Never knew that love could hurt like this/ Never I thought I would/ but I got dissed… Before I heal it’s gonna be awhile/ I know it’s gonna be awhile chile’
– E . Badu, Phase 2, Green Eyes
Anthony Hamilton sang about Charlene. John Legend sang about Maxine. Cody ChestnuTT sang about Michelle. They’re all songs of unrequited love and/or great love somehow gone awry. They’re odes to lost love sung with emotion that belies a wound that’s never really healed by people who gave all of themselves to a relationship that is no more. Listening to the bone-deep agony reflected in these melodies got me to wondering. So like if once you emotionally exhaust all your resources with your First Real Love– your Maxine, Charlene or Michelle– and it doesn’t work out, is it possible to give your all to another relationship again?
I don’t think most folks can. And if you are one of the few who can go full throttle at a second shot at love, I think it’s ill-advised to do so. Now I know I sound jaded, but really, I’m not. I stopped crying over my ex a long time ago. I don’t wonder if I should call him anymore. I don’t wait for the day when he will call me again. When I look through pictures, I can see his and think without regret, “wow, Boy, I really loved you” and keep flipping. I’ve passed the open-hostility-toward-all-men phase. And I slow hurdled through indifference. I finally hit the phase where I’ll contemplate dating again. But I know I can’t give my all to anyone. Most is the best I got to give—and by that I mean somewhere around 70%. Even if I could give more, I honestly wouldn’t.
With your First Real Love, you love and live without the possibility that heartbreak can happen to you. You don’t know true romantic pain so you love with abandon, without safety guards to protect your head and your heart from emotional WMDs. The unwritten promise of that FRL is that if you give your all, it will work. You do your best and it will work. It’s a forever –forever, ever—that you happily contemplate and perhaps take for granted (which is usually why the relationship goes to hell, but that’s another blog.) So once you know that you give your all and it can still not work out, what’s the incentive to give 100% a second time?
The unofficial definition of insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting a different result than the first time. Why arewe still expected to give 100% for a second love when we did that the first time and it all got flushed counter-clockwise down the porcelain bowl? Shouldn’t we be trying something new and making sure we don’t end up an emotional mess again? Along with not making the same obvious mistakes of inexperience we made with the FRL such as not calling enough, not spending enough time, not showing how much we care, etc. shouldn’t we be protecting ourselves better this time around too?
You give 100% to another person and you’re too likely to wind up in alcohol-numbed, teary-eyed heap again. Maybe if you give 80% on the next shot and it all falls apart, you figure it could hurt, but not as bad as going full throttle. You’re still giving a lot and 80% is a passing grade on any exam. Maybe you give 40% and keep a back up on reserve, then when it’s done, you don’t miss a beat. Maybe you give 0% and it’s like the whole relationship–if you can call it that—never even happened. But that’s okay, because at least you don’t hurt again. (I wonder too if there is some correlation in the amount of you that you give to the next relationship and the progress you’ve made in getting over the FRL. Hmmm.) Of course, none of this is fair to the next person you’re in a relationship with, but this isn’t about fair. It’s about self-protection/preservation.
I tossed this idea out the other night at dinner with The Girls. One of my friends likened the way you handle the FRL to the first time you touch a hot stove. You’re too ignorant to know the pain that’s in store, so you just throw down the white-side of your hand and your whole palm gets a first-degree burn. Now you know the swollen pain that your blissful ignorance caused. You’re scared and scarred after the experience and you don’t go near the contraption for awhile. Then you realize you have to at some point if you want a home-cooked meal. You put on the big glove—maybe one on each hand just in case—and THEN you touch the stove again.
I don’t see why love should be any different.