Growing up, I didn’t believe in love. I truly knew no one, person, or thing that had “love.” It felt to me like even though people claimed to love each other, there was disrespect, abuse, lies, manipulation, pain. Love seemed like a literal fairytale. Something you only see in movies and books. Something that people didn’t experience. I truly believed people stayed together because they chose not to be alone and that they put up with each other and sacrificed their own happiness for companionship. I seemed very young to make those connections, and many people told me I was pessimistic or skeptical. I would frequently ask people what love meant to them and why they thought they loved their partners. I would get answers like,
“They’ve always been there for me.”
“They accepted me at my worst.”
“They didn’t give up on me.”
“They forgave me so many times!”
“They know how to be strong for me.”
And I would think, is it love that you need them and are dependent on them? Do you feel like you love them because they give you something you cannot give yourself?”
It wasn’t until I became pregnant at 17 that I had my first experience with love, my daughter. I was terrified, but I knew deep down I would do anything for her, and she would live a good life because I would never stop pushing to be the best, do the best, and make her proud. I wanted to give. It was never about what she could give me, simply what she deserved in this world: pure compassion and unconditional love. I would love her quirks, her style, her decisions. I would do what was best for her, even if it wasn’t always beneficial for me. I would respect her independence and mind.
I worked hard to graduate high school while being pregnant and working full-time. She came to my high school graduation, two months old. I continued to live for her, work for her, do right by her.
But I still wasn’t perfect. This was new to me. Uncharted territory. I had a lot of healing and learning to do. At one point, she came to me and said,
“I don’t want kids.”
I was a little horrified. I thought,
“How? Why? I’ve done my best to live for you and make you happy. Where did I mess up?”
“I don’t want kids because you’ve sacrificed everything for me. Every time you talk about travel, you say when I’m older. Every time you talk about your goals, you say when I’m older. I have goals, and I don’t want to wait until my kids are older.”
So I said,
“You can do both! You should do what makes you happy, and your children will appreciate it and learn from you that they can have both.”
I could see that she deserved both, even if I couldn’t see it for myself. I was still functioning in sacrifice. Until I saw it through her, I didn’t realize that my dreams were just as crucial in this loving relationship as hers! So I began living while loving her, and it only made me a better mother.
Love is not what you can do for someone else. It is how you allow others to do for themselves. It is how you support their passions and dreams. It is how you encourage their independence.
“I want you to be the best version of you and all that it means for you, even if it’s not with me or for me.”
“You can only be the best version of you as long as it’s with me.”
That is the MOST POWERFUL love. Everything else is trauma. You cannot earn love. It simply is. And if you have to manipulate how you receive it, then it isn’t love. If you have to sacrifice who you are, it isn’t love. If you have to hide who you are, it isn’t love. If you NEED them to complete you, it isn’t love. LOVE SIMPLY IS: conditions, limitations, ultimatums excluded.
Ask yourself, what are you giving and getting? Is this love? Or is it an agreement? Is it trauma complying to fill a void you refuse to fill yourself? Healing those elements will only make the love stronger and more authentic.
Copyright Jessenia Nozzolillo 2021