2017 marked the tenth year of my singleness.  Of not being in a long-term relationship, or of even dating.  My friend remarked about my single status – it’s because you have high standards.  I disagreed.  My wish list for a partner is rather short, and kept to the essentials.  Apparently, this list is not easily attainable.  (Disclaimer, I had a short-lived dating + relationship earlier this year. As of this writing, I am back to not dating and not being in any relationship.)

I’ve been around long enough to know that relationships are messy, and human love will always be imperfect.  I don’t have the romantic expectations I had ten years ago – or even five years ago.  All I really want now is a man who would stay.  Someone who wouldn’t leave when the going gets tough.  Someone who, after a heated argument, would plant his feet firmly on the ground and say – We’re going to get through this.  I’m not going anywhere.  Someone who would take my hand and pull me back as I turn away.  Someone who would call after me, asking – Where are you going?  I want you to stay.  You belong here, with me.  Someone who would look me straight in the eye and tell me – I’m not letting you get rid of me. How about that?  (Yes, that’s from Jerry Maguire.)

I’ve had so many men walk out on me – or simply let me walk out on them.  And even when I’m the one walking away, it hurts.  It hurts because it means I’m not worth running after.  I’m not worth keeping.  I’m not someone they would miss.

I’ve walked away for different reasons.  Some of them shallow and selfish.  Many of them painful and difficult.  But each time the decision was made, my heart said that it really would rather have stayed.  In that toxic relationship, with that difficult boyfriend, under less-than-ideal circumstances.  Because then, I’d have something – someone – to hold on to.  Walking away, being left behind – that meant letting go, or being let go.  It left my hands empty and my heart hollow.

I didn’t just walk away from men.  I’ve walked away from God as well.  In defiant anger, in deep disappointment, in utter frustration.  I grew impatient.  I was disconsolate.  I harboured doubt.  I thought – This isn’t working for me, I’ve had enough.

And so there was the suicide attempt.

Then there was the running away from home to live my own life.

The outright disobedience of rushing headlong into a relationship that was wrong on so many levels.

Each time, God took me back.  Quietly, lovingly, with no words of reproach.  I hang my head in shame, but he opens his arms towards me.  Cleanses me with water.  Clothes me in satin.  Dresses my wounds with oil.  Every.  Single.  Time.

He didn’t just take me back.  He looked for me.  Called me home.  Reminded me that I’m always welcome here, where he is.  I’ve walked a thousand miles away from him, and he walked those miles to find me again, and carry me back.

That’s the kind of love I want.  A love that does not give up.  A love that does not let me go.

I guess my friend is right.  I do have high standards when it comes to love.  Because I’ve experienced a kind of love that has gone to the grave, and back again – even for a train wreck of a woman like me.

Writer’s Bio: Clarice Fong is a freelance content editor and editorial consultant focused on digital marketing and brand-building content strategy.  She is an avid reader with a never-ending booklist, and consumes varied content on a daily basis.  She enjoys picking people’s brains over lunch.  Every so often, she writes about life, love, and her other adventures on claricefong.com.