Being Loved Isn’t ‘Work’ When You Find the Right Person
A columnist shares her thoughts on self-love, dating, and chronic illness
As I stood across from him at the train station, his eyes sparkled at me. It was our first date that wasn’t really a date. We talk about it now and laugh. Both of us admit to secretly wanting it to be something official and special. But neither of us was brave enough to send our feelings out into the universe yet.
At that moment, in the way that Felix looked at me, every doubt I ever had about deserving love vanished. He looked at me like I was the only person in the world. And in that split second, with a single look, six years of self-doubt dissipated.
All it took was one look.
Ever since my lupus diagnosis in 2016, a question had plagued me: Did I deserve love at all, let alone from a “healthy” person? But with a single glance, all my worries were dashed. How could someone look at me with such overwhelming love if I didn’t deserve it?
I used to think I knew what people meant when they spoke of “their person.” This past year, I came to find that my assumptions were all wrong. I thought finding “my person” referred to someone who felt like they were mine. Now I see it has nothing to do with them belonging to me, and everything to do with how they make me act and think and feel.
I’ve never subscribed to the ancient Greek idea of the “other half.” While an incredibly romantic concept, I’ve never considered myself to be half of anything. I’m a whole unto myself. With Felix, I don’t feel like I’ve gained a missing part, but I’ve added and enhanced what I already have. It’s not that he was missing, but that together we create something wonderful and special.
Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve struggled with how my chronic illness affects the people around me. The thought of the worst part of me being a burden on my loved ones has long filled me with dread. In 2016, I watched my parents and sisters struggle as I came to terms with having lupus. If the illness and all its symptoms weren’t enough to wrap my head around, there were the ever-changing medications and a long list of side effects that came with them.
Looking into the future, I thought about all the “what ifs.” As I ran over all the potential accommodations that would need to be made for me, my heart sank. Relationships are hard in the best of times. Why would someone want to be tangled up with the added complications of my life with lupus? They wouldn’t.
For a long time, I viewed myself as damaged goods. I never expected to find someone who could give me everything I wanted out of a relationship, because I wasn’t healthy, I didn’t feel whole. I gave my all, didn’t ask for much, and accepted far less than I needed, resigned to the fact that the scales would never tip in my favor. I justified accepting less because I was stuck in this mindset of believing “less” was all someone like me, someone with a chronic illness, deserved.
It makes me sad to look back on that period of my life. It hurts me to know that regardless of how much I gave, I wholeheartedly believed I deserved a lesser form of love. It hurts even more because now that I receive what I give, I know the extent to which I devalued myself.
I lived by the assumption that even if they loved me, my presence and the accommodations that need to be made for me were a hindrance to be endured. It never occurred to me that to the right person, the slight adjustments and patience I need aren’t “work” at all. They’re just a normal part of loving me.
I remember sitting at the airport on a recent trip to New Zealand. We had to be up before dawn to catch a red-eye flight. As we sat at the gate waiting, I began to feel weary. Unprompted, Felix turned to ask if I wanted to sleep on his lap. It was such a small gesture and yet it meant so much to me. There was no effort in him asking. He hadn’t asked in response to anything. He just knew it was what I needed.
When someone really loves you, it’s not an accommodation or a hindrance; it’s caring for the person they love. Those moments, those little things and thoughts that might otherwise go unnoticed, are so important.
This year, I came to a life-changing epiphany: I do deserve love. And even more than that, for the right person, I’m not “work.”
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.