A few years ago, if you’d asked me about the kind of love I dreamed about, I’d have told you about a love that was all-consuming. The kind that shattered the world I inhabited. “We will be very passionate,” I’d say to you, describing the dynamic my soulmate and I would share, “Our connection will intersect on multiple levels — physical, intellectual, and spiritual. He will be deep and wild, and the love we share will change me.”
I found exactly that with Andy.
Our connection was intense. Emily Bronte once wrote, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same,” and in our way of relating, I saw that play out. A romantic fling-turned-best friend, Finn, told me last month that I was the wildest girl he’s ever known. “Not in the personality sense that people often think of, but you have a wild spirit,” he said, “There’s a restlessness you have that seems to often threaten to overtake you.” He summed it up by labeling it a “quiet wildness,” yet all I could think on was how Andy and I were two souls made of the same stuff, deep and wild, quietly for me like an ocean and roaring for him like a raging river.
After Andy and I departed physically, the threads that had tied us together didn’t unravel. They remained weaved and entangled; the longing I continued to feel for him was exquisite. I would often lie awake at night, imagining what it would feel like to wake up from a deep slumber to find him there beside me.
My friend Nikita has always said that our relationship contains a looming, ever-present inevitability. In December of last year, I wrote about him and about how the threads that had tied our love together were knotted and weaved so tightly that even when I tried to sever them, they remained.
A few weeks ago, he and I stood on North Broad in front of my apartment building. It was pouring down tepid summer rain and I kissed the hell out of him while asking how we could have ever lost one another. The open umbrella rolled around on the wet pavement next to our feet and between breaths he said he wasn’t sure, that maybe we’d been too young, or maybe he just got scared to feel what he felt, or maybe it was just wrong timing.
What we had was passionate and intense and I’ll hear the echoes of our love story for the rest of my life. I have been in love with this man for almost ten years. But the truth is that I tried to force Andy to fit into a lofty ideal I held of him instead of giving him the grace to be and his spirit the room to breathe. I’d built him up in my head and embellished him so opulently that for him to be human would have been a violent arrival into reality. The fact is that he was broken, too broken for a relationship. In my love for him, I thought that if I held him tight enough, my pieces would melt together with his jagged edges and through this process I’d make him whole again.
I didn’t have this power and it was unhealthy for me to think so.
This was perhaps the real reason we would lose one another again and again. I recently told my spiritual counselor, Jacklyn, what I’ve started to realize about myself and the kind of men I love, “If I could tame a man and force him to morph into a being of my own making, I wouldn’t feel enough awe in his presence to choose to love him.” For me, love for a man comes only after an intense respect, never before and never without, and respect in my mind struggles to hold hands with “tamable.”
But I’ve also started to realize that you know you love someone when you choose to not try to change them, to avoid an instinct to tame them, an attempt to mold them until they fit into an ideal you’ve placed on them. You choose to take them as they are or even say, “no thanks,” but either way you honor who they are instead of forcing them to morph.
I have been on the receiving end. I have been with men who are attracted to my restless depths but make me into their project once they have me, trying to mold me into something neat and tidy instead of giving me the permission to exist freely.
Andy was too broken for me to tie my life with, but I chose to honor him, blessing him where he was before saying farewell, instead of staying and pruning him into a figure of my liking. Seeking to tame someone is not love and a relationship that you enter into with the intention of altering the other isn’t one worth having.
I used to believe that I loved him because he was wild. The truth is that I know I loved him because I honored him where he was and allowed him to remain.