I need to be loved!
Gawd! What a relief to admit it.
Still, there’s a twinge of shame, a ripple of hope, and a contraction of fear in my belly.
Why is admitting my need for love so hard? Why is it so hard for any of us? Confessing this need is insanely vulnerable.
We are not supposed to admit this as independent adults, maybe not even as kids. We are not supposed to be so raw, awkward, and unrelenting with this need. Yet, here I am, single at 40, and I want to shout it from the mountain tops:
I need to be loved! I am not ashamed, but I am a little scared.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ C. S. Lewis
There are all kinds of love; they all offer us some comfort but also some amount of risk.
There is the love of self, which can be expressed through acts of devotion and mundane care: meditation, feeding ourselves, yoga, dancing, various forms of movement, education, or contemplation, and so on.
And there is the love of, and for, Earth—our home—our mamma.
There is also the love of service: to offer ourselves and our gifts to the world and, in a state of reciprocity and perhaps right livelihood, to be compensated for those gifts. I am lucky. I get to do what I love (and am good at!) for a living.
There is love for family, which can be rewarding and complex.
Then there is the ache of which I really speak: the longing to be held, seen, cared for, and met—in all my tenderness and awkwardness, in all my power, pain, confusion, and passion—by a lover.
I need to be loved. I am afraid and like many people—a little heartbroken.
I’ve been exploring those cracks in my being where I’ve never been met. And don’t. Don’t do it; don’t say it. Don’t even think about it. I’ll go there first because we hear it all the time: “Well, those are the places you need to meet yourself.” Yes, and bullsh*t.
We have a deep need to be seen, held, and cared for by others, and that is beautifully human.
One of the most destructive lies we are told about relationships is that we will not be lovable until we can learn to love ourselves. Nonsense. Love co-arises with other beings; it does not exist in vacuum. Love is a relational state.
We need to interact with other beings to feel love.
Love is not a solo adventure and we need not perfect ourselves in order to embark on its quest. We simply need to be willing to walk that razor’s edge between risk and safety.
Many of us struggle to be present with ourselves and each other. We are stressed, anxious, depressed, and preoccupied, but this, in no way, diminishes our need for connection. If anything—it heightens it.
My mother once described her codependency as: looking at every man and wondering, “Is he the one?”
I’m not sure I believe in the one. It sounds romantic but these kinds of intense and instantaneous connections are often fraught with the perils of the trauma bond. I fear there is a bit of cynicism here, for me, or maybe it is that I have given myself to the wrong one all too quickly and easily for much of my life. But was it wrong, really?
My marriage at 18 was green at best, toxic at worst, but it yielded a beautiful daughter and so many lessons in maturity and heartache. I gave away more of myself than I would now but in all honesty, I am still giving too much of myself away.
Maybe it’s my real addiction—giving. It’s more ingrained in me than any substance use. It’s tricky because it is also fundamental to my nature. Feeding and loving people pleases me deeply, and if that person, that man, also happens to feel amazing inside me, well—it’s on!
Recently I went through a relationship, maybe my healthiest one in many ways. He was, and he was not, available. He was more caring and observant than any man I have been with so far. Our chemistry was off the charts. Our communication made my clothes want to fall off and my heart want to open. But he wasn’t ready, and I was scared.
I was scared of replaying what has happened so many times to me in relationships. I was scared of not being met. But the brutal truth that he, in no way, can be blamed for is—I, myself, was not ready.
I wanted to be ready and I am closer than I have ever been to being able to fully give, without losing myself, to another. I tend to give too much and then I get lost and expect the other to find me. I know this cannot work and that this hide-and-seek game that I have played most of my life with intimacy is not sustainable. But I keep learning and growing and trying.
We have to keep trying in love or our hearts harden; we become cynical or hyper-independent. We lose touch with core components of our humanity when we shut ourselves down to our need for relationships. We become less human when we deny our basic need for touch, care, and communication.
Relationships aren’t about getting it right. They’re about being brave and willing to be seen by other imperfect and struggling humans. If we choose to bravely bare ourselves to each other, we will inevitably experience pain and sadness as well as joy and fulfillment.
If we wait until we think we are perfectly ready to be in a relationship, we will probably die alone. Relating is not perfect—it’s raw, honest, and messy. If it is done right, it’s just as likely to leave us shaking as it is to soothe our wounds and meet our needs.
Needs are beautiful and heartbreaking and fundamental to our human existence. When we ignore, suppress, and deny our needs we become neurotic.
I need to be loved! There, I said it again. It feels exhilarating and a little bit nauseating to admit it. But I do.
I need to be loved to give love, too.