Since I can remember, I have always been in love with all things “love.” I am the epitome of a hopeless romantic. On the scale of 1-10 (1 being the Grinch and 10 being a Meg Ryan rom com) young Bobby was an eleven. As I’ve gotten older, I’m more in the middle of the scale, because I’ve adopted a more nuanced perspective on love and on the different forms of love that we can experience. Since Valentine’s Day is upon us I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic for all of my amazing new loyal readers. 🙂
When you think of love you probably think of soulmates, Hallmark greeting cards, and little kissing angels sitting on shelves in an eighty year old couple’s home.
This post isn’t about any of that. If that’s what first comes to mind for you, then I’m not knocking your perspective, but it isn’t the only way to think about love. Sometimes, I think that we are so culturally conditioned to believe in what society expects us to, that I feel we forget to challenge the status quo.
In reality, love is so much bigger than just romantic attraction. While, that is certainly a key element, my experience has been that there are so many other facets of love.
Love is a popular emotion, we are all highly capable of feeling love. As the Dalai Lama says, “love is the answer.” Yes that’s correct I just quoted the Dalai Lama. (My one attempt to sound like my Idol Oprah.) My hope is that by sharing some of my perspectives, it can make it a little easier for someone reading this to feel the same sense of hope and a heightened sense of possibility that love is available to them.
As a gay man, growing up it was really tough for me to believe that someone was out there for me. I think a lot of people who identify differently feel a little left out. That feeling is really difficult to process, but it becomes a little easier if you shift the focus around. My hope in writing this is to take some of the focus off of viewing romantic love as the only way to get love, by sharing some big picture thoughts on this societal concept.
Are Rom-Coms A Lie?
I‘ve always been aware of love, but it always felt like it had to fit in a box. Here’s an example of what I mean.
When I was four years old, I remember telling my mom how I was going to propose to my future wife. Now keep in mind this is 1989 so some of the references are from that time. Here is what 4 year old Bobby came up with. I was going to pick up my future wife in a flashy white stretch limousine which I would have stocked with chocolate covered strawberries and chilled champagne and whisk her away to the beach. I made sure to include that I would have a ton of candles lit, beach towels and champagne flutes handy for us and a chilled bottle of champagne on ice waiting for when we arrived!
Hmmm…apparently four-year old Bobby was pretty in-touch with his charming gay self, sans the wife part.
Wow! Where in the world did I get such a crazy notion in my head? I had never tasted alcohol, so I obviously was buying into some pretty deep-rooted cultural beliefs. These are the beliefs that we have to stamp out if we want to feel alive and free in our relationships–instead of beating ourselves up for not living out our cultural scripts.
Or, another reason could be that My mom was a big romantic comedy fan and also watched every daytime soap opera. Her favorite was Days of Our Lives which I will still put on from time to time when I am missing her. So perhaps that’s where my inspiration came from. I mean have you ever seen how much champagne they drink on soap operas? It’s everywhere!
To put this in perspective this was me at 4 years old, so you can imagine how I am today!
I think watching Romantic comedies and Valentine’s Day had something to do with my idealized depiction of love at such a young age! Who else remembers having to pass out Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in your class? The little candy heart boxes your teachers would give out? When I think about that today, how could someone not be affected by that? There was such importance put on it and not to mention that anxiety you would feel waiting for a Valentine’s Day card from your classmate crush.
I think a lot of societal pressure comes from this idea of making it normalized at a young age. I remember that one time I got suspended in grade school for kissing a girl. Her father got incredibly upset with me, which again was probably his unconscious script–even though I was only 7 or 8 years old, he felt he needed to protect his daughter like she was a teenage girl. My kiss was harmless, but this incident would help me become clear (years later) that we are all just playing a part.
So what part do you want to play?
Looking for Love In All The Wrong Places
I love being in love. It is an exhilarating feeling. There’s such a newness to life. It feels like the first time you ever get to play in the snow. Or, when you hit all green lights on the way to the airport.
My strong belief is that in a romantic sense love finds you. I know that this sounds like a cop out, but I really stand by it. It might sound corny, but when you least expect it, love will find you.
Similarly, soul mates can also sneak up on you when you least expect it. Now, when I talk about soul mates I believe that anyone can be soul mates–not just the person you marry.
For example, I believe that two heterosexual men could be soul mates in the definition that I am giving. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are having sex or in love, it could just be that you like the same things, are very much aligned with how you live life, have similar interests, and vibe really well together and grow as a pair.
This is an important thing that I think a lot of people don’t think of. If you have an incredible best friend that you’ve had from childhood, or an amazing mentor that has taught you so much in life–be grateful. That for me is a soul mate. Also, if you have a great relationship with a sibling or parent, remember that you are beyond blessed. Not everyone is so lucky.
When I was in my twenties, I was always searching for someone else romantically to complete me. I liked to be in love and having a boyfriend made me feel better about myself. However, I felt like I had to be on the lookout all the time because I might miss my opportunity.
When I got a little older I realized that what I was looking for was love and affection. And I stopped putting pressure on myself to find that in a romantic relationship. Why?
I took a breath and saw that right in front of my face, I had some amazing friendships that made my life so incredible. Instead of waiting for Mr. Right to come around, I started “investing” in my friends, and it made me feel so much more fulfilled as a result. In the end, love found me.
I remember sitting alone in my brand new apartment at 30 and feeling very content and like I truly loved myself. I was so happy just being present and being alone that I thought that I would never get married, because I felt so good on my own. It felt good to be able to travel and be with friends, and to just really enjoy myself wherever I was.
Love is a Two-Way Street Constantly Under Construction
Everyone is looking for love. My advice is to take your time. It is getting more and more complicated for singles today. There are so many online dating apps out there that makes you feel like you know so much about the other person without ever meeting them!
Back in my parents day you actually had to ask someone out on a date before you got to find out about them. They didn’t just upload a profile and some pictures on their phone!
When I was younger I would say yes to a date with anyone who came up and asked me out. I did this because they were confident enough to do so. I still think it takes a lot of guts to go up to someone in person and ask them out. This is something I lacked in my 20’s. I would never have enough courage to go up to someone I found attractive and ask them out. My fear of rejection would paralyze me. Sometimes, we would end up being friends. Sometimes, it would turn into us dating, but either way it was another experience of me putting myself out there. I wanted to meet lots of different people and leave no stone unturned as the saying goes.
When I met Josh neither one of us knew we would have chemistry. However, when we reconnected later, we were both surprised.
Even though romantic love isn’t the only way to have love in your life, it can be a great addition in your life, if the timing is right. Remember, the Honeymoon phase usually lasts 6 months and it is everyone’s favorite part of dating. In the beginning, sometimes we confuse our lust for someone as love. As my therapist tells me, it takes someone two years before you know someone. So take your time.
If you can make it through that, you have seen every side of them. Here are a few things that Josh does that I would highly encourage everyone reading this to use as their rubric for finding the right person in a potential partner.
- Your partner should make you feel like the most special person in the world.
- They should have a great love for their family, and the family they are starting with you.
- They should definitely have a sense of humor! It keeps things interesting and keeps you from getting sick of each other.
- You should both share similar passions.
- They should have a soft spot for animals. (Who doesn’t love a cute little puppy)
- They should be great at listening.
- Everyone fights, but finding resolution and compromise is key.
I Love Me
If you are going to focus on one thing from this blog let it be this: love yourself first, and more love will appear in your life as a result. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to allow yourself to be loved by anyone else.
Self-love is a process that takes time. It is something that we all have to work on.
I have a self-love routine that I’ve developed over many years.
It looks like this:
Every day I talk to the young Bobby, the kid who never felt like he fit in or had a place in this world. I let him know that I am proud of him (this rewrites the subconscious programming that says we aren’t good enough–that we learned as young children). I remind him that he is worthy of being loved, and this is crucial to my success in life.
Once a week I indulge in my favorite television shows to reconnect with my inner child.
As an adult I don’t judge myself, instead I eat my favorite food and laugh my ass off in front of the television to remind myself that I am worth having a self-care moment and that I don’t need to be constantly grinding. Life is short! Eat, drink, laugh and give LOVE!
I like to reflect on how far I’ve come on a weekly basis and remind myself of my journey.
I remind myself that I can buy whatever I want at the grocery store.. ( that wasn’t always my reality) It may seem small, but it really helps to keep my gratitude in perspective.
I prioritize my workouts and taking care of my body 4x per week. I am constantly aware that your health is everything. I am so thankful to just be healthy! And I am very thankful for my crazy husband, and I remind myself that love is one of the exhilarating experiences you can have as a human, and it is absolutely free.
How do you love yourself? And what are some of the ways you love others? Comment some of that love below ❤️