Before (and after) I met Roberto, I heard countless times that I would find love just as soon as I stopped looking for it. This advice is often paired with a Pinterest style prescription for self-love. Once I fell head over heels in love with myself, I would be irresistible to others. Once I stopped craving companionship, I’d have a waiting list of people wanting to keep me company. Once I “got over” the pain of my past, I could finally enjoy my present. And while it’s true that no one can make you happy, this advice never worked for me.
To be human is to be in community with others. It’s a lie to suggest that any of us actually go it alone in this world. We need each other.
I strongly believe that our culture’s misplaced obsession with unadulterated self-reliance is a reflection of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. We love to tell tales of the “self-made success” — the lonely hero of capitalism that eschews the needs, desires, and feelings of others in their solitary climb to the top. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a One Man Show and there is plenty of time for compassion and companionship after you take care of Number One. Love is your reward for not giving a damn. Once you stop caring about people completely, you’re finally ready to marry one of them.
I love myself enough to admit that I need other people. I am my best self when in community with others. I couldn’t be the me I love to be if it weren’t for the we.
When Roberto and I began formally dating, I needed him and I’m not ashamed to say it. I needed him like I need you. I’m not fully myself when I’m all by myself. And this is the tricky part — the paradox you won’t find on Pinterest. Roberto doesn’t complete me. He’s not my missing piece, my better half, my media naranja — none of that. But loving him — and being loved by him — helps me complete myself. I couldn’t do it without him.
I wasn’t ready to love Roberto because I finally stopped needing him. I was ready to love Roberto because I finally accepted how much I need him, after all. Experiencing his unconditional acceptance has changed how I treat yours truly. Practicing kindness, patience, and humility in our relationship — regardless of how unkind and impatient we feel in the moment — teaches me how to be kind and gentle with myself. Marveling at Roberto’s unique strengths and skills reminds me that I don’t need to do it alone.
I love myself more because I love Roberto, not despite him. It doesn’t mean he’s my media naranja (the other half of my orange) as they say in Mexico. Instead, Roberto helps me see myself as my own orange — in a big ol’ bowl of fruit.
I read this poem to Roberto on our 17th wedding. I think Walter Benton says it best:
Because hate is legislated…written into
The primer and the testament
Shot into our blood and brain like vaccine or vitamins
Because our day is of time, of hours—and the clock hand turns,
Closes the circle upon us: and black timeless night
Sucks us in like quicksand, receives us totally—
Without a raincheck or a parachute, a key to heaven or the last long look
I need love more than ever now…I need your love,
I need love more than hope or money, wisdom or a drink
Because slow negative death withers the world — and only yes
Can turn the tide
Because love has your face and body…and your hands are tender
And your mouth is sweet — and God has made no other eyes like yours.