love in orbit

growing up, i always had a very specific idea of what my first boyfriend would be like. he would be tall and cute and funny, athletic and smart and loving towards my family. he would have blond hair and blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of his nose, like the surfer boy i used to have a crush on in 5th grade. we would laugh a lot and talk to all hours of the night. he would take me to all-you-can-eat sushi, tell me how much he loved me, and our relationship would be like the ones you saw on instagram – picture perfect, with no hint of the struggles or harsh realities on the other side of glowing social media posts.

this year, i entered my first official relationship and it was everything i thought it would be – and more. he was tall and cute and funny, athletic and smart and loving. we talked endlessly, laughed more, and feasted on instant noodles and take-out – as only poor college students can do. we loved each other fiercely, to the point where the other person was the sun and we were in orbit. however, we were so focused on the new centers of our galaxies that we forgot about the rest of the milky way – an error that would prove detrimental later on.

healthy relationships are all about striking a balance, and we failed to do that. important aspects of our lives were neglected – friends, family, academic and job responsibilities. we became co-dependent. while it’s natural to rely on your significant other for support, you cannot narrow your world down to one person. healthy relationships include two independent individuals, capable of standing on their own, but stronger standing together. we were stronger together, yes, but we couldn’t stand on our own anymore.

today, i’m learning to stand on my own again. i know that no relationship is perfect, but there’s a difference between two healthy, independent individuals working to resolve their incongruities and two co-dependent people trying desperately to expand their orbit. sometimes, they need to stop orbiting for a bit to re-orient themselves. i’m grateful for my first experience with love’s euphoric peaks and gut-wrenching valleys. through it all, i’ve matured and grown and learned how to love better as my definition of love expanded. perhaps what i’ve learned most of all is that you cannot truly, fully, and deeply love someone else until you’ve learned to love and accept yourself by experiencing God’s unconditional love for you. life is a journey. through all the highs and lows, i know that even better things await. i’m excited to see what’s next.

-a.j.

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