I married for the first time in 1971, at the ripe young age of 18. That was the same year Stephen Stills released the song “Love the One You’re With.” Interestingly enough, the song came about as a result of a comment made to Stills by UK-based soul singer Doris Troy. Stills was attending a party in London and openly expressed his longing for his girlfriend, who was back in the States at the time. Troy responded with “Love the one you’re with, Sugar!” Stills liked the comment so much that he asked Troy if she minded if he used it in a song. She agreed, and that song goes down in rock history as one of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s greatest.
When that famous song hit the charts in 1971, I related well. I, too, had experienced the emotional roller coaster that comes with a long-distance relationship…mostly, the dips that occurred, as we spent more time apart than together. However, I never would have taken Troy’s advice to find an artificial substitute (another boyfriend) to satisfy my desire for love and intimacy. I stuck it out for two tough years, living on one highly anticipated phone call each weekend, writing love letters to him, and reading and re-reading shoeboxes full of love letters from him that filled in the gaps. That longing for my sweetheart, who was away at college, finally led me to a premature walk down the aisle and a ring exchange upon my high school graduation.
Little did I know that the desperate need to be “with the one I loved” at such a tender age would set me on a path of unintended sequential marriages for a 28-year period, until I learned how to break the cycle of unhealthy relationships.
Today, when I hear the lyrics to the song “Love the One You’re With,” I have a totally different interpretation. For me, it’s no longer about pining for a lover who is far away or impulsively making a decision to satisfy that longing with a substitute flame; it’s about “loving the one you’re with'…but this time, I'm referring to ME!
It took me so many years to understand the importance of self-love. Like it or not, we are the one we’re with, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… with or without a partner. Loving ourselves first helps set the stage for a life full of joy and fulfillment, and can often reduce our appetite for, or possibly lessen our addiction to, romantic love and the drive to chase that idyllic relationship rainbow.
I finally have a deep desire to see myself be truly happy. There’s no substitute for the satisfaction of loving and accepting oneself…unconditionally.