What Is Love?

It would be completely unrealistic of any of us to assume that there's at least one person out there who would be perfect for each of us, but to also say that we have absolutely no requirements of our significant others. “I just want someone who's funny.” “I really only want to be with someone who wants children.” I think everyone has some sort of preference, whether it's a matter of looks, a certain style, enjoying the same sorts of music and movies, or just treating others well.
Some people are very specific about body type, hair color, abundance or lack of tattoos and body piercings, even the way a person smiles. It's about an image that the person represents to others and you. Some are fixated on religion (or, again, lack thereof), political and social issues, or a mutual hatred for other kinds of people.

I've always thought the most specific and sad relationships revolve around what one person wants and how the other can fulfill those needs. But in a sense, this is really what we're all doing when we're playing the dating game: what do I want and how can this person satisfy what I want? Some are just more obvious about it than others.

I read once that women tend to measure deeds psychologically in terms of amount – big or small, it's the sheer volume of what a person does that matters. On the other hand, men tend to measure things in terms of how much energy it took.

There's a general disconnect between men and women and the way they perceive things. I think that's why a lot of gay and lesbian relationships can work better. Both parties are aware, intrinsically, of what the other person wants, although just because someone is the same sex as you doesn't necessarily mean you have that much in common.

I'm not trying to say that lesbians and gay men have it easier than people in hetero relationsips. I just think that it's sometimes impossible for opposite genders to communicate on the same level. Our brains just work differently. Sometimes I wonder, if Charlie and I ever split up, will I end up with another woman? I used to think dating guys was a lot easier than dating women. Girls seemed to have so many requirements and issues to deal with. Guys were simple and easy to deal with.
Now I think this had more to do with age than anything. A 17 year-old girl could be a lot more complicated than a 17 year-old boy.

Most of my life I was never in actual relationships because I didn't want to commit myself to anyone else. I didn't want to deal with the requisite conversations about “where things were going” because, 99 times out of 100, I didn't feel the same way about the other person. Some people just didn't want to be alone and their requirements were few – but why would I want to be with someone just to fill up a space in their life? Others wanted to be with me but only if I changed A, B, or C about myself.
I once went out with a girl who told me my body would be perfect if my breasts were two cup sizes larger. I've never had a guy say anything like that to me.
I have, however, had men tell me that I wasn't thin enough or I was too butch or that they don't like short hair on girls.

None of those things really affected me. There wasn't much about myself I was ever willing to change just to spend time with someone else. I didn't care what size bra I wore and certainly wasn't going to run to the nearest plastic surgery center just because one girl wasn't satisfied with the shape of my body. I wasn't going to go on a diet and start exercising just because one guy preferred thin women. I'll never be as skinny as what some people prefer. My bones will always sit the same way they are right now, so even if I starved myself, I'd still have hips and wide shoulders.

After dating my share of both I became relatively apathetic about relationships. I wasn't very kind to other people who were interested in me and I had no problem never returning someone's call because of some stupid requirement I'd made up. He wore socks with sandals. She used to date one of my friends. He doesn't like any of the music I do. She smacks her lips when she eats. I found any number of reasons to exclude people from my life.

Now that I'm older and have been in the same relationship for almost seven years, I've learned a lot about communicating and what people (read: I) really want. My requirements have become much more specific and relaxed at the same time. I need someone who will act as a social buffer, who will stand between me and the things that make me uncomfortable — while they also push me to do those things on my own. I need someone who will make doctors' appointments for me because I will never do it. I need someone who is positive and upbeat, otherwise we'd just sit around and mope all the time. I used to prefer tall, lean men, but I don't care if he's put on a few pounds. Even though I hate beards, I don't really care that he's refusing to shave until he loses 15 more pounds. I don't care if he listens to country music because he'll listen to anything I like, too. I don't care that he's a huge football fan because he'll turn on the stereo and watch the game while I read or do homework. I'm not banished from the room while he screams at the television.

These are all things that came as a surprise to me as my requirements used to include “No sports nuts” and “No country music fans.” But, ultimately, it's about what you share together that matters and how you can support one another. Love isn't about what someone can do for you, it's about what you can do for that person. I know this. I know this. Putting it into measureable deeds is a completely different thing. It's a really hard thing to learn.

Some people will perpetually measure their significant others' deeds in terms of how others perceive those acts. Was the gift expensive enough, meaningful enough? Can I make other people feel bad about themselves when they look at us from the outside? It doesn't really matter because, at the end of the day, it's just the two of you. If you haven't built a foundation, everything else isn't supported and can fall apart at any moment.


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