No one starts out with dating thinking I would really like a mediocre love. I’ve literally never heard anyone articulate that their dream is just to settle for someone and then stick by their side whether they like it or not forever and ever amen. That’s just not how it works.
Most of us hope for an epic love. The love of love songs. The kind of love affair that inspires poetry. We want #relationshipgoals.
But somewhere along the way, we convince ourselves- at least, some of us do- that we can’t have #relationshipgoals. We begin to compromise on what we want. We decide that we don’t really have soulmates, and a good relationship is good enough even when it feels like something is missing.
We take that mentality and apply it to work and to our families. If we ache for something more, we make ourselves feel better by telling ourselves that what we want doesn’t exist anyway. If it’s not real, we’re not missing out.
The flipside is that there are people who believe they have an epic love who actually have an unhealthy, codependent relationship. They don’t feel like they’re missing out because they have mistaken high drama for big love.
There’s a push and pull aspect to the relationship, a can’t-live-with-you-can’t-live-without-you mentality. Or the relationship is so bonded that there are no outside friendships and activities. Everything done is done together. It’s the I-can’t-live-without-you idea of love, and it’s deeply unhealthy.
Epic love isn’t a relationship where you are required to give up who you are and merge into the relationship. It’s not high drama and jealousy. It isn’t manipulative or dishonest, and it sure as hell doesn’t derail your personal growth for its comfort.
We can tell ourselves that epic love, soulmate love, doesn’t exist. That what we want isn’t realistic. We can keep saying it, but we don’t believe it. Something inside us keeps reaching for it.
After all, I was married over a decade to someone who didn’t feel like my epic love. I told myself soulmates don’t exist and that I had the stability of a forever kind of love even if it wasn’t epic. But I still felt the reaching inside me toward the idea of something else- a fragile, nebulous idea of what love might be. I hid my longing inside of romantic comedies, Hallmark movies, and novels with love bigger than I could imagine in my own life.
After my divorce, I kept telling myself that soulmates didn’t exist. For a long time, I believed it. But as I began to bloom into authenticity and truth, a funny thing happened. All my former beliefs, formed from unhealthy experiences, shifted. I began manifesting the life I wanted, raising my vibration. I did this through the practice of vulnerability and authenticity. I began to live the way I wanted to live, creating happiness in the now instead of in some undefined future when other things fell into place. I began to practice self-care, self-love, and gratitude. I moved from a mindset of scarcity to abundance. And I believed, again, in soulmates.
Epic love is possible, but it bears no resemblance to the unhealthy love we’ve known.
In fact, the very fact that it is nothing like what’s come before will stop us in our tracks and trip us up. We want to keep reacting in the ways we always have, and yet this is different. We have to unlearn the old ways of loving and embrace this new, healthy, deeply connected- yet not codependent- love.
We think epic love is so much fiction because no one can give us an exact route to get there. Love isn’t one-size-fits-all. But I think I can give a few general guidelines, a roadmap if you will, to finding epic love and knowing it when you see it.
Epic love requires courage. It requires us to be willing to learn a new way of being within a relationship. It asks that we step up and take the risk even though we’ve been hurt before and could be again.
Epic love also requires our willingness to be deeply vulnerable. There is no courage without vulnerability. Instead of behaving in the old ways of unhealthy relationships, we have to learn to admit when we feel insecure, to talk about our baggage and wounds, and to show up in the relationship with a level of honesty we’ve never experienced before.
We have to be able to say that we’re not perfect, and we have to be able to experience the other person for who they are and not any preconceived expectation of who they might be or should be.
We just can’t half-ass epic love and expect it to stay, well, epic. When we make the right connection and find the right person, it’s not time to settle back into old and unhealthy patterns. Instead, we are tasked to step up and be our best selves because epic love requires it of us.
When I say best selves, I don’t mean the ideal of who we should be. Throw away should. Our best selves are the versions that are the most authentic. It’s who we are at our deepest level of truth.
When we become our best selves in this love, we meet our partners where we are, and we meet them as they are. There is no deception, no hiding our flaws. We find so much gratitude for a healthy, full, connected love that we want to put in our best effort. We want the other person to feel loved and secure in the relationship, and we don’t waste time playing games.
We put in the effort, and the effort is returned. The relationship isn’t just maintained; it’s nurtured.
The wrong person who makes an effort is still the wrong person. When we can acknowledge that and move on, we clear the way for the right connection. In fact, we stop trying to make the wrong people be the right ones. We don’t try to align their qualities with what we want. We simply show up as our truest selves, and we meet them to see who they are and not who we want them to be. We don’t try to force the connection, nor do we judge others who don’t feel the connection with us. We accept that the right person will love us for who we are, and the wrong person never will.
Epic love will never come from a poor fit. It won’t come from compromising our value system. It will feel right because it is right.
I’ve heard a lot of soulmate stories, and most of them sounded, frankly, boring. It was comfortable. It was easy. It just worked. It sounded more like settling than an epic love, but I’ve decided that maybe it wasn’t adequately explained because it’s hard to share that truth with someone who hasn’t experienced it. But I’ll try.
When they say it’s comfortable, they don’t mean like an old shoe. It’s like your person walks into the room, and everything inside you shifts. Pieces fall into place. A lightness and a rightness flood your being. Yes. This. Clearly.
It doesn’t feel boring. The chemistry is there. Sexuality, sensuality, curiosity, interest — all the components are present. It just feels right in a way that we’ve never experienced before. Of course.
When they say it’s easy, they don’t mean that it doesn’t require energy or effort. After all, courage and vulnerability aren’t easy. What’s easy about it is that there’s no ambiguity. It’s right, and it feels right, and if it’s healthy, the other person isn’t trying to keep us off-balance. It’s easy in that the fit is so perfect that it just falls into place.
Connection, conversation, humor, interests. It’s not that we have the exact same interests with our partners. It’s that we don’t have to stretch to find something to talk about. The conversation is easy, which is not to say it’s boring. It’s never boring. There is energy and effort, but it doesn’t feel like trying to make a wrong fit into the right one. It works, but it’s not because we have to make it work.
Epic love rarely comes to us when we keep blocking ourselves with all the wrong relationships and patterns of behavior.
I’m not saying self-improvement is the key because single people are told all too often that the problem lies with them when it could just be a matter of timing or an impact of society’s changing social dynamics. All people should keep growing whether or not they’re in a relationship. So that’s not what I mean.
Instead, I mean that staying in wrong relationships is a natural block to finding the right one. The friend with benefits we can’t let go of may be taking the energy that could be directing us toward a healthy relationship. The unhealthy family dynamic that is draining our emotional resources could be generating a negative vibe that is hurting our ability to attract the right person for us. Casual hookups that we source because we’re lonely and disenchanted might just be consuming the time that we could be using to learn how to love ourselves through the loneliness and hurt of past relationships.
When we choose to only engage in the right relationships and to live the kind of lives we want, we become ready to accept an epic love when it arrives. We’re not running or hiding or reacting to all the hurt that’s built up in the meantime. We’re not codependent or so lonely that we’re grasping to make it work. We can step up to it as our healthiest selves, which helps us have the courage to be vulnerable and to make the effort necessary to nurture the right connection.
Epic love exists whether or not we believe that it does or that we can find it. When we don’t have it and want it, it can feel lonely to acknowledge its existence, as if something must be wrong with us that we don’t have it yet when others do. To that I say, trust the timing of the Universe. Trust the growth process. Let go of unhealthy ways of being and toxic relationships that drain your resources and energy. Step away from drama, and learn to love yourself with all your quirks and flaws.
Epic love will come. It won’t have to be hunted down, and you won’t have to beg for it. Epic love, for me, came first in myself. I loved myself more than I ever thought I could. It was enough.
When I found epic love with another human, it was just the icing on the cake of so much self-love.
I found my courage. I embraced my vulnerability. I put in the effort because he is so worth it that I cannot even adequately express my gratitude for this relationship. It was the right connection, and I didn’t have to force it or chase it or be anything other than who I am. He showed up with his own self-love and his own dreams, and he’ll never ask me to compromise mine.
We need the icing on the cake, not a hero on his white horse. We don’t need anyone else to save the day. We just need to save ourselves, to love ourselves, and to believe that we deserve more than mediocrity in love.
Contributing Writer Medium
Former therapist turned writer. 1st novel from Sands Press coming Fall 2019.