I miss having someone to miss.
Loving someone can be a paradox. It can be the most rewarding experience of your life, and it can also be the most miserable experience of your life. But there’s something powerful and life-giving about being in love, even in those times which bring deep hurt.
Nearly five years ago, I wrote something one night when I was in the depths of a painful experience of longing for a woman who I missed. It’s not especially well-written, but it’s raw and honest, which has made it my most-read article for the last few years. A lot of people seem to read it late at night, and I get a lot of email from people either thanking me for reassuring them they weren’t alone or else begging for my advice.
At the time, I was deeply in love with a woman who I desperately wanted back in my life. My need for her was painful. It hurt to want someone back so badly, but I still had hope — so there was constant tension in my life. I was in terrible pain from missing her, but I believed the pain would be worthwhile in the end — because I believed in her and I believed she would return.
Tonight, I feel something different. I don’t feel longing or even the pain of loving someone I can’t have. I feel the emptiness of being alone — but it’s different now, because I don’t have love or hope for a particular woman to focus on.
Isn’t that better than the hurt I was feeling when I wrote about the physical pain of missing someone? In some ways, yes.
The tension I was feeling five years ago is gone. There’s no love. There’s no hope. There’s no longing. I can look at a woman who I idealized — someone for whom I invented all sorts of excuses — and realize I’m better off without her, because an emotionally healthy person who really loved me couldn’t have acted as she did.
In that respect, I can recognize all the good things I saw in her — and understand all of the potential for what could have been — but accept there’s nothing of value for me remaining with her. I couldn’t have accepted that five years ago. Or even a year ago.
When you really love someone — even if you can’t have the person at the moment — you are willing to build your life around him or her. You’re willing to bear any burden. You’re willing to make that person your priority. You’re willing to do anything in your power to give comfort or relief for that person’s hurts.
There’s something extremely powerful about that sort of love. For me, it creates a potential for action — and a willingness for sacrifice — that’s impossible to explain or justify.
I desperately miss having someone who I want to love and to serve. The privilege of doing things for someone — and of actively trying to make someone’s life better — is a powerful driver for me. It’s disorienting for me not to have that. It’s akin to losing a personal sense of purpose.
Yes, there’s far less pain for me tonight than there was five years ago. But there’s a different sort of emptiness.
When I loved and needed her — and believed we would end up together — I had purpose. I would have done anything for her. She had complete power over me.
And now, I have no one to love. No one to hope for. No one to fantasize about building a life with. Nobody who needs me — or who I can believe needs me — as much as I need her.
So the feeling tonight isn’t painful or intense. Instead of longing, there’s a lack of anything. Instead of beautiful faith in love, there’s empty acceptance of being alone and having nobody to need.
I want to say that I miss her, but I don’t. Not anymore. I miss loving her and wanting her. I miss believing that she needed me and that she believed in me. I miss believing her words.
More than anything, I miss the feeling of being loved. I miss the feeling of believing that someone loved me and believed in me enough to eventually make me part of her life. I miss the faith that I could believe someone who said, “Never forget that I want you,” meant exactly that.
I miss all of that. I miss it even though it was painful to believe in it when the evidence made it hard to believe.
I want to love again. I need to love again. It’s incredibly difficult for me to find someone who I’m willing to love, for reasons I can’t even begin to explain here. I almost never find someone who’s anything like what I want and need.
So I’m longing for something tonight — but it’s a longing for something brand new, something I hope I can find again.
I miss having someone to miss. The pain at this point is from not knowing whether I’ll find someone new who will be worth trusting enough to fall in love one more time.