Happy Love Yourself Day
Because self-love is NOT selfish
There were only two times my husband got on his knees—the first was to ask me to marry him, and the second was to ask me for a divorce. I loved him so much—how could I say no either time? And I’m still in therapy, but it’s all good.
I grew up with love expectations. Whether it was getting flowers and chocolate, a hot date, Netflix and chill, or planning a lifetime of happily ever after, my expectations left me feeling like a failure when the marriage ran out. Just like it takes two to tango, it requires more than one person to keep the love fires burning, and I couldn’t do it alone.
From my earliest memories, I was taught to love others more than myself. To guide my life, my parents had me memorize a little acronym as a child. It went like this—
JOY is to love
Others next and finally
And so, I poured myself into my relationships which wasn’t very hard for an Enneagram 2. I actually thought loving others was my love language.
After my divorce, I’ve had to rethink my definition of love. I’ve begun to question when I actually loved myself. Not very often. Most of my energy was put into loving others, and I often ran out of energy trying—as Brené Brown put it, “I was hustling for self-worth.”
These days, I offer grace to my younger self and my young husband. We were just kids raised in a fundamentalist church that did NOT affirm LGBTQI+ people. My ex was gay, and I knew this when I agreed to marry him. He was my best friend, and he’s still my best family.
Our love has not diminished because we are no longer married, but our relationship has changed. We are more authentic than ever because he doesn’t need to pretend anything, and I am not expecting anything more than friendship.
This new status of our relationship has confused a lot of people. Some were disgusted and ghosted us. Others, who were affirming ahead of us, wondered why it took us so long to break up. Years of sexless marriage seems terrible to some people, but you have to realize we were deep friends, and we both felt he had no other option for marriage.
It wasn’t a sad life; we often got along better in our mixed marriage, than some of our friends in their straight marriages. We enjoyed the same movies, the same music, the same table games, the same food, and we both loved to travel all over the country exploring new places. We laughed a lot.
Those thirty years of memories and all the fun we had still warms my heart. It’s made me who I am. That’s why writing my next two memoirs has been a joy.
The song I chose for our wedding was “When I think of Home” by Bryan Duncan.
When I think of home
When I'm tired and feeling homeless
I come to you
You're where my heart is
I realize part of the reason my ex felt like home was because he allowed me to be myself—something he couldn’t do as long as he stayed connected to the church because of their stance on LGBTQI+ lives.
I won’t lie. Letting go of my husband wasn’t easy. It broke my heart at first, but I wanted to give him what he gave me—the freedom to be himself. Setting each other free to be ourselves is the greatest gift one person can give another.
I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love because love liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold; that’s ego. Love liberates!
Giving him his freedom wasn’t without consequences. It wasn’t easy to split up. It was rough to figure out how to survive on my own. Not only did I lose my marriage, but I lost many of my local church friends. Those who still speak to me are true friends, but it was a bummer to discover how many were superficial.
My transition was made even more difficult by churchy people who wanted to save my marriage. I changed through this process. I went from sobbing to becoming an outspoken ally for LGBTQI+ people. This rubbed many of my former friends the wrong way. I guess they liked me better when I was crying. At least then, it seemed I was affirming their non-affirmative theology.
Churchy people get frustrated when I stand up for my ex’s right to be himself, but I can’t care what people think who’ve never loved an LGBTQI+ person deeply. Such people have no idea of the suicidal struggles of those who feel rejected by God, family, and the church. For me, the first law of love is that it doesn’t place any limits on how to love. I believe Jesus is love and supports love in all forms. And I have decided to follow Jesus.
I've discovered even more love in the middle of all this chaos. I’ve discovered an ability to love others and myself like never before. I do things I never did before—some of these new habits are self-care—like going to the doctor regularly, eating right, exercising, and spending time getting to know myself. Some of these practices are joyful journeys into my own mind to understand and find joy for myself instead of giving it all away to others. And I feel God’s pleasure in all of these choices.
I’m not afraid to buy myself flowers. I’m not afraid to make art or write the truth. I now ask bigoted or narcissistic people to leave because there’s no place for such abuse in my life or home. In the process of liberating my ex, I have been able to liberate myself from people pleasing.
Being single does not have to be lonely. Solitude can be a blessing. Taking time for self is not selfish. It allows us to love ourselves better than our parents and former lovers. It shows us how to create the life that we want instead of what others dreamed for us.
So farewell to the Disney fantasy of ever after—it’s time to love ourselves!
Little Red Survivor Tips is always free. It’s just my thoughts about surviving at the intersection of family, narcissistic and religious abuse, and current events.
I also wrote a book Chasing Eden, about my strange childhood.
If you’d like to discuss writing memoirs, reading them, or would like a sneak peek at my next book, To Uneat an Elephant, you can subscribe below.
Thank you for sharing your love-journey! I'm with you on loving one's self: even as we need to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, so we need to be as emotionally healthy as possible before we *can* understand others, and be able to love them.
I'm glad you and Raleigh were able to be there for each other for so long. So sorry for the pain involved at the end of the marriage.
Reveling in the freedom you enjoy! May it bloom and grow forever!
Love you, my friend--always!
The song the fundies (not Adventist) taught us as children was an exuberant piano-studded waltz setting for "Jesus and others and you! What a wonderful way to spell joy...." etc. Your commentary here is lovely, peaceful, and healthy. Thank you for sharing this stage of your love journey with us: that of loving yourself. I am looking forward to reading your next memoir installments. So, love and peace to you on this Valentine's Day.