​I am twenty-six years old and have never been in love. Actually, I’ve never been in a relationship, which apparently is a vital piece in finding love. Sure, I’ve loved people and some of them have even loved me back. But I’ve never had that overwhelming-can’t-stop-thinking-about-you-I-feel-like-my-heart-is-glowing-I-must-be-in-a-romantic-comedy-there’s-a-permanent-smile-on-my-face-life-is-so-magical kind of love. It’s not because I haven’t tried. I’ve

tried a lot. Like a lot. Like, I’ve basically been trying for forever. For a long time, I felt like I needed it, as if it was the missing component preventing my life from becoming full. Instead of being grateful for all of the wonderful things that I had, I emerged into the inevitable insanity of focusing on the one thing I felt deprived of. And, because of that fixation, ​I’ve gotten rather creative in attempting to manipulate love into my life. I’ve tried to manufacture it with people who were disinterested. I’ve dreamed up entire relationships in my head with people I hardly knew. I’ve convinced myself to like boys I wasn’t interested in because the probability that they might fall in love with me was greater. I even tried dating women, though that just never felt right to me. I have a collection of wonderful first dates that held the promise of love but faded away almost as immediately as they began.

Actually, It’s my attraction to emotionally unavailable men that usually gets in the way of developing a relationship with someone. In the end they all seem too distracted by the occurrences in their own lives to put any attention onto me and the heart I have resting in the palm of my hand. But still, I never think that I’m the reason I haven’t found love. It can’t be my fault, I’m the one whose looking for it.

I recently started seeing someone that works in the same company as I do. I thought he was special, but then again I’ve thought that about a lot of guys. I fell for him right away. I took the small portion I knew about him and created an entire person from my imagination. I became quickly infatuated with this invented version of him and throughout our brief romance I continued to try to manipulate the real him to fit into the box of the idealized sort of person I wished to be in a relationship with. After we had hung out a couple of times I was given the recorded speech of “you’re amazing but I can’t be in a relationship right now.” I’ve heard some version of this dialogue from every boy I’ve dated over the past few years and I’m starting to believe that amazing is just a casual word thrown around to make a break-up less painful. The problem was that I already felt deeply invested in the future I created for “us”. I’m also quite stubborn and I like to believe that I have enough charm to change even the most emotionally unavailable mind into falling in love with me. I’ve never been successful at it, but it’s something I continually try to do, which I’m pretty sure is the definition of insanity. And so I continued to try and force him into my life. He wasn’t playing the role of someone who didn’t want to be in a relationship, instead he was telling me all of the beautiful things you would like to hear from another person, so I felt deeply justified in my behavior and emotional vulnerability. But then we started to fight, and he started to treat me unkindly. Not unkind in the means of emotional abuse, but more in the way that he made it clear that I wasn’t of much importance to him and I kept unsuccessfully trying to convince him that I was. We stopped seeing each other at his insistence and I cried in a ball on my couch as soon as he left my apartment.

In the end, he is not particularly significant but rather just an interchangeable piece in my repetitive dating history. I am a girl who desperately wants to be loved but is only attracted to boys who want nothing more then casualness. The series of boys who don’t want to be in a relationship aren’t particularly kind to me and our experiences together are quite destructive, and yet I always find myself fighting for their approval. It’s as if their opinion of me defines who I am. It was only after this last romance fell apart that I finally realized something. Something so obvious and clear but has been lost in my ignorance until now. I put myself into romantically destructive relationships because that to me is love. Love is something that makes me feel abandoned and insignificant and insecure. This warped perception blossomed at an early age from my complicated relationships with my father, brother and step-father and then I took my made up definition of love and brought it with me to all my romantic relationships. I’m drawn to unhealthy relationships with men because that is what I am familiar with. I sink into what is comfortable and wrap myself up in the misery I have become friends with. I hate it here, emerged in the splintered existence of an unhealthy relationship. But, there is a piece of me that feels it is where I belong, and so I stay. If I’m going to let someone love me, then I’ll finally have to accept that I’m worthy of being loved, and that’s something I still struggle with. My experiences drown out the whisper in my head that tells me I’m enough, and my heart can’t feel it.

Logically, I knew this latest boy’s need to be on his own had nothing to do with me but rather everything to do with what he is going through at this time in his life. But yet, left alone in my apartment with tears decorating my cheeks and my legs curled to my chest, thoughts of being worthless danced with the ugliest version of me and made love to permanent loneliness. I heard his words of a break-up and translated them to mean a million things that were wrong with me and I let myself get lost in the internal screams of self-deprecation. I hardly knew this boy, but I was allowing his rejection to erase the person I believed myself to be and re-define me as a girl who isn’t good enough.

Love, because it is unknown to me, scares me with its strangeness and vulnerability. I am afraid of letting someone love me, and so I don’t. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t fallen in love with myself yet. I want to love myself in the way I expect a man to. I want to feel confident being naked in front of myself and see someone who is beautiful. I want to accept my flaws and view them as charming. I want to enjoy the company of just me without wishing for some sort of distraction. I want to wake up in the morning and feel grateful that I get to be with me. I want to love myself for who I am and not wish for me to be someone else. Instead I binge and I indulge in harmful behavior and I call myself bad names all while searching for that validation from other people rather then finding it within myself. If love to me is destructive, then of course the love I have with myself is too. If I am only attracted to emotionally unavailable men, maybe I’m the one whose emotionally unavailable for a relationship. Right now I think that it’s best that I date myself. I use men as a distraction because I’m afraid of loneliness and then I let them take precedence in my life.

​But, what if I embrace loneliness and re-arrange its meaning as an opportunity to put myself first and focus on the things in my life that are important to me. Then I would stop using boys as if they are supposed to complete a not whole version of me because I would be whole on my own. I want to be in love and so it’s hard to accept that I’m not meant to be right now. But I can keep fighting it and remain unhappy or I can go into acceptance and focus on treating myself with as much love as I can. Instead of being mad that I can’t get what it is that I think I want right now, I can be grateful that I have this opportunity to put my attention on the parts of my life that need nurturing so that I can finally find the happiness within myself that I was searching for in other people. Love isn’t something you have to prove you’re worthy of, it’s something you have to believe you’re worth of. I’m just now realizing that.