We all dream about a perfect love. The kind of love that fights for us, that stays through thick and thin. We imagine our ideal person. Someone who puts us first. Someone we can trust. Someone who stands by our side through the toughest of days. The girl who listens. The guy who opens doors.
We imagine our future love to be all the things we’ve wished for since we were little. We create an image in our minds of what this relationship will look like, feel like, how it will smooth over and mend all the tiny broken pieces of our heart and make us whole again.
We give ourselves lists, guidelines, expectations. We tell ourselves to hold out for the “right one” and to not to settle for less. Not to fall for someone who is anything other than what we deserve.
Except the problem in doing this is that we’re unintentionally looking for something that doesn’t exist.
It’s wonderful to imagine a future love. To picture him or her and all the ways he/she will fill you. To see the relationship and how it grows through every obstacle, or becomes stronger with every roadblock. It’s wonderful to learn from past heartbreak and to tell yourself to not fall for someone whose soul isn’t fully in, or to not give yourself away too easily. It’s good to remind yourself that the right person will be selfless and caring, affectionate and kind-hearted, or any of the other valuable qualities you desire.
But you can’t expect your future love to be perfect.
You can’t force yourself to wait until the perfect person comes along. You can’t encourage yourself not to settle for anything less than the man who upholds his values all the time, or calls his mother every day, or always stays up late with you and talks about dreams. You can’t tell yourself to stay single until you meet the girl who is always authentic and positive, who would be the best wife, who would do anything for you. Because yes, those qualities are wonderful, but no person will be able to measure up to them all the time.
No guy or girl will be able to put you first one-hundred percent of the time. No partner will be willing to stay up late on every single work night just to talk to you about life. No significant other can always drop what they’re doing to be available when you need them.
That’s just not realistic.
Real love is not about holding out for the perfect person or finding someone who meets all the criteria on your list. Real love is about finding an imperfect person and building a messy, beautiful love.
We all want something that is better than the broken relationships we had before. We all want to be with a person who won’t hurt us, who will make us forget our pasts, who will give themselves to us and not hold back. We all want the kind of love we see in the movies — two hearts entwined for better or for worse. We want to believe that perfect exists and that we’ll find it.
“Real love is finding someone who simply fits, and fighting to fit even when the pieces become jagged and worn over time.”
But the truth is, real love is filled with chaos. It’s filled with frustrations and let-downs, arguments and compromises, annoyances and misunderstandings. No two people will ever completely see eye-to-eye at the end of every fight. No two people will always be able to set aside their differences or let go of their emotions in order to make things better again. No two people will always say and do the right thing, or be able to love selflessly every single minute of the relationship.
Real love is hard. But that’s what makes it so incredible. It’s not about finding the perfect person. It’s not about falling into a relationship with no roadblocks. No, it’s not about settling for less, but it’s not about demanding, either.
Real love is finding someone who simply fits, and fighting to fit even when the pieces become jagged and worn over time.
Real love is knowing you’re not with the perfect person, because he/she does not exist, but loving them in spite of this. And loving your relationship not because it is everything you imagined, but because it is wild and wonderful and difficult and exciting and everything more.
So stop with the lists. Stop with the expectations. Stop demanding. Stop wishing for the perfect person, and believing that you must stay single until you stumble across him or her.
There is no perfect person. But there is a heart that will beat in rhythm with yours. There is someone who will understand your past pain and do his or her best to never bring you that hurt again. There is a soul who is longing to love you in the best way that he or she can.
And I hope you hold out for that person — the messy, the inconsistent, the sometimes unreliable, the flawed person who sees, and loves, all the imperfection in you.
Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of Somewhere on a Highway.