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It’s the scrapes that I regret.
Most of us have them. Love marks. Metaphorical scars where new skin stretches protectively over old wounds that — sometimes — still tingle beneath the touch.
I was forced to scan my scars this week when a friend sent me a message that exposed her own wounds. She wrote:
“I don’t want to fall in love with another man who doesn’t love me,” she wrote, her typed words glowing in my phone beside a picture of a beautiful 30-something woman with an easy smile and an irresistible dimple on one cheek.
Her words throbbed with fear, desire, doubt, and, somewhere, deep beneath all of that: hope.
Hope that this new man captivating her attention might find within himself the courage to take another chance on love, even as the cutting blow of his ex-wife’s infidelity causes him to question the very sanity of monogamy.
I understand her entirely. Her hope is the currency of single life; her fear is the result of the love scars that she, too, carries on her body.
As for her reticent potential suitor with a reflex to stiff-arm anyone offering love?
Well, I understand him, too.
I used to be incapable of love
OK, that’s not entirely true. It’s more accurate to say that I would not love rather than I could not. But that’s all semantics in the end.
The maddening part for me, and, I’m going to go ahead and guess, for the men who attempted to be with me, was that I sincerely believed that I was searching for love. Not searching for just any love, mind you, but searching for the real deal. A soul partner. An enduring kind of love.
The kind of love, for example, that doesn’t suddenly pack a bag and walk out your front door for good, leaving you with this one-sentence backhand chop to the heart: “I don’t love you anymore”.
I don’t love you anymore
One November afternoon my husband of five years and partner of 10 left me with little warning and almost no explanation.
Just 28 years old and ready to start a family with a man that I believed to be the love of my life, I was completely blindsided.
This would become my first love scar.
But in those bitter days of November 2008, my future scar was still a gaping love wound, and I gave it exactly zero time to heal.
I didn’t even allow enough time for the front door to bang shut behind the retreating back of my soon-to-be ex-husband before I packed my own bag, moved to Washington, DC, and threw myself into a new job and a new relationship with earnest hope — and with an unrecognized yet incapacitating fear of abandonment.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody in my life, that rebound relationship failed. I wasn’t ready for real love. Not yet.
But try to tell that to someone preserving a love wound for the masochistic pleasure of picking at the scab.
A 10-year quest in futility
For ten years, I picked at that scab. I simultaneously invited love while pushing away any true possibility for it. I just couldn’t allow for a love that could touch deep enough to leave another scar.
So, instead, I collected surface-level scrapes. The kind of marks that burn and irritate, but quickly heal over, leaving nothing more than a soft reminder of an otherwise forgotten mistake.
When I met Jeff, the man who would become my fiancé, he walked right through the fortress walls that I built around my heart because he encouraged me to allow a protective layer of skin to form over the old but ever-present hurt of my divorce.
The first time that I picked a fight with Jeff, for instance, he recognized my harsh words for what they were: fear of abandonment.
He didn’t take the bait. He entirely ignored my effort to push him away, assuring me, instead, that he wasn’t going to leave. Not then. And not ever.
Of course, he did leave. Though, certainly not by choice.
Jeff was diagnosed with cancer on our first (and only) Valentine’s Day together. He died four months later.
This second love scar cut me to the metaphorical bone.
Was it worth it?
After ten years of scrapes, I let somebody into my heart. I risked a scar and experienced real love — for 296 short but beautiful days.
It was worth it. My scar is a reminder of unimaginable pain, yes, but it’s also a reminder that I would choose to endure that pain again for just one more day with him.
Because of the lessons that I learned from Jeff; because of the way that he taught me to love and to be loved, this love scar is healing more cleanly than the first. It also helps that I learned from that first scarring debacle to acknowledge love wounds and to give them time and space to heal.
So this scar is not a jagged mark surrounded by silly scrapes. It is a mark that I earned from loving deeply. It is a scar that I will never regret.
And, in what might be my greatest love lesson of all, I no longer regret the jagged divorce scar because it pointed me toward Jeff.
Do you know what I do regret?
The scrapes. I regret the scrapes.
That’s what I told my friend when I called her to talk about whether she should risk her heart for someone who may be unable to receive it.
I told her about my roadmap of surface-level marks framed by two scars, one long and one deep.
I told her that the only regrets that I have are found within those stupid scrapes from the past relationships when my skin was never fully exposed; when I risked nothing but likely inflicted a love wound on someone else because I was hell-bent upon protecting myself.
I’ll never know. But I do know that the only way to truly protect ourselves from the potential of loss — whether that loss comes from heartbreak or divorce or death — is to never take the risk of loving at all.
And that’s just no way to live.
So dive in, my friend. There is no promise that it won’t hurt in the end. Sometimes people come into your lives for only a short season. They come for a reason.
The only guarantee is that any wound earned will heal with time, and it will bring the promise of valuable lessons gained if you love deeply — scars and all.
About the Author
Hi! I’m Jen!
I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.