What I Thought Love Was

Illustration By Gracia Lam


So often I’ve coded love inaccurately, friend.

I recognize, after long gazes in the mirror of self reflection, that I’ve wrongly thought love was about being needed.

The broken, the desperate, the lost, the addicted, the abusive…

Bring ’em on, and I’ll ‘love’ the hell out of ’em.

I’ll write your resume when you’re unemployed, plan dinners with your estranged family, buy the necessities for your kids, cook your meals, stock your cupboards and feel…


Look how much you need me, it must be love, right?

Only, it’s not.

I’d distract myself with this feeling of being needed, thinking that it meant that I was valued, that I mattered. That my existence in the space of this individual’s life was something spectacular and magical.

Only, it wasn’t.

Caring for another person’s needs provided me with a vicarious feeling of satisfaction and a temporary sense of self-worth.

Having someone ‘need’ me, made me feel safe.

So often this idea resulted in me attempting to be good, perfect, infallible in order to receive love and attention.

I have never let someone see all of me. My needs, my wants, my insecurities and desires. My fear was, that if I did, I’d be perceived as needy, or as too much.

Constantly wondering if I was good enough,

Additionally, I’d give until it hurt. I’d give until there was nothing left.

Seldom receiving anything in return.

Yet, recognizing if I did, I don’t know if I could have received it

Or if I would have felt worthy or deserving of the kind of love I so often give to others.

So, what does love really look like?

To me today, it means honesty, a safe space. Someone to whom I can share my secrets, my fears, my hopes. Someone who I know will keep these things safe, and for whom I will do the same.

Open and reciprocal affection. A touch. A glance. Connection. A brush of hands as we pass in close proximity. Knees that touch under a table. Lips that meet not out of routine or obligation, but out of true fondness and desire.

Shared interests and passions, particularly in personal growth and wellness, but also just a genuine desire to do and experience new things together.

Mutual respect and admiration. The ability to see one another in our different environments and appreciate one another’s hard work, skills, achievements, and abilities. Respect and admiration that grows from knowledge and familiarity.

Openness. So much openness, especially in conversation. Talking about the hard stuff. The stuff that makes us uncomfortable and wiggly, but results in feelings of being entwined, understood, and deeply known afterwards.

Love is about what is shared and experienced between two people…

Never about being needed,

and never about giving just to receive, nor of giving so much of ourselves away that we hurt.

Love happens between two emotionally available, whole, healthy, strong people.

So this is who I will be, and first fall in love with myself.

In order to ensure that I never fall into the pattern of trying to earn love and acceptance through what I give, or how much I feel that I am needed.


Your Trusted Friend ❤

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