How to love without compromise

DISCLAIMER: I don’t mean to mislead you, compromise is a part of a healthy relationship. But in this particular story, I’ve found that I never needed to give up any of my aspirations to find the happiness I think we all deserve. I hope you won’t.

I’d like to think my story is unique, but in a lot of ways I’m sure it isn’t. I’ve had to make the choices that many other girls have had to make when juggling education, career paths and romance.

I’m here to tell you that you never need to hold back. You never need to let a relationship come before any other life-altering choices if you don’t want it to, and if you prioritize your hard-working hustle over your love life, you’re not selfish for doing so.

I believe the best way to tell you all this without preaching is with a story. Honey, if you’re reading this, I love you and goodluck.

We first met when we were in 7th grade. I was an emo kid with black eyeliner and a love for punk bands. He wore a lot of neon (like a lot). For some reason, we became best friends.

I’d call him everyday after school around 8:00pm and we’d chat until it was light outside again. We got very poor sleep during those last years of elementary school. We’d talk about our beliefs, science, movies, news, families and really anything else that came to mind. He loved cars. I loved books. Nothing about us was the same.

Over the summer he would travel to ridiculous and amazing places, sending me letters over Facebook of all the things he was doing while I stayed home with friends and worked at the Indigo Bookstore.

He was always an option- the friend that was just a little bit more than a friend, and he knew it too. We always agreed it was “never the right time”. That phrase that would haunt me later. We knew we loved each other but I was also in complete denial and never wanted to admit to myself how much I cared.

I know, you’re waiting for me to get to the good stuff. It’s coming, don’t worry.

Basically, our friends had gotten tired of the way our relationship went back and forth. They could all see us struggling, in our final years of high school, to see where this would go next. We’d been growing a part and fighting more because, basically, we wanted different things.

I was always university bound with a deep love for everything educational and he just wasn’t. He became the guy that threw amazing, life-changing parties and went off to explore wild, new experiences. He never wanted to pursue school or think about a hard-and-fast future of any kind, at the time.

He became the first boy to break my heart, which sounds dramatic and stupid in all the ways I hate admitting but it’s true. Our friends kept on telling us that we weren’t interested in each other anymore and our lack of communication at the time made it hard to disprove these stories. We tried, at first, to be honest with each other. Eventually, he grew tired of this distant idea of “us” because it looked like it would never happen.

He texted me on Valentine’s Day that he, “Asked her out”. The “her” that was fun and a part of his world and didn’t push him away.

This boy had saved my life, been a part of my family, was my closest friend and it seemed like everything was falling away. As soon as I got the news I felt sick and destroyed and everything one tends to feel when they’re crushed at 18.

Though, at the time I was choosing between universities. McGill and the University of Toronto. Of course, I wanted to go to McGIll more than anything. I toured McGill in 10th grade and told myself Montreal was my city. This had been my dream, but for the longest time I’d been holding out for a guy that wasn’t mine and a relationship that wouldn’t work.

So I left. I texted him back that day that I hoped he was happy and to never contact me again.

Fast forward a year and a half. I’m in a happy relationship and well into the swing of student living. I got an apartment with a friend of mine. Life’s pretty damn good.

Small confession: I never stopped thinking about this boy. It took me a year for him to not be always, actively, incessantly on my mind. He was such a big part of my life, it felt so strange not to have him there and often my mind would drift to things he’d want to know or thing I’d want to share with him.

Well, life is not without a sense of humour.

He showed up at my door on Christmas Eve. Completely out of the blue. No warning.

I’m back home for the holidays and he’s back from travelling. I fill him in on my life and he does the same and I admit to him that yes, I was totally in love with you. And...he goes white.

He claims he had no idea, he says he wishes he chose me, he tells me that he never meant to loose me and just gave me space because he thought we’d always come back to each other.

Yes, I died a bit inside and had no idea what to feel. I was screaming, crying, laughing, panicking and trying to keep it stone cold all at once. I said to him, “That’s nice and we shouldn’t really keep in contact” and that he should go back home. I tried to be sensible, really.

Eventually, we ended up chatting again and again. He was relentless. He respected my relationship and just wanted to talk and be friends again. It was all very formal, he just wanted to be close again and would respect any boundaries I made. He just knew we were important to each other and wasn’t going to let me go.

For reasons unrelated, my relationship ended up falling through. We were never really that connected in the first place. He was an amazing boyfriend and incredibly sweet guy but everything about us was passive, easy, and independent. We’d go weeks without seeing each other, go days without talking, often living separate lives entirely and that was okay.

I thought that was the kind of love that was good for me- the love that sits politely and patiently in the back of your mind with a quiet voice, demanding little attention.

Of course, that’s not really the kind of love that changes your life.

I called him one night, my to-be boyfriend, as I was stumbling home from a party- drunk. I had to know, were we still just friends? It was so hard to say and I was lucky I had tequila in me.

I told him that I was in love with him and I needed to know if he felt the same -I didn’t let him interject- I said that if he didn’t that was fine and tomorrow we could pretend like this had never happened and let all of this go but for right now I need the truth.

He asked about the other guy, he made excuses about the distance between us, he didn’t want to complicate my life. He was also a little drunk and it was a mission trying to come to a conclusion but it was worth the wait.

In all seriousness, he sighed and answered, “Deanna, have you seen the way I look at you.”

I burst into tears on the spot. Everything came pouring out, every memory and wish and what-if. I called him at 1:00am and we talked until he arrived in the parking lot of his work at 7:00am that morning.

There was no going back after that. He tried to argue that the distance between Montreal and Toronto would be an issue. He said it’d be difficult to see each other and that this was insane. I told him to trust me.

What I actually said, in a fit of frustration, was, “Do you really think anyone is going to love me better than you? No? Good. And there isn’t a damn person here that’s going to love you better than me, so that’s that. End of story. Don’t worry about it”.

I told him I wanted to teach in Asia for a year. That I wanted to travel the world. That I wanted to stay in Montreal. I told him that all of this was more important to me than coming home to Toronto. And he understood.

I like having the space to run my busy life. I’m in school full-time, have 3 jobs, am in executive positions in my extracurriculars and love devoting time to my friends. I love living my life independent of anyone else’s schedule.

He has never asked me to be anything I’m not. He’s never told me not to travel or to not take an opportunity. He’s never held me back from wanting to reach for success. He’s been my most matter-of-fact cheerleader since 7th grade and never once doubted me.

We argue and disagree and want different things all the time, like two regular human beings. But we both know that our happiness depends on making sure the other person also has all the means of success at their fingertips.

It’s this unique combination of selfishness and selflessness. It’s not wrong to want to put things first in your life because they matter to your future. You should find someone that is never going to make you feel like the relationship they see with you is more important than the dreams you’ve envisioned for yourself.  

The little things will always need to be agreed upon, there will always be back and forth and compromise is a part of life. But for your show-stopping things, the big decisions, the ones that make you hold your breath a little before you press send and start your journey- never feel selfish for wanting those things.

In my case, the right person at the wrong time was still the wrong person then. It took a while for everything to work itself out- for us to become the right people. We really did need to grow and come apart the way we did.

And there are still things in our relationship that will never be agreed upon. We’ll probably be debating for the rest of our lives. It’s been a decade of a crazy love affair and it still feels like the beginning. But I’m sharing this because I want you to know that it will all work out.

There are so many kinds of love that will change your life, and self-love is one of them.

Stay real,