Being as how this was an abnormally busy week I found myself with lots of ideas running through my mind and little time to write them out, articulate them or even discuss them at length with anyone. But one common thread ran through the various ponderings and it came down to the issue of ‘the desire for love’.
Mother Teresa, known for her work among the leper colonies and providing care to the sick and dying of India, once said, (to paraphrase..) “Leprosy is not the worst plague to happen to mankind. It is instead to go through life unloved.” Although there was little she could do to restore the health of the many infected people she came across, she devoted herself to giving them the one thing they needed even more.. to be loved and cared for. These people knew that with with her and her helpers they’d not die alone. Someone was there to wash them, feed them and hold their hand even in their final hours.
One of my e-mail friends wrote me during the week, “You’d like to be in a relationship.. wouldn’t you?” I wrote back that my answer was both “Yes” and “No”. Yes, I would like to be in a healthy, mutual, loving relationship with all its bumps, arguments, making up and tenderness.. but no, I don’t want to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in one. The reason I knew the difference for myself is that I’ve had at least three women approach me with the mind of having a relationship in the last two years and each time I tactfully stated that a friendship was as far as I saw myself involved with them. Either ‘mutual desire’ or unhealthy character differences between us prevented it from going any further. Conversely, I’ve come to know women for whom I have had long-term, deep feelings for and found myself in the opposite situation where the ‘desire’ was not present within them.
As tempting as it may be to get involved before there is an actual, mutual desire it seems at best a gamble and at worst reckless to do so. This brings us back to the value of simply being friends first rather than try to force the issue of a relationship upon someone who is opposed to it. I have a co-worker who told me yesterday of how he and his wife were friends before having a relationship together. It seems to be working out quite well for them as they’ve progressed into marriage and parenthood together.
Looking back at the times I broke up with a girlfriend, I remember the hardest days were the first few after the actual break-up. Getting used to that first weekend without them and missing the routine of doing things with someone special. It was tempting to think that the answer was to return to that person thinking that they were the answer to this. But after really giving it some thought I saw that it wasn’t her aloofness or distant attitude that I missed.. I just missed having someone I thought cared for and loved me. I missed what all our hearts yearn for… to be desired. For I knew that if the girl I’d broken up with were to come back, along with her lack of desire or concern, I’d not be any happier than before we’d broken up because her heart was not turned with a desire for me in particular. She had that desire for another man, and this was more to the issue than her behavior itself.
I’ve come to believe its a scary thing to actually encounter what we really desire. Deep down we know we want someone who is respectful, tender, faithful and sincere in their feelings towards us but when we actually meet that person suddenly we find ourselves unsure how to handle the situation. We meet so many people who don’t have these qualities, or have them but don’t care to share them with us, that it becomes what we are familiar in dealing with. It takes some getting used to both being treated well and the responsibilities to then be a loving mate in return.
For over a year I spent every other weekend at an orphanage in Tecate. There were about 23 kids on average and one of the kids I became familiar with was Louis. Louis was seven years old when the director of the orphanage found him on the streets living from garbage and whatever he could find or take. Suddenly Louis went from living alone by his own wits to sharing a room with three other boys and having a large family with very loving, giving people who genuinely cared for his daily welfare. Now, instead of scrounging one meal at a time wherever he could, Louis along with the rest of the kids would sit down to three meals a day on a regular schedule.
But for at least two months Louis kept sneaking food in his pockets and hiding it either in his bed or dresser drawer. He was used to not knowing where his next meal would come from and past experience taught him to always hide some for later. The staff was made up of four of the nicest, most giving women I’ve ever had a chance to meet and yet it took Louis over a year to finally let down his guard and accept affection or play at ease with the other children. The last I saw of him he had adjusted well with the rest of the kids and even began talking of having goals for his life.
We wait and hope for what we want and then when its right in front of us.. we panic. We know how to deal with the aloof, abusive, selfish or immature people from past experience. We are well acquainted with what we desire in a person and get so used to thinking we’ll never find that person that it can take us by surprise when we do meet them. Maybe we even are a bit disappointed that meeting that person didn’t cause us to just lose ourselves in a cloud of romantic euphoria as we’d expect and so we think to ourselves, “This is it? Where’s the music? The fireworks?” And so sometimes we find ourselves running to the one who gives us that instant ‘spark’ of physical attraction or personality hoping they will have the traits of the person we leave behind.
We’re strange creatures, us humans. We know we’re not supposed to jay-walk, but we do it anyway. Could we get killed? Yes. But we do it anyway. We find love and run from it. Does it make any sense? No. We find someone who abuses us like the last relationship and get involved with them. We know better, but.. we do it anyway. Until finally we realize that being loved, being desired by someone who truly cares for us is what makes a person attractive to us in the final end. Not the other way around where we first find them attractive and then hope to ‘mold’ them into someone who will then desire and love us with a passion.
Sometimes a friendship turns into love, other times not. Sometimes we find ourselves attracted to a person and it takes a while to realize its not their looks we admire, but their character we respect. The scary risk at this point is to not run away because it is unfamiliar, but to carefully move forward and investigate if that rare situation known as ‘mutual desire’ is present. If a mutual desire is simply not there, then there is no harm so long as we are tactful and honest in our intentions along the way. But what we cannot do is tell ourselves that all we want is a pretty face or a handsome physique to be happy with a mate. For as the years pass by all these things will fade away.. but to have the love and desire of the one beside you is what survives and satisfies the yearning within us. Happiness is not always found in having the person you first wanted, but in wanting the person you finally have.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.