The only thing worse than being left
Is staying together when it’s not real
Artificial love is multitudes more heartbreaking than abandonment.
The fear of abandonment
Ask people about “their greatest fear in relationships,” most are going to say “being left.”
From a random sampling of people asked what they feared most in love:
“Committing to someone fully and them later realizing it’s not what they wanted.”
“That I’ll push him away because I’m emotionally insecure and slightly unstable.”
“That one day everything will change — his responses, when they come, will be curt and unloving. That without warning, the bottom will fall out from everything and I won’t know what happened.”
“I’ll invest all of my heart and it will fail.”
“He’ll leave because I’m too difficult to understand/deal with. He’d be nice about it, too, which would make it all the worse.”
“One of my high school teachers who was divorced… said: ‘It’s like diligently depositing your cash into an account. But you never know — One fine day, when you needed it the most, you slot your card into the ATM and realize…… the account is actually empty.’ My heart went cold the first time I heard the story.”
I understand this fear.
I can sympathize with that gut-wrenching, constant feeling of unease and anxiety; of never knowing for sure sure whether you’re one misstep away from losing the person you love most. Or if you’re already fucking up and just don’t know it. If you’re pushing them away by giving, or if you’re giving enough.
Each step you make towards them make them lean a little more back, and that sends you into a tailspin.
I get it.
But being left is not my biggest fear
- I respect my partners as their own unique people, and would respect their decision to live their lives as they need to, even if it didn’t include me. This doesn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt, because it probably still would. But my respect for them as people is greater than my own emotions.
- I respect that the universe changes, and what the universe giveth, the universe can also taketh away.
- Being left is not the worst thing
I am being rawly honest when I say: my fear isn’t abandonment. My fear is fake love.
Because at least if they leave you, they also let you go.
They free you. They relinquish you back into the universe, so at least you have a fighting chance at happiness.
Frankly, it’s gracious of them.
But when they hold on to you, keep you in the wing, tether you to their lives while investing just enough to keep you there — without ever truly caring about you or loving you in a healthy way— it’s far, far worse than leaving.
Fear of artificiality
I am terrified of fake love. Toxic love. Selfish love. Superficial love. Shortsighted love. Codependent love. Love that’s really attachment. Love that’s more about their needs or our showmanship as a couple or “the way it ought to be” than anything that matters to me as my own person. Love that drains.
Because you know what’s worse than your partner saying “I no longer love you?” It’s your partner looking you in the eye and saying they love you “because you’re beautiful.”
Or it’s them saying “I love you” while only thinking of how you fit into their lives, and how you help get their needs met. You’re the walking manifestation of their checklist.
It’s them seeing “love” as a game of “scarcity” and “completion.”
It’s them thinking “love” means obligation, ownership, entitlement, or knowing what’s best. It’s them coming unhinged when your life decisions contradict their opinions.
It’s them treating “love” as an appropriate arena for manipulation and emotional warfare. It’s them doing it well enough that it goes on for years.
It’s them thinking love is first and foremost selfish.
And what makes it worse is that fake love is so fucking pervasive. Most of what we think of as “love” is bullshit.
It’s the love we see in movies. It’s in songs. It’s in most every book we’ve ever read. We see it in real life, with parents and then friends. Fake love is everywhere.
In truth, the fear of “artificiality” and “abandonment” are similar
Both of them hinge on investing in something — dumping emotional energy into it, sometimes for years on end— only to have it dissipate like sand between your fingers.
And regardless of whether they leave you or look you in the eye and say “I love you for your good looks,” either way you’re left with this stabbing sensation of “oh my god.”
But “artificiality” is harder — because they think it’s real
And they want you to want it, too.
It’s not clean like leaving. In most cases, they aren’t trying to leave you. They actually think they’re loving you. They dole out superficiality but they do it with this sincere smile, utterly oblivious to what they’re asking of you.
What I fear most is them extending fake love while looking at me with that heart-wrenching expression and saying in earnest: “but this is it, KG! This is as good as it gets.”
i.e., “This is the best any of us deserve.”
But it’s not.
And that’s what’s hard.
(1) It’s the grossest feeling in the world, realizing that you’ve been swimming day-dreamily in a pool doused with hexavalent chromium
And, to a lesser extent:
(2) Because then you have to leave them. And they won’t ever understand why.
Artificiality is worse than abandonment
Because at least abandonment is freeing. And — moreover — it’s honest.
With each other. And ourselves.