The last time I had seen Amanda, she had been happy. She started dating a new guy a couple of months ago and she was happy. But when I saw her Monday evening, she was down and I asked her why.
Her new boyfriend works out of town and spends about half his time on the road for periods of 10 to 14 days. This pattern made the relationship difficult, but she confessed tonight that the real problem is that he seems more interested in spending time with his other friends than with her. He had just come back to town Thursday and was leaving again this morning. He spent the weekend hanging out with his friends — and mostly ignoring her.
“How can I get him to spend more time with me,” Amanda asked me in frustration. “He says he loves me, but when he has time, I’m his last priority. How can I make him care more about us?”
In a strange twist of fate, a Facebook friend had tagged me Monday afternoon in some words I had to say on this subject six or seven years ago. I still agreed with what I posted years ago, but I squirmed at how I had been a hypocrite.
“You can’t force someone to believe you are worth making a priority,” I wrote. “If you try, you will end up bitter, hurt and angry. If a person doesn’t value you enough to make you a priority, it doesn’t matter what he or she says — even if the words are, ‘I love you.’ Love is lived out through priorities and actions, not words and wishes. If you wait and beg to become someone’s priority, you’re not showing how much you love someone else. You’re showing how little you value yourself.”
Ouch. My words stung, because I had allowed myself to ignore the advice — again — over the last few years.
I shared my words from the past — and the coincidence that they had been shared with me this afternoon — with Amanda, but it wasn’t what she wanted to hear.
“I know he loves me,” she said. “I don’t want to lose him. I just have to find a way to get him to see we’re too good together to lose.”
Amanda made some excuses for her boyfriend. Very quickly, the conversation had shifted from her frustration at not being his priority to her finding every reason in the world to justify his behavior. More than anything, she’s so convinced — in her heart — that they belong together that she’s willing to hurt herself now in order for him to come around in the future.
I didn’t push the issue, because she was determined to stick to her narrative. Even worse, I knew it was hypocritical for me to tell her to take my advice — because I’m pretty terrible at taking the advice myself.
It’s rare when I fall in love. It’s so rare that I don’t give it up easily. And when it becomes clear that a woman isn’t going to make me her priority in the way I want, it’s easy for me to make excuses for her or to tell myself things will change.
I wrote those words when I was trying to come to terms with the loss of someone years ago. She had been in love with me, but I backed from her. She was hurt so much by my pulling away that she was too scared to trust me by the time I realized I wanted her. She later told me she was so hurt that she chose someone as her next partner who was as different from me as possible. (It was with sadness that she relayed this story, not happiness. But that’s all I’ll say about that.)
I spent several years pining for her, hoping she would change her mind and come back to me. I honestly thought she would. I put myself through an emotional hell for years, but nothing ever changed. I finally had to accept that she was gone. I woke up one morning and blocked her on Facebook and I realized I was finally ready to move on.
So I learned my lesson, right?
No, I didn’t. I did something very similar — although with very different specific circumstances — just a few years ago. Why do I do this?
I think it’s simply because I grew up longing for the love of the primary woman in my life — that of my mother. Because of our dysfunctional family situation, I didn’t get to experience much of her in my life. I think there’s something in me which still believes this is the pattern for me — that if I love someone, all I can do is hope and beg for her to give me love in return.
It’s a terrible way to live.
Have you really learned a lesson if you know what the lesson is but you can’t actually live it? I don’t know. But I do know that I can’t relinquish love when a woman has made it plain that I’m not going to be her priority.
And that means I’m not placing enough value on myself.
I tried to tell Amanda to put more value on herself, but I haven’t shown the ability to do the same. I’m still working on it. For now, though, I’m just hoping for the day when love will come and stay — when a woman will believe I’m worth building a life with just as much as I believe she’s worth my time.