate. No one needs to “improve themselves” in order to be worthy of escaping a dangerous or harmful situation.
But when we talk about being ready for our divine counterpart, we often miss the fact that we ourselves are not divine.
So should we all just sit in loneliness and isolation for the duration of our lives until we achieve nirvana? Should we shelve our hearts until they become worthy of being loved by the gods and goddesses we write on and on about?
Of course not. That would be ridiculous.
What I propose, though, has less to do with ideals and more to do with reality.
The reality is that we deserve the space to be less than perfect. We also deserve the comfort and challenge and depth and passion of love. I believe these things can coexist. In fact, I believe that imperfect love is the greatest map to our own becoming and that, if we enter into love with the awareness that both parties are imperfect, we can discover the true alchemy of our time.
Love has the ability to bloom us into potentials we never dreamed of. Love brings out our demons, finds our faults, pushes our bruises, and feeds the narratives of our own inadequacy. Love comes in and dances with our vulnerability while slipping dinner scraps to Fear who’s still hiding under the table. Love works us up, but mostly it invites us to step outside our comfort zone where all the true growth happens.
Here’s what you need to remember, though: love does these things—not our partners. And love does these things to our partner, as well. But if both people are able to pause long enough to see what’s happening, there’s a marvelous opportunity for grace.
Recognizing the tremendous vulnerability at play in the structure of relationship, we can begin to yield into the discomfort. We can begin to take directions from our past wounds that we may gain ground towards that safe haven of healing.
If we bring our awareness within and focus on our own process, we might find that it is only love itself which f*cks us up so much; that our struggle to love comes more from love itself and less from the person we desire.
Hard things often point to where we need to grow. And I can think of no harder thing than love. Sure, loving is sweet, tender, euphoric. Sex—a whole other topic—is holy, deep, primal. Love itself, though, is a nasty bastard who takes no sh*t and sees your faults as plainly as if they were tattooed on your sleeve.
But fear not. This hard love is, most likely, exactly what you need. It is the universe’s way of ushering you into the next stages of your becoming. So seek not your perfect love, but instead your most helpful teacher. Avoid not your struggle, expecting love to complete your soul, but welcome love in all its messy glory, content to wage war on your old ways of being.
And perhaps one day you will wake to discover that your battles have delivered you unto the stillness of clarity; that in choosing courageously the perils of imperfect love, you have found yourself in the arms of your perfectly beloved.