How Love Transformed The Way I Show Up in Relationships
by Tiffany Lit’Shae
Nikki Giovanni once said, “Everything will change. The only question is growing up or decaying.”
These words rang through my ears as I sat in front of a glass of merlot and another stranger. His name was Josh. He was thin, good looking, and a little quirky. The Spider-Man shirt under his blazer screamed immaturity, but who was I to judge. I came in sweats and my most comfortable sweater. These Friday nights meet-ups were less about finding love and more about filling idle time. To put it simply, I was here because I was bored.
We went through the typical questions about career, family, and hobbies. He then said, “Describe yourself in three words.” I was thrown off guard. “Well, I am a forgiving, loving, and very resilient woman.” A smile took over his face and his eyes began to sparkle and the night ended with a simple hug and a promise to reconnect in the future.
When I arrived home, I poured a cup of tea and began to reflect on everything that just happened. I am a forgiving, loving, and very resilient woman. I said those words with ease and confidence. A tiny chill went down my spine as I recalled the reasons why. Although painful, love had taught me so many lessons.
Scott taught me forgiveness. Scott was sure about everything in his life — except his sexuality. Sex was never a factor in our relationship and I thought it was because he was deeply religious. I later found out that it wasn’t just the Bible that kept him at a distance. The day I found out about his secret male lover changed my life forever. I tumbled into a deep depression and carried the pain for years and I would think about him on random days and burst into tears. In the midst of a mental breakdown, a friend gave me a hug and whispered into my ear, “Forgiveness is for you.” I repeated, “Forgiveness is for me.” The heartache was too heavy of a burden for me to carry. That day, I let go of the pain in exchange for freedom. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
From Dustin, I learned to love. I loved everything about him, even the way he would smother me with his hot body while we slept. Being his partner was similar to riding a roller coaster. I remained devoted through all the unexpected dips and turns. When he needed me, I was there to give everything I had. I learned what true love was the day I laid next to him with tears streaming down my face. He didn’t move once. I cried louder hoping that he would comfort me, but nothing. I wasn’t happy. I felt I had nothing to show for all the sacrifices I had made. I walked out the door and never came back. I thought that love was a sacrifice. When I wasn’t receiving love in the same way, I felt jaded. I blamed him for not loving me, but it was never truly his fault. True love is self-love. Learning to love myself allowed me to love others in a way that is genuine and honest.
Ken was my next love. He helped me to flex my resilience. We spent our summer romance cruising Pacific Coast Highway and talking about our dreams. He wanted to go to the Olympics. I wanted to be free from the constraints of everyday life. The same dreams inevitably got in the way of love. Ken had the chance to get a surgery that would push him closer to his gold medal dreams. This chance of a lifetime led him away from California. We chose to continue our love affair despite 3,000 miles between us. During that time, Ken found a new love. A detail he forgot to mention to me on our late night phone calls. He blocked me from his life. To lose love was heartbreaking, but to watch him love another woman was devastating. I spent days in bed asking questions. Mainly, what did I do to deserve this? In this moment, I wanted to die, but my spirit refused. Like the Phoenix, I rose from the ashes a better woman. It wasn’t my fault. I loved him in the best way I could. I learned that the actions of others are not a reflection of me, but a reflection of their experiences, pain, and love. He lied that was his choice. To keep living in love, that was my choice.
A small beep brought me back to reality. I looked at my phone. It was Josh. He was checking to make sure I got home safely. A deep smile covered my face. I couldn’t help but wonder what lessons he would bring me. I am a forgiving, loving, and resilient woman. Whatever his love may bring, I am ready.