I have heard, on more than one occasion, a certain piece of advice about deciding who to settle down with in life. With what I’m sure are the best intentions, various women have told me, in so many words, “If you marry someone who loves you more than you love them, you’ll always be happy.” They tell me this with a kind of sage, “it sucks but it’s true” reassurance. They know better, they seem to say, and even if my idealistic visions of what long-term commitment really means won’t accept it right now, one day I will come to understand it. I, too, will partner up with someone who needs me emotionally in a way I don’t and never will quite need them.
What makes me sad about this, though, is not so much the implication of “settling” for someone with whom you always have the upper hand in the emotional power structure, but rather a sense of empathy for what it means to be the person who is loved in return slightly (or profoundly) less. To live the constant, quiet humiliation that comes with being dependent on someone in a way that is not reciprocated erodes the self-esteem like little else can. I know this, of course, because I have been the one who loves more.