The phrase “the love of your life” is tossed around in movies and on TV, with our friend group, with everyone we know. But what happens when the love of your life dies? I got married when I was 18, to the love of my life. I thought I would spend forever with him. I imagined that once our 2.5 kids were grown, he and I would ride off into the sunset in our custom R.V. That didn’t happen; he died when I was 39. He died in the middle of our lives, leaving me to question so many things, especially the phrase “the love of my life.”

If I already had the love of my life, and it was over at 39 what was left for me in the love department? Would I wither away like a grape in the sun, never being loved by the love of a lifetime again? Would I start to collect copious amounts of cats, even though I am allergic to them? I was devastated, not just because I was alone but because my worldview was shattered. I had never once thought that there could be more than one epic romantic partner in your life; I was naive. I convinced myself that I could find love again, so off I went, searching for some unknown, undefined epic love after my loss. I joined every free dating site I could find.

I juggled dating sites obsessively, spending hours chatting with anyone that I could. I told myself I was open to anyone. I told myself that I couldn’t exclude any man that I matched with even if we didn’t have any of the same values or life goals. Heaven forbid I have any standards on a quest for another epic love. I spent years trying to craft a romantic life I felt I needed, ignoring my instincts and dating men because they liked me, firm in my conviction that I was not desperate, just open. My conviction lasted until it didn’t.

Struggling, alone in my room after another failed date, I turned on the TV to numb myself. The station landed on a woman talking about how she was her own best friend. Before I could change the channel, her words seeped into my brain. “My own best friend” kept echoing in my thoughts. What if I became my own best friend? What if I just stopped obsessing about my next romantic relationship and fell in love with myself. Perhaps that phrase “the love of your life” doesn’t pertain to anyone but yourself.  Being the love of my own life wouldn’t happen overnight, but I decided to try. I deleted all of my dating apps and began to treat myself with kindness and love. I decided that if I never fell in love with another person, I would always have me.

I made a commitment to myself that I am the true love of my life, and I chose to be in a relationship with myself. I decided to treat myself with all of the love and compassion that I was searching for in unavailable men. There is a saying that the destination doesn’t matter but the journey does, loving myself first has been my journey. In this journey I discovered that there is no end game to being my own best friend, it is a daily dedication, and some days are more challenging than others. And on these days, I remind myself that I am worth it.

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Tanisha Wallace Porath

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