how much love is enough?

I wouldn’t know: I’ve never had enough.

I’ve never felt lovable, or even particularly likeable. In reconsidering my past relationships, I concluded that my feeling of needing to be in a relationship at all times was a result of low self-esteem, but it goes beyond that: I have a love deficit.

My parents were (and remain) largely emotionally absent from my life. My dad was more involved in raising me than my mom was, but in a lot of ways he never seemed all that interested in me and has always had difficulty feigning interest in any of my activities. My mom has a strong sense of familial duty, but it’s cool and distant. I can see the roots of my parents’ somewhat chilly demeanor in their childhoods and I accept that they did their best but unfortunately their best still left me wanting. If my own parents didn’t seem to like me all that much (my dad having said that to my face at one point), is it any wonder that I concluded I was fundamentally unlikeable?

When I was a kid, my dad was somewhat more responsive to me than my mom was. I suppose that’s part of the reason why I never really had female friends (I never understood most girls), and by high school I gravitated towards hanging out with guys. Never having seen a warm and loving relationship close-up, I was ill-equipped to judge the quality and success of my own relationships once I started dating.

Given my upbringing, it’s no surprise that I’ve always been reserved. Wolf is too. That’s just one of many things we have in common. Despite both of our tendencies toward insecurity, we’re very securely attached to each other. We make an excellent team and we’ve happily supported each other for years. But in some ways I still feel lonely and disconnected.

I’ve never had a lot of friends, and the friends I’ve had mostly haven’t been terribly close ones. I have one friend from high school; we dated, briefly, and once we got over the fallout from the breakup we re-established our friendship. He lives in the big city now, and while we have great visits when he comes back, he’s very busy and our contact is very limited.

So the feeling of being unlovable persists. Having someone make it unambiguously clear that they value me and want me in their life is very unfamiliar, to the point that if I’d thought about it, I would have concluded that it couldn’t happen. At least, not to me.

Despite Wolf, my life has been a fairly chilly place for a long time, but about a year ago that started to change.

My long-distance friendship with Gawan turned into a close friendship and then love, and Gawan’s love is the warm kind. His off-hand observation that I was “very reticent” got me thinking. I never decided to wall up my heart to keep it safe; I wasn’t deliberately closed so I thought I was open. But what if I was wrong about that? What if that reticence was keeping people away?

Opening my heart to Gawan was challenging. I had to learn to trust my judgment of him, and then allow myself to trust him. I had probably learned from my parents from infancy that people probably won’t meet my needs so it’s better not to ask and be as independent as possible. Despite the fact that most of my later experience tended to confirm that belief and told me that I would probably be rebuffed, I practised allowing myself to be vulnerable and express my needs and wants to him in the hope that he would respond kindly. And he did, every time without fail.

Wolf has filled many of the holes in my heart, and Gawan has filled others, but more remain.

But then just a few days ago, I had a pleasant surprise. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

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