The Chase Isn’t The Relationship 

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I looked in the mirror a lot over the last few months. Some time in mid-April one of my friends explained the notion of mirror work to me and the role it can play in learning to love yourself. 

I would prop my laptop on the vanity, sit crosslegged on a velvet chair, and from time to time just smile at myself. They were subtle looks, like the kind you steal from the guy who sits across from you at a coffee shop, but no matter their subtlety they still had the same effect that a guy with nice brown eyes and trimmed beard would have had on my heart. 

Each look stolen was a look gifted right back to me. I was flirting with myself and the chase was an experience to be reckoned with because with each look I accepted a reality I’ve learned you need to accept if you want to have a relationship with yourself, or anyone else — we are all complicated individuals. 

My smile wasn’t just meant for the reflection in the mirror, it was also meant for the girl who was struggling to put weight back on after a hard couple of months, for the one who was learning to accept that real love wasn’t a fairytale or the things she talked to friends about on rooftops over beers — it was harder. 

It was lived. 

It was everything after the chase. 

I remember praying to God before I fell in love about the perfect guy. I wanted him to be tall, have brown hair, have a love for music and an appreciation for me. I wanted from him an ideal and not a person. I got a person. We so often do. 

And it’s why we cop out of dating, relationships, or committing altogether. We didn’t sign up for a person who struggles or has more confused days than they do anchored ones — we wanted someone who wasn’t like us. My best partner has been the one who mirrors me the most. I think this is true of anyone who has ever loved. To that truth I’ll add that loving someone who mirrors you is the most real, uncomfortable love you will ever be in the presence of. 

One look at a him was a reminder that I loved him during a season when past versions of me would have judged a girl for loving — growth. My humanity was written in his eyes and all over me when I looked in the mirror. We grow uncomfortable in love and in commitment because it asks of us things that we hoped others would just be able to give us. 

We honestly feel cheated out of a reality we were never promised. Daydreaming about partners who won’t struggle with liking themselves enough to help us like ourselves is why we end up royally disappointed. We romanticize the relationship and never add the messy process of building it into the equation. 

Relationships aren’t synomous with highlight reels, they’re synomous with life and even more intimate than that. After the chase, you’re left with two individuals trying to figure out how to navigate their lows in front of another person. It’s why so many people leave. Abandonment doesn’t just stem from a place of needing to run, it’s about needing to run away from…them, yourself, the reality that no one will ever be able to do the hard work for you that helps heal your own wounds. No matter how deep or long the relationship, you are still alone when wrestling with your ghosts, the silver lining is that being naked in that way at least means double the body heat. 

Whether the honeymoon phase ends days, weeks, or months into the relationship, just know that it ends and it should. Once the chase is over is when you start negotiating boundaries and understanding whose self-worth is anchored where. 

For every time I looked in the mirror in hopes I would find answers to my self-worth, I saw a twenty-something year old who was craving connection, but praying for perfection — so, I could have been any of my friends. 

We look for perfection in them, in the relationship, in the messaging that others digest when they hear about us. If we never break out of the chase mentality, we’re condemned to a life of caring more about what it looks like than about what it feels like. And to paraphrase Drake, I know many a girl who is in a wonderful relationship until she puts her phone down. 

From the get, I’ve prided myself in being honest with the layers that exist in all the relationships that I am a part of. Time hasn’t changed my ability to pride myself in that. I admittedly wanted perfection, but I was deliberate in never claiming to have it. Because I didn’t then, I don’t now, I never will. 

My only constant truth has always been that I am a complicated person. Dating for me isn’t easier or harder than it is for you. It’s layered and love as a thing to hold has always been fleeting because the only physical manifestation of love of others is another person who can’t sit still. 

The only person I have ever been able to control is the one who flirted with me in the mirror and taught me the relationship isn’t about the chase, it’s about the relationship.