They say that in every relationship, there is the lover and the loved. The one who exists solely to please another, and the one who allows him or herself to be pleased. The one who puts their partner above all else, and the one who prioritizes herself. The one who will be left and the one who will leave.
If you pay attention to the relationships around you, you see this dynamic being played out over and over. Although there is love flowing in both directions, there is an anxiety in the Lover that you don’t see in the Loved. The Loved is relaxed and content, his eyes don’t vigilantly follow her as she moves across the room, he drapes an arm casually over her shoulder. The Lover has an air of anxious happiness, she clutches his hand to her, must always be touching him, is quick to jump up and get him whatever he needs.
From the outside in, it seems pretty clear who has the better deal. Why would anyone choose to go through life being the giver of love when you could be the recipient? Who wouldn’t choose to sail carelessly through relationships while someone else gnashes their teeth over you? Who would choose to be the one who does more, gives more, cares more when you could instead be the recipient of all that vigilance?
The truth is though that each role is more complicated than it appears. To be the Lover is to be constantly aware of the risk you’re taking, of the hurt that may come to you. To keep a watchful eye on your partner’s mood, demeanor, and expression; looking for signs that he needs something you haven’t done, wants something you haven’t given.
But there is an exultant out of control feeling about being the Lover. The precarious nature of love fills you with a giddy unsettlement. Your hypervigilance stops you from ever taking your love for granted, and if your relationship ends you can be content with the knowledge that you did all you could, gave all you could.You don’t need over-the-top gestures of affection; you are content with small, sincere gestures of love .There is a freedom and a joy in loving freely and unabashedly, in seeming to exist solely to please your partner.
To be the Loved is to never doubt that you are cherished by your partner. To know that your every need and desire will be met. If your relationship is a guided hike, you sail carelessly down the path while your partner is the tour guide who makes sure your thirst is quenched, your belly is full, and you see all the sights. You relax knowing that your partner doesn’t require anything more from you than your respect and your presence.
But there is also a frustration in being the Loved. A resentment of the selfless giving of which you are the recipient. There is a sense of obligation to the person whose happiness is inextricably tied to your pleasure. A lack of ease in the knowledge that every word you say can cut your partner to the quick. There’s an unease in constant receiving – not knowing when or if all you’ve been given will be thrown in your face. There is guilt and frustration in always being the one who gets, in not having the opportunity to give. To be constantly, ferociously, greedily loved all the time is a kind of jail. You wish sometimes that your partner would just go away and read a book and stop trying to please you all the fucking time.
Most people are firmly in one camp or the other. We go through life as either a Lover or a Loved and we play the same role in every relationship we get in. And no matter what side you’re on, the other side always seems like they have it made.
But tell me dear readers – which are you? The Lover or the Loved? And which do you think I am? Speak on it in the comments.
And speaking of love, check out my friend @djagile’s third-annual Valentine’s Day mixtape The Lov Lane Part III. Certified grade-A baby-making music. Just make sure you name it max