“How do you know when you’re in love?” Sherri asked me. She was in a new relationship, one that seemed, for now at least, much healthier and kinder than her previous ones. But now this question rose to the surface.
If those previous relationships, when she thought herself in love, seemed now so wrong, did Sherri really know what love was and had she ever experienced?
A lot of us have those thoughts.
I have fallen in love and when it’s ended, I’ve looked back and wondered, was that love at all? Or is this new feeling with this new man ‘real love’?
Years ago, as I struggled through devastating depression from a break-up that in many ways broke me, I told Carolyn*, my counsellor, that I had loved that man. We had been together for only a month or two but my love was as real to me as the river flowing through the city where I now live.
She laughed aloud saying, “Lucretia, you can’t fall in love that quickly. That wasn’t love. Love takes time to grow and take hold.”
Her incredulous response showed how far I had strayed from her reality. She later told me, post-session, that she was separating from her husband. Did that create her cynicism or had it always been there? She helped me process my grief but our perspectives on love remained in opposite hemispheres.
How do you know when you’re in love? For me, love has sometimes created fear. When I’ve said those words, “I love you”, I have cried for the fear of it – the vulnerability of saying those three words has felt devastating because in that moment I feel like I have given my power away. I have given them the power to hurt me and the thought of the possible pain that might result has terrified me.
Other times I have been in love and it’s felt like freedom. When you haven’t felt it for a while – months, years – to realise it is still possible, well, that is joyful and heart-expanding. The man in question may not even feel the same in return but that in some ways doesn’t matter. It is more important that I feel it and it opens me up to feel more.
How do you know when you’re in love?
It’s not cerebral. You don’t think love. Years ago, a friend told me that you could choose who you love. It was a conscious choice that she decided, or not. Her determination that she could control something so ephemeral as love was, to my mind, ludicrous and insane. You cannot choose who to love. Love visits of her own accord. And when she leaves, you cannot force her to return. Ask anyone who has chosen to leave a partner they once adored with their whole heart. When love departs you can look for it under every rock and in every basement, behind the tins on the shelf and in every crevasse of your life. She may hide for a while and return, rarely. But if she has gone, you cannot force her return and you cannot force your heart by sheer strength of will to comply with your mind’s demands.
No. Love is not a logical determination and it takes many forms. It can be violent in its intensity, throwing you down and dragging you far from shore, far from what you believed and who you thought you were. It is often uncomfortable because it is a risk: what if it’s not reciprocated? What if he leaves? What if he cheats?
You can try to resist but your heart will want what it wants and won’t be denied by rational reasoning or sensible caution.
Love can creep up on you, springing out yelling, “Surprise!!” like friends at a birthday party. You will feel disoriented. How did I get here? Can I get out? And then, hang on, I’m in.
I have been lost and found by love, destroyed and created through love, expanded and restricted by love. It is explosive, gentle, violent, passionate, quiet, confident, nervous. It is all those things and more. I have been in love many times and they have all been real and different and all valuable as part of my life’s journey to discover the person I am constantly becoming. Whatever your experience of love has been, it was real and you did feel it. It didn’t look like what anyone else thought it should, but it’s not supposed to. Take what you learned from that love and bring it forward with you to the next love. Most importantly, know the feeling was true and it was yours. And that is how you know you were in love, because you felt it.
If you have to ask, “Am I in love?” then you are not yet fully in it. Love may be outside the door, or she may not visit at all. But you will know when she comes.
Whether that love will result in a healthy relationship, is a question for another day. *all names have been changed.
If you have a question about love, managing life, relationships, living the life you want (not the life others think you should live) and making choices, visit DearLucretia.com and ASK ME ANYTHING. It’s time to take the filters off and have a real conversation about life.
It’s a cold winter’s night in Brisvegas and I’m at a loose end. I’m a single woman living in the time of Corona – when dating is challenging and socialising hasn’t quite returned to normal.
I’ve done my daily scroll through the dating apps and still feel uninspired. Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?
Clearly my true love is not online this evening.
I decide to do a little romantic personal development and pull out my friend Carolyn’s book, Finding Love Again. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but I skipped over most of the exercises in the back.
The first part of the book contains personal stories of men and women who have lost and then found love again. With a strong emphasis on common values as the glue that makes relationships work, people share their experiences of divorce, being single, grief, children and much more. It also explores what each of them learned on their journey to finding love again.
But it’s the end of the book with its self-reflection exercises that I turn to tonight, specifically Exercise 6 – Your Story which centres on the problem of how to talk about yourself when you first meet a new potential date.
I’ve joined some online speed-dating events recently and been faced with the challenge of describing myself in an interesting way to a complete stranger in two minutes via Zoom. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Carolyn has a suggestion about how to approach telling your story, so I decide to give it a go. It seems I need to go back and map out the most interesting and significant events in my life so far, from birth.
Perhaps this is going to be a rather short story…
No. I’m doing this – you never know what gold I may discover to fill those awkward silences on my next date.
Carolyn suggests you create a table and for each year, jot down things like where you were living, what you were doing, an achievement, a people thing, a funny thing, little known fact. You don’t need to fill every box for each year, just put in anything noteworthy that springs to mind.
Obviously being born was significant for me but I’m not sure if that’s something I need to highlight on a date. Fast forward to late primary school though and I won a prize for one of my oil paintings and got my picture in the paper – that was pretty cool. I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere – all skinny legs and gaunt-faced cheekbones. I was one of those kids who ate and ate and never put on any weight. Pity that didn’t last post-21…
Back to the task at hand.
Two memorable moments from my under-graduate degree – watching a disturbing German film where the female protagonist had all her teeth pulled out and sitting behind some Goths and their pet rat in a lecture.
Got married, traveled overseas for the first time and my love affair with Italy truly began. Repelled down five stories of the children’s hospital with the police special emergency response team – as you do.
Went overseas for a second time – yes, Italy again and I still loved it. Left marriage and traveled solo overseas, felt fearless and free. Watched the moon rise above camel trains in the Sahara.
Bought a house, worked with judges, zip-lined with gibbons through the jungle, published a book…
I could keep going but I don’t want to reveal everything before we’ve met in person, dear reader. But I’m sure you get the picture.
I know this is meant as a dating preparation activity, but I think it has value far beyond that. Revisiting your history and recognising your achievements and the events that have shaped you is a great thing to do at any time. When we get stuck in the daily grind and pressures of life, we often forget just how far we’ve come – this exercise is a great way to remind ourselves.
As I read back over my story, I have a laugh to myself and realise Carolyn’s words on page 238 ring very true – “this exercise demonstrates how uninteresting your previous break-up is in the totality of your life story”.
Many years ago, I went through a truly treacherous break-up. I gave my heart completely to someone who couldn’t sustain the love he said he felt, so he left. What followed for me was a rapid spiral into quite frankly, the darkest depths of hell with all the devastating pain, heartbreak and depression that accompanies such an experience.
A month or so after the end, I sent him a copy of my first ever manuscript. I don’t think I had shared it with another human soul at that point. For a writer, it is a deeply personal and vulnerable thing to do. It was posted a couple of days before Christmas Day, and I imagined him reading every page. Knowing him as I did, I doubted he would be able to stop himself.
He never acknowledged the receipt of that manuscript. In fact, he never acknowledged I existed from the day he ended things. From passionate love and planning a future to vapid emptiness and nothingness the next. These days, they call it ghosting.
That first manuscript was my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, and the events in there occurred long before he entered my life. Yet still, I wanted desperately to have his acknowledgement of my work and a sign that I had mattered. The sign never came.
Interestingly, as a highly-sensitive psychic, I could feel that man long after he had physically departed my life and cut contact. Sometimes I had visions of what he was doing, other times I just felt it. The energetic connection was impossible for me to break for many months, and believe me I tried. When you read online about these types of connections, many describe them as twin flames. Considering I have variants of this ability whenever I am heart connected these days, I would dispute this broad brush and frequently overly-romanticised description. And for those of you out there, longing for a twin flame type connection, I would say strongly and clearly, be careful what you wish for because it’s not easy and it’s sure as heck isn’t fun. To be connected to another soul in this way and not have the understanding of what is going on or how to disconnect from it – as I didn’t have at the time – can drive you to the edge of madness.
Fast forward a few years, I’m now editing my next book. Surprisingly, it’s a collection of poetry based on that relationship, and some romantic connections that followed. It covers the energetics of that experience, the heart-wrenching devastation it delivered and how I made it through to the other side. So much of my memoir-writing seems to focus on the dysfunction and pain that can occur in relationships and this book is no different. However, the energetic overlay makes things much more complex to navigate. It’s been a journey.
Recently, I found myself thinking about sending him that first manuscript. I thought about the cruelty of his behaviour and how I seriously lost my way during that time. I also thought about how, through my poetry, I can see the gift his abandonment gave me. I could not write in this way if I hadn’t experienced what it truly felt like to be emotionally annihilated.
My poetry isn’t light-hearted. It’s more hit you in the chest realism than joy and light imaginings.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m still not sure about that one but there is something I know for sure, all that pain has made me a stronger writer.
You cannot survive the fire without scars but you can channel your pain into art that will hopefully help others to express their own, and then move on.
If you’re ready to share your story with the world, check out Storytellers Anonymous. There are people out there who need to hear what you have to say.
As someone who writes about love, sex and relationships, I’m a keen observer of how people connect romantically, sexually and intimately. Over the past decade alone, this landscape has transformed with new and evolving types of relationships, sexual experiences and connections being openly discussed, attempted, abandoned and pursued like never before.
I believe this type of exploration and boundary testing is a fundamental part of humanity’s evolution. If you are a consenting adult, go forth in whatever way feels right for you.
However, often it seems that when we are in an intimate connection with another, we respond to their needs and requirements rather than checking in with our own. Women in particular often fall into this trap but I have observed the same behaviour in some men too.
Many years ago, when I interviewed people of all ages about the concept of partnership, most had never sat down and asked themselves what it meant to them as an individual. What did they believe was important in an intimate partnership?
When given the space to contemplate this question with someone who had no interest or agenda in judging their response, it was amazing how quickly they could share this fundamental truth. Many surprised themselves with the clarity this realisation brought with it.
Those interviews are currently queued up and await the finessing required to become a book. It’s on my to-do list.
Meanwhile, I look around and am concerned about some of the contorted relationships people willingly enter and stay in, even when it’s clear they are designed to accommodate their partner’s needs, rather than their own. This is an unhealthy choice that will not deliver alignment with self.
If you have the time, I’d encourage you to sit down in a quiet spot with just you, a pen and some paper. Ask yourself, what does partnership mean to you? Then write down your answer. Once you’ve done this, read over your words and see if they line up with your current relationship dynamic. If not, there is clearly something you need to look at.
I’ve been thinking about this quote all day. It’s from Sex and the City – the iconic series about women, sex and friendship that many of us loved during the 90s. The quote is from Samantha Jones when she realises she has sacrificed her goals and independence for the man she loves. She has upended her life to help him follow his dream so he can be a success. With her talent and skills, she has taken him from unknown to superstar. But one day, she realises she can’t do it anymore. Although she loves him, she loves herself more.
Somewhere along the way, she willingly chose to lose herself in help him create his dreams. So she leaves and returns to the life that fills her up rather than living a life that ensures his needs are met, rather than her own.
Many years ago, while I was still married, my then-husband’s interests were increasingly divergent from my own. He wanted to stay home, watch the football several nights a week and renovate our house. Increasingly, I wanted to socialise, travel and expand my world. As time went by, and he refused to join me, I chose to go out without him. A female family member told me I should stay at home.
“Even though he won’t go out at all, I should stay home with him because that’s what he wants?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said.
I left my marriage a year or two later. Clearly, I felt differently to her.
A lot of years have passed since then but I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to women and the men they love.
I’ve heard women say things like, “Oh, he doesn’t like me to do things without him, so I don’t [insert her dream or passion here]” or, “I just know that he has all this potential so I’m going to help him [insert his dream].”
These are good women who love their men. But I wonder if they realise what they are doing to themselves and their relationships when they shelve their own dreams and desires so they can help their partners achieve theirs.
In partnerships, there are absolutely swings and roundabouts. As we progress through our lives, there will be times when one partner needs more support to help them achieve and reach for their goals. But too often it seems like the woman does a lot more heavy lifting in this department than the man. And we do it voluntarily because that’s what a good wife/girlfriend/partner does. Therein lies the challenge.
In this modern age, there is no reason for women to believe they must put their needs second to their male partner. There is no reason why men shouldn’t do 50 percent of the housework and child-rearing when their female partners also work full-time. But the statistics tell us that women are consistently taking the heavier load.
Mothers still frequently do more for their sons than their daughters. I’ve heard friends with sons and daughters talk about how much more difficult it is for boys than girls. Girls must fend for themselves more because they’re more capable while the mothers are just that bit more protective of their sons. The daughters see this behaviour and carry it forward into their intimate relationships later on.
Culturally, we’re still shown messages every day that women should make more allowances for their men. Female celebrities forgive their male partners for all sorts of indiscretions (including abuse) while their men and their careers still flourish. Just take a look at some of the sportsmen and musicians of the world for examples where women and the man’s adoring fans forgive all kinds of appalling behaviour. Mind you, a woman is unlikely to get away with similar antics without being called a myriad of names and probably losing her income.
The common theme parroted by women throughout all of these situations, is love. Too often it’s the narrative of unconditional love. “You must love unconditionally,” we’re told. But I think women have misinterpreted this message.
Telling a woman she should stay home all the time and shrink her world because that’s what her husband wants, is not love.
Prioritising his dreams and desires over yours, is not love.
Continuing to pick up more of the home and child-rearing tasks, is not love.
Ensuring sons are treated with more care than our daughters, is not love.
Making allowances for disrespectful and sometimes abusive behaviour, is not love.
We must love fiercely – we must set boundaries and say no, this is not okay. We must love ourselves fiercely and refuse to enable poor masculine behaviour. We must only only accept equality because that is what we deserve.
We must demand respect, not beg for it.
We must love fiercely with boundaries and accept nothing less.
If we learn to do this effectively, we will empower ourselves as women and also empower our men, instead of demeaning ourselves and emasculating them.
Love fiercely. And know you can love them but you need to love yourself more.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean giving away your power. We need to stop believing it does.
I want to talk to you about, what I believe, is one of the greatest and cruellest ironies of our time – that you can love someone with every part of your being but they don’t have to love you back.
That’s right, they don’t have to love you back.
You can be willing to put up with all kinds of shit for them – bust open your pelvic floor giving birth to their children, put up with their toxic relatives, mates and exes, support them while they work their “shit” out, move past the fact they have sex with people who are not you!, have them bruise and batter your body, denigrate your values, abandon you for a younger model, drink too much, have addictions that you try to help them get clear of, accept that he would rather watch porn than have sex with you, or know that he’s going to make you have sex whether you want to or not, pay all the bills and get the laundry done, and so on, and so on.
And you will say it is because you love him.
I mean, how many times have you heard a woman use those four words, “But I love him” as she excuses another piece of appalling behaviour. Your best friend could tell you the same story and you would say, “Get the hell out of there!”
But for you, it’s different because you love him. And somehow that makes it okay.
You may even convince yourself that despite all the challenges you are facing in your relationship, you will make it through because you love him and he loves you.
He might even tell you that he does. And you will let yourself believe him because you want him to love you, so much. Even if the way he shows that love isn’t exactly how you would ever dream of showing it. In fact, you would never treat him the way he treats you. But somehow, in your heart, you tell yourself that it’s okay.
You love him.
Because the alternative is that he doesn’t love you back and that can’t possibly be.
I mean your love is so powerful it can move mountains, right? And if you feel this way he must feel it too, right?
No. And ladies, this is where we get to the true crux of the matter – we can love with every fibre of our being and he will never, ever love us back in the way we deserve or in the way we love him.
But we keep on hoping don’t we? Hoping he will change? He will choose us first over her, his work, his mother, or his amateur drinking championships with his mates every Friday night.
The question of course is, why do we keep thinking it’s possible when it is patently and blatantly…a lie.
Well, I have a couple of theories about this and I’m willing to share them with you. And I’d like you to think them over and maybe drop me a line later and let me know your thoughts.
My first one is this…
We believe that men deserve more than us, so we accept less.
Let’s face it, in today’s society women are still earning less than men, have less money when they’re old, are more likely to be single, and more likely to do most of the child rearing in amongst everything else they’ve got going on. But still nothing changes? It’s not as if this stuff is news. It’s been happening for a long, long time. And yes, things are changing for the better, of course they are. But those changes look a bit glacial to me sister!
I mean seriously, why are men still not paying child support when they get women pregnant. He can sign away his parental rights and never have to be responsible for the child he helped to create in any way because, after all, he wanted her to get an abortion and she didn’t so, it’s down to her. Never mind the fact that he was probably the one who didn’t use any birth control. Seriously, talk to any single woman who is sexually active and she will tell you that, yes, even in the year 2020, men still carry on about having to wear a condom because it interferes with his pleasure – even though cumming is pretty much a given for him whether he has a rubber on or off while, for women, yeah, it’s still not a sure thing is it? But still, men don’t like it so it’s down to us women to pump our bodies full of hormones that make us moody, gain weight, may or may not work, have other side effects and don’t protect us from STDs at all. But hey, we take the hit because we accept less. And then if we get pregnant and don’t want to terminate because we don’t believe in it, have fertility issues, it might be our only chance or whatever the reason, he can just walk away because he doesn’t want it.
Now, to be clear, I am pro-choice because you know, the woman’s body is going to be the incubator for that new life and it’s her pelvic floor so I feel like that is her business, no one else’s. But equally fellas, if you can be “man enough” to put your dick in then you can be man enough to catch the baby when it falls out nine months later. And yes, that does mean financial responsibility even if you can’t manage the emotional support a child requires.
But still, we accept less because that’s our job right, to carry the baby? So often we literally do.
And while we’re on the subject of accepting less, why do women often accept less money in their financial settlements when their marriages breakdown? If the woman leaves she feels too guilty and doesn’t want to fight it, so gives him more. If he leaves, you’re too broken to fight it, so you accept less.
We believe we deserve less. So we get less.
And then there’s the thing where we pursue men who aren’t really into us and who quite frankly, don’t deserve us because of that very reason. If someone finds you unattractive and doesn’t want to invest time in getting to know you and doesn’t value you highly, then that should instantly make them look less attractive to you. It should be a turn off!!
But it’s not, is it? No, invariably it makes us want them more. We love him so he just has to see how amazing we are. He doesn’t get it…yet. We loooovvvve him. Let’s see if I’m thinner, wear more make-up, change my clothes, starve myself, get breast implants, get a Brazilian so my vagina looks like it belongs to an eight-year-old …maybe that will do it. Then he will see.
Ha! But he doesn’t, does he?
Now at this juncture, some male readers who have misguidedly stumbled upon this post may be tempted to begin the “Whataboutery parade”. Some female readers may be similarly tempted.
If that’s you I’d like to say, please don’t. This post isn’t for you. Let us agree to part ways and go on with our lives. I bear you no grudge, this isn’t meant to attack anyone. I’m just telling you like I see it. So please, thank you, now move on.
There are a few other things I’d like to cover about this topic including the influence of religious doctrine and the whole downfall of Adam being due to Eve not being able to control herself and leading him astray – which of course goes to the continuing emasculating concept that men are a bunch of halfwits with limited self-control who women need to take care of and make allowances for – but I don’t have time for that right now. I’m too busy learning how to not accept less than I am worth and hoping to help other women do the same.