Deserving It

DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley looks at phone with boyfriend at sunset

Over the past few months, I’ve been telling my friends, family and online community about my new relationship. “I’m so happy,” I say, honestly, and for those people who can see my face, they know that it’s true.

Do you know what people almost always say back to me?

“You deserve it!”

When I hear this, I always say “thank you” and smile. I know that others are trying to say that they are so glad that I’ve been able to meet someone who makes me so happy. I get it. My dad and many of my friends have used this phrase when talking to me. In fact, I’ve said “you deserve it” to many of my friends who were once single and have gone on to find love.

But the phrase “you deserve it” is a bit strange to me. Because….really? Do I really deserve all of the things that I have in my life?

My new relationship is wonderful. My partner Chris is warm and thoughtful and a ton of fun. He’s great in so many ways and he makes me really happy.

But do I “deserve” him, any more than I’ve deserved anything in my life?

I’m not so sure.

Listen, some things are deserved. I haven’t ever really gotten a promotion at work, but my students picked me to speak at graduation, and that felt like something that I got to do because I did a good job as their teacher and mentor. On a good day, hundreds of people will read my blog because I just keep putting out post after post, and this means that sometimes a bigger publication will run an article of mine. I can now run an 8 minute mile because I made myself get up and run, morning after morning. I think it’s fair to say that I “deserve” these things in my life. I worked hard for them.

But my partner? I didn’t do anything to deserve him.

Yes, I’ve been actively dating. Yes, I went to enough therapy so that I could open my heart to someone new. Yes, I allowed him in my life when the opportunity presented itself.

But did all this happen because I “deserve” it? I don’t think so.

Listen, I know dozens – maybe hundreds – of widows at this point. A handful of them are my friends who I communicate with on a somewhat regular basis. Many (most?) of them want to find love again, even if the emotions behind finding that love are quite complicated. Many of them are actively trying to find someone.

And many of them aren’t having any success.

My widow friends, male and female alike, are smart and funny and interesting. They are dynamic and beautiful. They are people who really know what is important in life. So why aren’t all of them finding love? Do they not “deserve” it?

Of course not.

We all deserve to find love.

I’m not just talking about my widow friends, of course. As a teacher, one of the things I hope for each of my students is that they will find a wonderful partner in this world. I love when I hear that people in nursing homes or prisons or refugee camps have fallen in love. Why? Because all humans deserve love. Every single one of them.

Are there ways to make yourself more open to love? Sure. There are hundreds of books written on this idea. But really, is finding love something that you earn, like a promotion? No, not at all. In a lot of ways, finding love is a lot of dumb luck. I didn’t do anything special to find my new partner. I merely let myself be open to the new relationship. I didn’t hunt him down and make him love me. I didn’t do anything to earn this amazing love that I experience every day.

I guess the point of this post isn’t that I don’t deserve love. Just like everyone, I do deserve it. My point is that when people say “you deserve it” it feels as though they are implying that others don’t, even if that’s not what they actually mean. But that implication – that only some people deserve love – well, I don’t buy that.

I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to find my new partner. Finding love twice isn’t something that’s common, that I know. But I’m done with this phrase, and I’m going to try and stop using it. Next time someone says to me, “you deserve it,” I’m going to reply, “we all do.”

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

6 Replies to “Deserving It”

  1. Love this. So true.

    1. Thanks, friend.

  2. Yes!! This is exactly it, what I had been feeling every time I heard the phrase “You deserve it” after telling someone about my love post loss. It’s a lot of dumb luck, but also being able to appreciate the little things and not letting small shit get in the way. Thanks for this piece.

    1. Thanks for reading!

  3. I’ve been thinking about this since you wrote it and was on the phone with my mom the other night. She mentioned how happy she is that I found “a good guy” and used those exact words: “you deserve it”. I stopped her and asked, “But doesn’t everyone deserve love?” She apologized to me and agreed that, yes, we all deserve love, but somehow implied that maybe I deserve it more after going through an extremely painful betrayal and divorce. What I think many people mean is that we didn’t deserve the loss, sadness, and sorrow in our past — and truly people are just happy for our happiness. I’ve been learning exactly what you outlined: you deserve something that you work hard for. All of the other bumps: it is the ebb and flow of life. Good things sometimes happen to awful people and bad things sometimes happen to good people. I’m learning to only put out positive energy and whatever I receive in return is a gift. Thank you for your writing. Although not nearly as painful as a death, this blog often helped me see light after divorce. Shine on, Marjorie (we are all rooting for and are so happy for you)!

    1. Oh, Mellissa, this is such a sweet thing for you to write – I’m so glad you’ve gotten something out of my blog. I know my family (especially one little guy) has gotten a lot out of knowing you! And yes, I always try and remember that although people say things like “you deserve this!” they actually just mean that they are happy for me….and for us.

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