Here's a paper I wrote in 2011 for one of my creative writing classes containing reflections on past relationships, what I want from future relationships, and some thoughts from St. Augustine.
Recently I was looking for another writer to add to Libero Magazine, someone who is honest, humble, shows a sense of self-knowledge, is dependable, and shows care for others. I wanted someone who has overcome great obstacles and has chosen (without regret) to push through, overcome, and live life passionately.
What does this have to do with “the men I choose”? Well, I realized something while I was going through this process: I have stricter guidelines when it comes to who I will join in a working partnership with than I do when it comes to who I will date.
What does this say about me? Do I value my work more than I value myself? Working so hard to protect my business taught me exactly what people mean when they say “guard your heart” – it’s about valuing yourself, valuing your goals and passions, and valuing the standards to which you have set yourself and your life.
I would never let any of the men I have been in relationship with work with me. Why? Because they aren’t dependable or honest or committed or—that all time favourite—stable.
So why did I open up my heart to them?
It all goes back to self-value. See, I was careless with myself, reckless even, not worried about doing damage. I didn’t need guidelines or a filtering system because I didn’t really value Me.
I must start guarding my heart the way I guard my work. It’s that simple.
Recently, I learned from St. Augustine what a relationship should look like. Augustine defines the difference between ‘enjoying’ a thing and ‘using’ a thing:
“To enjoy something,” he says, “is to cling to it with love for its own sake. To use something, however, is to employ it in obtaining that which you love, provided that it is worthy of love. For an illicit use should be called rather a waste or an abuse.”
Now, Augustine does not apply the same negative connotation to the word ‘use’ as we typically do. Some things are meant to be used. To ‘use’ your iPod, for example, is actually better than to ‘enjoy’ it, because an iPod is merely a temporal thing. As humans, however, we are both temporal and eternal. Therefore, we need to both use and enjoy each other.
I, however, allowed myself by this definition to be ‘used’ and not enjoyed. And, in some circumstances, to be used in the illicit way to which Augustine refers, which can actually be considered being ‘wasted’ or abused.
Recently, I began seeing a guy who treated me well, was respectful – all those wonderful things. However, as it continued, I became uncomfortable; this healthy relationship was new territory for me. See, in the past I have attached myself to the absent, the unreliable, the selfish, the arrogant, and even the verbally abusive. We become so comfortable with the people and relationships we choose that anything different makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, if one’s ‘type’ is unhealthy in nature, he or she then finds a healthy relationship uncomfortable.
One night this guy and I got in a fight. He left and I found myself lying on the floor in tears – for the first time in our relationship, I felt comfortable. That’s what I was used to. I was used to being that girl on the floor in tears. And I wasn’t comfortable despite being hurt and upset; I was comfortable because I was hurt and upset – there is a difference.
I can’t live my life like that. If I am comfortable with being mistreated— if fighting, verbal abuse, roller-coaster emotions and heartbreak make me feel ‘normal’—then I must push through the discomfort until I’m used to something healthier.
In our culture, we see relationships as temporal and disposable like an iPod. As Augustine says, we do not love the other; rather, we “use” the other. The more the divorce rate increases, the more we view relationships as temporal; and the more temporal relationships become to us, the more likely we will consider divorce. It’s a vicious cycle.
Love is eternal and if we starting viewing it as such, we will start to value relationships, value ‘the other’, and value ourselves. Then we can return to what love is really about – not using the other, but enjoying the other.
I am done being used. I want to be enjoyed – I deserve to be enjoyed. We all do. So let’s step outside our comfort zones and accept nothing less.