You Don’t Have To Be Broken For Me: On Falling In Love
You Don’t Have To Be Broken For Me. It’s my favorite line from Cheryl Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things. Because it so sweetly, so succinctly encapsulates what I think we all want to hear, what we hope we’ll hear from the people we love most.
Do we want permission to succeed? A green light to be real? A little of everything, perhaps. And yet:
Being broken holds us back from receiving the authentic love we deserve. Click To Tweet
I can’t think of a time in my life where I had at least one close, intimate relationship that didn’t live on the condition that I was to be broken. I could probably trace this back to my childhood, I’m sure, to holing myself in my room or not asking for help or not engaging in conversation by the pool when everyone else was chatting away, being pegged as off-putting or self absorbed or no fun or just plain weird when all I wanted was to Be.
And so I broke myself. Over and over. Allowing the loathing of, say, my body, to not just contrast my inherent love but actually go to battle with it. Sabotaging successes by freaking out anxiously over auditions, choosing to sit out of certain events because I could feel the anxiety and/or sadness well up and feeling out of place was just not as attractive as staying safe. Calling everyone but myself to fix my problems, because they gained joy in helping me and I doubted my value otherwise. My brokenness was a way of demoting myself so that others could swoop in and save me.
The first boy I loved I broke up with because he began to act differently – almost hesitant – around me. I didn’t know how to express myself to help him understand how that pained me, so I ended it instead. I immediately regretted the decision. I’d lean into my sadness and my rough spots in hopes he’d swoop in and want to heal me.
When I went to college, I suddenly found my intense longing to fit in in juxtaposed with my discomfort with success. I allowed a disordered way of life go on for longer than I could have because of how alone and out of place/confused/out of control I felt. I let a couple friends in. I let my boyfriend in. I let a mentor in. Because I felt that in order to be loved, I needed someone else to feel like I needed help.
How fucked up is that?
My talents and attributes had become a given – expected. Although such a huge part of my perceived indentity, it became expected that I do and be XYZ, so to get a “great job!” or “that’s amazing!” or some sort of accolade for those things held very little weight for myself and for others….whereas I so wanted to celebrate with someone other than myself, you know? We’re creatures who crave community and love on a very deep and primal level. I found I could gain that connection by perpetually submerging myself in the muck, looking around and praying for those I loved to save me (and therefore love me back).
After that stage of my life came a small yet meaningful host of romantic interests, one long-term boyfriend, and friendships that were bonded with the glue of my tears and brokenness. As someone who “had their shit together” on the facade but was a “total Monet” in reality (up close, a mess), it felt good to make others feel like they were helping me. Because I’d so associated THAT with my worth: Not what I could give and how I could help others, but how much others were able to help me.
And then this one tall, red-haired, hipster-glasses-wearing guy came along. And maybe it was the couple years prior spent cultivating relationships that wanted to celebrate things with me instead of mourn them, people who were seeing me for the first time and I was seeing them and we’d revel in each others’ mutual fabulousness… But by the time Jeremy and I began to date, my “brokenness” was a side note and a chapter in my life. Important stuff, to be sure – but not how I knew him to or wanted him to love me.
I did not want him to heal me desperately. I did not need to plead for his love or prove myself worthy. For the very first time maybe ever, I was in a relationship that was not codependent – that thrived on action and proaction and honest communication but never on the condition of my brokenness. It was as if there was a silent whisper waking me each morning telling me, “You don’y have to be broken for me.” And for the first time, I didn’t want to be.
As strong as we are at our core, for many of us there’s also this conflicting urge to break ourselves down in order to bond and connect with others. It happens with Casual Negativity and it happens when we’re smack-talking with purpose. I sign onto Instagram and Twitter and see a slew of quotes meant to inspire – and yet all feel is ashamed of the way I’ve been in the past. Breaking ourselves for others, especially when it comes to romantic love, isn’t something we mean to be a malicious act of self-loathing. It’s not meant to be anything more than a conduit for connection. It's not something to be ashamed of - it's simply something we must outgrow to move forward. Click To Tweet
Sometimes when I’m with certain people, I catch myself slipping and reverting back to the wise little girl who needed someone else to swoop in and try to assemble the pieces. The narrative I’ve created for so long is of the brokenness, so their swoopage isn’t any fault *or* merit of theirs – it’s simply what I’ve trained them to do and how I’ve urged them to treat me. Teaching old relationships new tricks is a tough act, but I ever so gently stand up for myself and speak up when I find myself in these situations, allowing myself to shine and showing them that our bond is about more than brokenness.
My friend-loves – and my romance – aren’t and isn’t perfect in the least. There is the muck and there are the cracks. But what I HOPE, and what I HOPE to build, are relationships (especially and particularly my one with Jeremy) bonded with magic sparkly glitter glue, not the sap from my broken spots – relationships that thrive on the celebration but also the slow gradual swim out of the mucky ponds.
In the past, I’d change only as much to convince myself of proactivity, but also just enough to leave a whole host of brokenness open for others to come in and love. In the Now, the life I lead and the people that matter are the types that screw the cautious repair. The types that don’t care how fucked up I am – because we’re all fucked up – but DO care about the other side of that darkness.
Now? I’m not into leaning into my cracks and sinking into the quicksand of my failings. And when I’m having a moment and start to slide into my old ways, I’m immediately reminded that THAT is not what my most important bonds are based off of.
Falling in love this time around wasn’t about how he could save me or how I could save him – it was about how we could elevate each other into becoming our best, highest, most actualized selves. What people don’t tell you is that falling in love isn’t all about falling in love with someone else. It’s about falling in love with yourself.
The magic sparkle glitter glue; it doesn’t bandage my cracks or sew up my wounds. It takes all the pieces as whole, as they always were, and binds them to all those things that matter most and will ultimately make me come even more alive than I ever thought possible.
There’s one more important addendum to this: I still have those relationships in my life that make me feel my value is in brokenness. The ones I can’t fully get away from because they’re just those people you can’t let go of.
But you know, what I’m realizing is that I have power now. I have the power to access my inner strength to fight the good fight, the FAIR fight, the one that says authoritatively:
No, I’m not broken.
And No, I will not break for you.
Your turn – in the comments, tell me about a relationships that builds you up and *isn’t* reliant on you being broken, less-than, or just plain second best.
Romantic, friendship, family – anything goes here. Let’s celebrate the people who make us shine even brighter than we already do.