Love Lessons


You lose, you learn *

We could've worked everything out. We could've been the perfect couple. Hell, I'd even venture to say that she could've been good for me, and I could've been good for her.

Maybe we could've been good for each other.

She was about 5'10", with gorgeous hazel eyes and wavy, dirty blonde hair that shone gold in the sunshine. When I first saw her, I hadn't been able to see her eyes, but I had known just by her smile that she was a beautiful person. When she smiled, everything in the world seemed right.

When she cried, though, I would become anyone for her, just to see her smile again. It was one of the only things I hated about her.

She was studying to be a counselor, studying to help children find a college during the school days and children who had suffered from domestic violence on the weekends. She had a heart so full of love that I would smile just watching her sometimes. She was so dedicated to her studies, and so sincere in her intentions. In many ways, she was the last great innocent in this stupid chaotic world of mine, and I loved her for that bit of normalcy that she brought to my life sometimes.

I loved her for much more than that, actually. However, I learned very quickly that love isn't always enough.

We could've lasted. Could've, should've, and probably would've lasted. Only she taught me the wrong lessons.

Maybe that's why could've, should've, and would've all became didn't very quickly.

At first, everything was wonderful. She could handle my life in a way that no one else could, and she was always patient enough to keep me from feeling guilty. She never put any pressure on me to please her. She never made me feel stupid or insecure or incapable. Her voice on the other end could wash away the remnants of a bad day and leave me smiling. She was frighteningly perfect.

That was another part of our problem. She was perfect, but I wasn't.

It wasn't until my imperfections began showing that she began to teach me the wrong lessons. At first, it was a missed dinner appointment here and there, or a missed phone call that she dismissed with a wave of the hand and a casual "It's fine" with that voice that I loved. Eventually, I started to believe it.
I learned that it was "fine" to miss appointments.

Of course, I started to think that maybe other things would be "fine" too.

I went back to the club life with the rest of the fellas, enjoying a dance here and there with a beautiful girl or getting drunk at the bar. Sometimes, I'd kiss another woman in that intoxicated state of euphoria, but it never meant anything. And, to wipe my conscience clean, I would confess. I would tell her exactly how much the kiss hadn't meant, and how much I missed her. And, once we were all talked out, the occasional kiss for another woman was "fine" too.

I learned that lips could sin as long as they didn't lie.

As one might guess, the kisses grew longer and more passionate until lust took over. The first night I found another woman in my bed with me the next morning, I was a bundle of nerves and remorse. I spent the next fifteen minutes on the phone, crying and pleading until the tone in her voice was consoling instead of accusing, and I became immensely grateful when my midnight foray became "fine" too, just as long as it didn't happen again. When it did, another phone call with tears and groveling inspired a second "fine", and the rules changed again.

I learned that fidelity didn't apply under the influence of alcohol, and that any amount of pleading and tears could guarantee forgiveness.

I wasn't serious about the other women until much later, when I would miss appointments (because that was "fine") to go on dates with charming people I had met backstage or at the bar in the lobby. I had many an inspiring conversation with women I'd met only once before recalling that I was supposed to be with my significant other. Of course, after every drawn-out discussion with someone else, she became more and more my insignificant other. Her tone was angry instead of forgiving. And so I would make excuses, rational excuses, until I was outright lying to her just to gain her approval. Every time she accepted the excuse, I would sigh with relief, knowing that another battle was won.

I learned that the inexcusable could become excusable, provided that one could conjure a good reason.

When nothing else seemed rational, I would use my own status and occupation as the excuse. Business became a way out of a date with the insignificant other, and the "I understand"'s would arrive in abundance once the reason of "business" was meekly provided. She never seemed to have a problem with being dismissed for a work affair.

I learned that I could get away with anything because of the persona I had been forced into.

When the tone of the "I understand" became more reluctant and the declarations of "it's fine" became more strained, I would send flowers or jewelry or something nice to make up for my absence. As opposed to taking her out or tucking her in, I would shower her with gifts from afar as I danced the night away in another woman's arms. And, when I called that night, her tone would be more jovial and less accusing, and I would congratulate myself on a job well done.

I learned that I could buy a woman's affection in exchange for my own freedom.

I didn't understand anything that had occurred. I didn't understand the change in myself or my view of the female population. I didn't understand that I was taking advantage of her, or that she was teaching me the wrong lessons. I didn't understand that her empathy and her compassion were more curses than blessings. My understanding came at the price of an entire bottle of tequila and a very practical woman named Hope. In my drunkenness, I managed to explain to Hope my entire relationship, and she told me without hesitation that I was scum and that my girlfriend was either lovesick or lonely and desperate. I was too exhausted to be angry and too drunk to walk away, so Hope's claims eventually sunk in, and then they eventually started to make sense. She told me that I was hurting my girlfriend and myself.

I learned that you can't necessarily create love that wasn't there to begin with.

I learned that, sometimes, it's better to let go than to force yourself to feel.

When I called her the next morning, hung over beyond God's belief and drained from trying to force my way out of a relationship that didn't deserve to exist, she told me the same things I'd been telling myself all night.

Maybe if I'd been faithful she could've felt loved.

Maybe if I'd been honest she could've been the girl I wanted.

Maybe if she'd been less forgiving, I could've seen women in a different light.

Maybe if she'd forced me to listen, I would've heard the things she didn't say.

Maybe if I'd listened, I would've wanted to remain faithful.

Maybe if she'd kept a tighter leash, she could've felt more comfortable.

Maybe if I'd been a better boyfriend, she could've been good for me.

Maybe if I'd stayed on the line that morning when I heard her crying, we could've worked it out. Maybe then we could have tested all of her theories, and maybe we could've discovered the right way to love.

I know this much: when I told her that we were both to blame, I meant it. But I have come to the conclusion that she was right. We could've worked it out.

Maybe we just didn't want to. Or maybe we were meant to let go. Maybe I was supposed to learn that respect for yourself is more important than compassion for others. Or maybe that's what she was supposed to learn.

We could've worked everything out. We could've been the perfect couple. Hell, I'd even venture to say that she could've been good for me, and I could've been good for her. Maybe.

Maybe we could've been good for each other. But she taught me all the wrong lessons, and so I had to teach her how to walk away, and how to respect herself enough to love me from a distance.

I know that, if I get another chance to date a wonderful woman, a perfect woman like she was, I'll be faithful and honest and I'll listen to what she doesn't say. I'll make sure that her respect for herself is equal to the respect I have for her.

I won't make the same mistakes. I'm not the same person. In learning all of the wrong lessons, I started to understand what was right.

And now, looking back, I can't help but wonder if, by teaching me all the wrong lessons, she taught me all the right lessons anyway.

"You Learn"
lyrics and music by Alanis Morissette