I came across this question in the book How To Fall In Love With Anybody. I’d heard it before but I can’t remember where.
It’s the most important thing you can ask about your romantic partner or any relationship really. Does being with this person make you better? Do they bring to your better qualities, do they tacitly or implicitly encourage you to be the person you want to be?
The feeling of ‘love’ can be completely wrong, it can be fooled, it can be created in a lab or by a story, it can be manipulated. People cling to the word love like it answers all questions, like it’s the trump card to all rationality.
This is wrong, and it arouses contempt in the rationalist heart.
People often want an excuse away from being their best self. Because being your best self takes work and they may find the best they can be is not the best they thought. So they hide behind things, things like loving someone they consider inferior and taking silent relief in being dragged down.
Imaging you could do something if you really wanted keeps people from doing so many of their cherished things. And thinking that they gave up some cherished dreams for love let’s them feel that they could have done it and that they’re a noble romantic figure. That’s much better than admitting you got laid and gave up on your dreams for it.
I’ve dated people that didn’t make me better, in the past, before I was the insightful author you see before you, last year. I – briefly, no surprise – dated someone who I thought was so much better than me it brought out my shittiest qualities, qualities so shitty I didn’t even know I had them.
And I just tried to make it work because it had a story book beginning so I thought it had to have the story book ending.
Paradoxically, thinking I’d never be good enough for her, partially because she was a massively judgmental bitch, caused me to get even worse. I was desperate, reaching for rungs on a ladder I felt were too far away. I got more and more needy the more my needs weren’t being met.
In my relationship now though I was loved for all that I am and not in spite of it, and paradoxically that made me want to get better. I felt the safe base from which to go forward and try.
I’m in a relationship where being the best version of myself feels like and act of love for her. She invested in this clunker so let’s fix it up and make it a gem. I’m a thrift store diamond in the rough and I’m proud. And that pride is what makes me able to healthily make improvements for their own sake.