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I still remember the day she said it. We were having lunch on a regular Sunday and talking about social inequality when she said, “But you know, I really believe that poor people deserve to be poor. If they don’t work hard, then they can’t blame anyone for where they are in life!”
What. I was so appalled that I had no interest in even picking a fight. The prospect of an argument driven by exasperation and righteous outrage made me want to just get up and leave. As it turned out, I couldn’t. I stayed. We had lunch. I swallowed my disgust.
It was only our second date; all things considered, she wasn’t a bad person. She was ambitious, passionate and just the right amount of witty. Born to wealthy parents, she was a little out of touch with certain realities. Her opinions were less malicious than ignorant. I didn’t want to live with that, but I knew that I could. With my previous two relationships having disintegrated spectacularly in spite of how hard I tried to make things work, I no longer had illusions about the “right one”. At the same time, I thought she might change. Or that we would end up making each other better people. Isn’t that actually the reason why we date?
The thing is, all of us start out with some notion of what love is. Too often, it’s a strange amalgamation of impressions sub-consciously culled from books, movies and stories we’ve heard growing up. By the time we’re old enough to learn the ropes and handles of infatuation, longing and pride, we think we know what to expect.
The truth is; we don’t.
The reality of emotions and the people we will encounter are so different from the fantasies we’ve already lived out a thousand times in our own heads.
Nothing prepares us for the complexity and the boredom of genuine human interaction.
Having realised all this with just two failed loves shelved in the depths of my war-weary heart, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Some people never learn.
They’ve nurtured an ideal so impenetrable that they make the same mistakes over and over again. They remain as predictable as a Nicholas Sparks paperback. All it takes are some of those buzzwords, and it moves them in all the right (or wrong) ways.
For these folks, love is not independent of their tendencies to romanticise even the most insignificant of gestures and most toxic of behaviours. Love means that there must be heartbreak.
It seemed as though I too was heading down this path. The difference was this: I was quite sure I knew where my affections ended. I knew I would never marry that girl. At the most fundamental level, we were different people. But there I was. There was no real reason for me to leave her. Or at least no reason that threatened to break me should I continue to lose myself in the way she laughed and the way she looked at me. After all, she was funny and smart and she liked me. Sometimes, I was lonely. And so I stayed.
So I kept an eye on the exit so that I always knew the way out.
And guess what, a lot of relationships work this way. We go through these people, and they exist only to make us better people, or more prepared for the one that will eventually feel like home.
At the end of the day, no one wants to go in blind, building something and realising only way too late that you’ve done a Frankenstein. Exploitive as it sounds, sometimes loving the wrong ones make us better.
So that when the time comes, we can love and protect the love from the “right” ones, the ones that eventually find their way to us.