“We accept the love we think we deserve.” Stephen Chbosky, –The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I read this novel years ago (before the movie was released, of course), but it wasn’t until a few months ago I came to realize the beauty of this quote and how essential it is to how we live. For about four years, I was in one of those relationships where everyone told me I deserved better. My friends couldn’t understand why we were together. My parents made it clear they wanted so much better for me.
I’m sure even his parents were confused as to why I would stick around. It was apparent to everyone, except me, our relationship was not healthy and I was clearly settling for less.
Did I listen to any of them? Like the incredibly mature and intelligent person I was during my high school and early college years, of course not.
While the breakup itself was mutual, I had an overwhelming sense of failure as a result of our decision. I had wasted four years on a relationship that went nowhere. A fair amount of my friends were beginning relationships and some were even getting engaged.
Even though they outwardly expressed this, I felt the decision had let down my parents and family because there was no chance of a wedding in the near future while so many others my age were finalizing the plans for their own.
Here I was halfway through my junior year of college just now getting into a dating scene that was much different from the high school one I was used to.
I spent four years putting someone else’s happiness before my own and received hardly any sign of appreciation or recognition for it. I fell into the traditional role of women who fall silent and become incapable of voicing opinions no matter how high the level of passion I had in an attempt to comply with what was expected of me.
So I continued this cycle in an attempt to hopefully gain some sort of reward, unsure of what exactly that would entail. I couldn’t accept the fault was in someone else. It had to be me. It had to be something I was doing wrong. I wasn’t sacrificing enough.
That’s how I thought a relationship was supposed to work. It was the only way I’d known how to go about conducting a relationship. I realize there is some amount of sacrifice that occurs in relationships. But usually, that comes with compromise. There was no compromise in my relationships.
It was all sacrifice on my part. I would make sure I was available to drop everything on the off chance a guy would want to see me.
Rearranging my entire schedule became a daily routine. I feared if I wasn’t readily available, my presence would soon be deemed unnecessary and no longer needed. I had felt this way for years and continued along this unhealthy way of thinking, even though my long-term relationship was over.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this entire process is witnessing your former significant other treat someone else the way you always hoped would be you.
It’s easy to scoff, assume a disgusted look and say “Good luck dealing with him,” but it’s rare when that statement turns into the question of “How did she get so lucky?”
As a result, questions of unnecessary fault in ourselves begin to surface: What did I do to not deserve that? Why am I not good enough to receive that kind of treatment? Am I not important enough for someone to treat me that way?
The most difficult lesson to accept is that your presence in someone’s life isn’t always going to benefit you. I’ve had to accept that my role in his life was to make him a better person, even if I wasn’t the one to directly reap those benefits.
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
It saddens me to know it took twenty-one years to realize the depth of this. Love isn’t sacrificing happiness for someone who will never return it.
Love isn’t control.
Love isn’t silencing your identity to satisfy someone else. There are so many things I’ve come to realize love isn’t that I’m not sure what love actually is now. But I will in due time. I know I’m worthy of it and I know I deserve it in the same way we all do.