‘All you need is love’. I read these words in the comment section of a friend's post this morning. She was sharing her love for her partner, their life and their first baby on the way. The comment came from another friend who just had his second baby and appears to be in a joyful relationship. You never know, of course, what's going on in people's lives behind the veneer of social media, but reading the comment made me reflect on the meaning of this well known proverb.
I’ve rarely heard these words refer to any other context than that of a happy romantic relationship (remember that famous scene in ‘Love Actually’...)—to love received from another human being to whom you are ‘the one’. But really now that I think about it, this is such an incomplete picture. The ‘love’ you need is so much more than that. And the part that we forget or tend not to talk about is actually the most important: it’s the love you have for yourself and the love you give to others.
I met my ex-husband when I was 19. We both came into our relationship with childhood traumas and complicated family histories, and found in each other the piece we were missing to fill the holes in our hearts. For 10 years, he loved me so loudly that I never thought much about whether or not I loved myself until I ended our relationship.
Today, I will have been ‘technically’ single for over five years. And while I really look forward to having a partner and a family sooner rather than later, I can also easily say that there has never been more love in my life since I’ve been single. Because when I stopped having someone by my side to constantly convince me that I was amazing through his love and care, I had no other choice than to start doing it for myself.
And what an adventure! Falling in love with myself is the hardest and most powerful job I’ve had. It’s a job where you’re on call every second, and for your entire life. Of course, there are days where it’s more difficult to access it, but I was able to reach a place of deep knowing that the love is there, for real. And it’s the most resilient love I’ve ever known, because it comes from within. I forget sometimes, when life gets harder, when solitude turns into loneliness, but then I remember. Over the years my inner observer has become more alert to signs that I’m getting out of resonance. I can, with more and more ease and compassion, get myself to resource in nature, and through earth-centered rituals and self-care practices to come back to this place of deep knowing.
And loving myself has allowed me to love others so much better, so much stronger. My heart warms up just thinking about all the wonderful friends I’ve kept and made during this time, and with whom I’ve developed a new depth of connection. Not being in a romantic relationship has also allowed me to nurture the relationship with my family more, to discover true sisterhood through female friendships, and experience many beautiful variations of male-female friendships. Most of my loved ones are not physically with me every day, and digital communications are definitely not the same, but still they allow us to be reminded of our mutual love when needed. And of course I’m excited for the day I’ll be special to just one person who’s special to me. But while I’m on my journey to this person, my loved ones—my friends, sisters, and family— and I are walking together, showing up and taking care of each other, believing in one another.
These five years of being nobody’s wife or girlfriend have given me the space to become fully me, to feel more, to love more. I’m calling it ‘raw happiness’, because there is no more buffer between life and me. I get to experience every feeling, ups and downs, stronger than ever. I can feel from a second to the other all the subtle changes in my body and my mind. I am alive.
So, from me to you, if ‘all you need is love’… make sure to start with yourself.