"Love the least"?

Waterheart by ~fission1 found at deviantart

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Diana over at Sincerely, Diana wrote this post about The Race to Love the Least. She talked about a conversation she had with a friend when she first began dating her late husband.

She said that in every relationship, particularly every new relationship, there is a contest between participants.  The goal?  Be the person who loves the least in the relationship. She said that it occurs most obviously and frequently in relationships that are either romantic or on the way to being romantic, but that it happens in all types of relationships.

This has been running around in my mind ever since she posted it.

I think it could be true.

It’s hard to open up, let someone in, trust them.

Especially after you’ve had your heart broken.

And if it’s been broken more than once?

Ooooh, boy.

I know that in a lot of my relationships, I was the one that held back, that loved the least.

I’ve mentioned that part of my younger days were rather. . .  adventurous. There was a time when I didn’t spend a night alone unless I wanted to be alone.

But most of those were not relationships. They were sexual partners.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – sex is a biological need, and I’ve never thought it should be shameful. Having sex was one way I used to deal with my manic energy before I was diagnosed. It may not have been the healthiest way, but it worked for a time.

I somehow found it very easy to keep most men at arms length, to have sex without becoming attached. Of course, I did go through a phase where most of the men I picked to have sex with were ones that I had nothing in common with. That made it easier to keep emotions out of the deal.

While I regret hurting my first husband, I didn’t actually find it all that hard to leave him. That’s because I wasn’t as attached as he was.

But there are problems with being this way, and the biggest one is, how do you let someone in when you’ve spent most of your life keeping people out?

It’s easier, less painful, to “love the least”.

But it’s impossible to find lasting love when you live your life that way.

Oh, I haven’t always been the one to love the least, and I have had my heart broken.

But I can tell that I’ve often acted out of fear instead of love.

Fear of being hurt, fear of offending someone, fear of doing or saying the “wrong” thing to push them away. . . .

I think even some of the times when I’ve been the most giving, it’s been out of fear, thinking something like, “If I can give him everything he wants, then maybe he’ll stay.”

There’s a lot of fear in that thought. And there are times when I’ve suppressed parts of myself because of that fear.

I am strong enough to know that I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want to live in fear.

But that has caused me to do something else.

It’s caused me to push everyone away. If no one gets a chance to get close, then there’s nothing to fear.

I find this interesting because there are some ways in which I’ve always been a “jump in with both feet without looking” kind of person. And there has been at least once when I did that with a relationship.

I know that there have been times when I have loved deeply and fiercely (even if it’s hard to remember exactly how that feels now).

And I do love. I love my daughter, I love my family (even though they drive me crazy!), I love my imaginary intermaweb friends who have helped me through so much.

But can I stop trying to be the one that loves the least? Can I act from a place of love instead of a place of fear?

I’d like to know how other people overcame this fear of being hurt and let themselves go to love.

14 thoughts on “"Love the least"?”

  1. An anecdote:
    When I told my aunt about my new boyfriend (who is now my DH) she told me to not give my heart 100%. Hold back a little so if it doesn't work out I won't be crushed.
    I told her she had it backward. By holding back I'd guarantee it wouldn't work out. But if I gave my whole heart and it failed, I'd know it wasn't for lack of trying. And I'd enjoy the wonderful feeling of being in love as long as it lasts.
    Having your heart broken hurts. But it's not fatal. The old quote about “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is true. Risking being hurt is the only way to fully experience the joy. And if it doesn't work out, you cry and dust yourself off and do it again.

  2. I read your reply before I went to bed last night and it roamed around in my head quite a bit between then and this morning.

    25 years ago, what you said to your aunt would have been completely what I believed, and how I thought I acted.

    But when I really think about how I have acted, a different story emerges.

    With my ex-h, while I did eventually put my whole heart into it, by the time I did, it was too late. I had held back too much for too long. And I know I held back a lot the last time I was engaged.

    So, there's really only been once that I've completely immersed myself into a relationship like that.

    That scares me. I thought I was more open than that, at least when I was young.

  3. I have always known that I hold something back.
    I have been married for nearly 45 years and have known my DH since I was 11.
    My DGD writes on her Facebook page almost daily how much she loves her DH
    I am uncomfortable with that level of public affection. So is my DH.
    I am finding your comments and Diana's challenging.

  4. Wow. You obviously have a successful marriage!

    I understand about not wanting to be so public with your feelings, and that's really not what I'm talking about here. Sometimes I feel like those that are saying it all the time are trying to convince themselves that's how they feel :).

    It's more. . . being fully emotionally invested in the relationship, making decisions based on the other's needs. . . You know in a “Gift of the Magi” kind of way, but emotionally.

    I'm not explaining this very well.

    AureLutra, can you explain what's challenging about it?

  5. And I forgot to add here – Being able to do that, make decisions based on the other's needs while at the same time maintaining your sense of who you are.

    Giving up everything you are for the sake of a relationship isn't good either. It's important to maintain your own sovereignty.

    In order to create a safe emotional place, it's important to be able to bring out each other's good traits and help each other work on the ones that maybe aren't so good, to complement each other's skills (complement, not compliment :)) and create something that makes each of you better in some way.

    At least, I think so.

  6. I think sometimes it takes finding someone who loves you so much that you want to give your love more freely. I feel so lucky that I found someone who loves me enough that he wants to make me happy and acts that way by how much he gives me in the marriage, and in return, I want to make him happy, too. I feel more attached to him than to anyone else I've been involved with. Granted, I haven't been in very many romantic relationships, but in my first marriage, I came from a position of responsibility and obligation a lot of times rather than a position of love (because I placed a strong value on marriage and because we had kids together), so that when he asked me if I loved him (phrased as “you don't really love me anymore, do you?”) when he was telling me he wasn't happy, didn't love me anymore, and was leaving, it was really easy for me to reply, “I'm not sure if I ever really loved you.”

  7. Karen, what you're describing your current marriage is what I want.

    Unfortunately, I've known too many people who stayed for a long time in relationships like your first one.

    I'm really glad you have what you have now.

  8. >>
    “I'm not sure if I ever really loved you.”

    That's my line. Two times with the same person, almost totaling 20 years. Staying for the sake of staying helps no one.

    Being alone and feeling lonely is better than being with someone and being miserable.

  9. Re: Staying too long in a marriage/relationship — Part of why my XH decided he wanted out of our marriage was because he saw our marriage going the way his parents' marriage did. They did not seem to like each other very much but remained married for religious reasons. They fought all the time, or spent most of their time in different rooms of the house. When his dad worked, he would work long hours and sometimes go out after work to delay going home.

    I almost certainly would have stayed in the marriage and been miserable had he not decided to go. As mad as I was about him leaving at the time, he really did me a favor by releasing me from that marriage. He left shortly after our 12-year wedding anniversary.

  10. I understand that.

    Actually, when I look at a lot of relationships from the outside, I know many that appear to be this way. Either they're together because of inertia, or other superficial reasons (religion, “the kids”[maybe I'll write a post about that sometimes], etc) or simply because neither wants to be alone. And I just don't think it *should* be that way.

    But maybe I'm too idealistic.

  11. Oh no, that' s where I am. So lonely but still in the relationship. 😦 Afraid of not having anyone. But I know what is the right thing to do. Only until I react I will be free.
    Love to all of you.

  12. Kristin,

    I'm sorry you're in that space; I know it doesn't feel very good.

    I hope you're able to resolve it soon.

    I believe that you can't open yourself up to someone new until you let go of this feeling/situation.

    Please, keep us updated.

  13. It's better to have loved and lost
    Than to never had loved at all
    But you never calculate the cost
    Of that big, impending fall

    You want love and emotion
    To trend your way and bend to your will
    No matter the obvious devotion
    No man will ever fit that bill

    Love comes from within the heart
    But it too takes the brain to care
    For if you never make the start
    You'll never know how the heart fares

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