I have a lot of experience with love. One might dare say that I am qualified to give advice based on my vast experience. The disclaimer: Advice would be coming from a place of failures, not successes.
You see, after a handful of broken engagements, a marriage and divorce, and numerous attempts of everything in between, I am an expert on what not to do.
I have made lists of wants, needs and requirements and imposed them on people. I have picked partners based on appearance, social status, success and attitude. I have forged intimacy with grandiose romantic gestures when faced with doubt. I have accepted extreme romantic gestures, said “yes” to proposals to delay the fear that comes with solitude.
I have attended years of therapy sessions to address and mend my issues. I’ve studied self-help books and religion and personality types. I have taken diagnostic and prophetic quizzes. I have adopted the belief that if I fix what is wrong with me, then my perfect match would effortlessly appear.
I have adjusted my hobbies, career, behavior, interests and peer groups in hopes of summoning my soulmate. I have readjusted these when rejected. I have idealized, romanticized, fantasized, criticized and theorized.
I have tried to achieve the ideal physique with compulsive exercise, diet pills, bingeing and purging, and starvation. I battled with and loathed my body, fighting against it with plastic surgeries, tanning, bleach and Botox. I have believed that if my appearance were flawless, then I would attract the perfect mate, and with our two impeccable figures we would embody the fairy tale; we would be the envy of all.
I’ve been both present and detached, caring and cool. I have been the pursuer and the pursued. I have dated women after exhausting men, and men again after trying women. I have dated a decade younger and almost two decades older. I have remained determined, and I have given up.
I have given up.
I have found that try as I might and wish as I would, I cannot arrange an outcome. There is no promise of perfection, no matter how pretty the package or neat the circumstance. There is no perfect outfit I can wear, or precisely romantic atmosphere in which to dine, to manufacture a genuine connection.
I have discovered that love is not a feeling, though if it were, it would not come free of pain. It can be uncomfortable and scary and difficult and vulnerable and real. It requires compromise and sacrifice and fortitude. Love is not for the weak.
I have learned that there is no finish line, no winner. Love is an action and also a paradox: I only get when I give; I am left with more when I let go of all.
So, my expert advice if ever asked would be: Live life as if you have already found love. Live as if you were already free, perfect, fulfilled, committed and strong, and then you will be. That is advice I am qualified to give, as well as to take.
Lauren Brown has a career in the mortgage business and a devotion to her volunteer work with animal-rescue nonprofits and human-welfare organizations. She has resided on both sides of the river, will not admit a favorite, and loves pink.