Not sure if this is a rant, musing, pondering or eulogy. Or maybe just all three combined. Oh, and it’s a longer post than usual, too.
The past few months, the sun has been inching its way closer to Earth’s northern hemisphere adding minutes of sunlight to the days and making robins, kids, dogs and shiny happy people pip about with playful abandon and joy.
And yet, in a few corners of the city, the sun is perhaps not shining quite as brightly, or bringing much joy at the moment: a number of couples in my circles have, or are in process of ending their relationship. And I have heard of more in others’ circles.
There’s a wide swath of ages, time together and diversity: straight, gay and otherwise. Some couples have been together a long while, with a number of children involved. Others have been together just a few years. Not that time spent together is entirely relevant; the emotional impact of disentangling and decoupling can be just as powerful and far-reaching for a couple who have been together nearly 20 years as it is for a couple that have been together for only two.
But what does a heart know of time, of days or years? It does not work on a clock, a calendar, a schedule, a project plan, a timeline. The currency of the heart is not time, but moments, events, emotions. It is the head and body that works to the clock, a calendar, a schedule. And according to heads better than mine, it takes at LEAST two years to get to know someone well enough to decide whether or not this she (or he) is indeed someone you can be with, someone with whom to match heartbeats, bath towels and energies. That timeline by the way, does not apply to me. I have special abilities. But this is not about me. Well, not directly.
People enter into relationships for lots of good or sometimes, misleading or misunderstood reasons. Someone who’s fun and gets you out into the world and out of yourself for a while might NOT be a good choice as a wife (or husband) if you want to actually set up house and home the Village of Coupledom.
Moving out of that village happens for any number of reasons. What’s clear is that love, in and of itself never is, never will be, and never can be enough to sustain a relationship….
CAVEAT TO THE ABOVE STATEMENT: …unless you are an enlightened being truly capable of giving and receiving unconditional love. Enlightened beings are generally not most of us, straight, gay or otherwise. What’s more, we actually aren’t good with unconditional love.
We tend to judge harshly (thanks to years of turning everything into some sort of deep seated pathology, leading to curious levels of self-obsession, make-me-feel-good-narcissism and self-centredness) any hint of unconditional love, and turn to the DSM-IV-TR (which will be updated in oh guess what, 2012) to look for symptoms to diagnose a psychological disorder related to a desire to give, to be a caretaker, a martyr or heaven forbid, a submissive person, because apparently, unconditional love comes from enlightened beings such as gods, gurus, and angels, not humans.
Unconditional love is anchored on something other than self. It’s also an extremely rare find.
Love and life and relationships…are…oh, goddess, they can be complicated, can’t they? Over my many incarnations in this lifetime, it seems that relationships end for a pretty consistent number of reasons, barring the ease with which we can now turn around three times in a circle and say I am done with you now, go away.
Sometimes, it wasn’t a love to begin with, but more of a fling that never ended and the elastic band of collusion stretches only so far before breaking. Like the time when a woman I had been dating for a month showed up at my doorstep with garbage bags full of stuff, telling me she had to leave her abusive relationship. (Relationship?? Excuse me: what relationship?) I was young, gullible. And oh my goddess, it was SO SO wrong to open my door and change the sign outside my door from DATING to SIGH, I AM NOW WITH SOMEONE (and in small print) who I like a lot but don’t love that way, and geez, where did my backbone go? That happened three years after I came out, lasted for three difficult years and the entire experience nearly scared me right back into the closet. Why was I surprised to learn I am not the only one that has happened to? So that’s the no-love connection start to a relationship that ends.
Some relationships end for reasons of abuse, addiction, or one person comes to understand her or his sexuality better and comes out after 20 years of marriage and four kids.
Thing is, relationships don’t always end because the love is gone.
Sometimes, a relationship ends because one partner stepped out on the other, this in spite of the fact that relationship is supposed to be locked and loaded monogamous forever, and failure to maintain that exclusivity is often a de facto death knell to any continuation of the relationship. Whether one believes in monogamy or not, or that love and sex are synonymous, some things are considered unforgivable and unnavigable; cheating seems to be one of them.
Sometimes, someone just wants out of the relationship for reasons that are unclear; the caring love is there somewhere, buried down in a valley across some huge chasm. Neither one can or will reach out, even with their heart aching with love. Neither one can look to the other who was once such a beloved and say, “you are the one I will walk hand in hand with through any hell, even if that hell is us right now.”
Sometimes, people do grow apart, change in different directions and at some point someone comes to realize that there is little compatibility, little genuine interest in each other and little keeping them together save for the habit of it.
It need not necessarily go that way. Dare I say that there’s no magic? Relationships take work, even good ones, every minute, every day. Do we get lazy? Complacent?
I happen to have a mathematical view of relationships in which the equation is this: I + I = III. One creature (let’s say a person) meets another creature (also a person) and together they birth a third creature, the relationship. All three creatures to be nurtured, cared for, listened to, respected, honoured.
Without an ethic of I+I=III, it seems to me that instead of growing, love risks shrinking; little molecules falling off every day; huge hunks during peak, unhappy moments and events, til there is nothing but perhaps a memory of what this love, this relationship was and meant, and when it ends, even the memory of that will fade with time to some kind of random, passing thought prompted by some random image that might crop up from time to time that makes you say, oh, wonder how she’s doing?
But all that is a prologue to the relationships that have ended around me.
It’s not just the relationships that end: friendships change, social circles changes, plans change. There were four couples, eight friends. Some are now moving away. People who have been part of my life, who have shared laughter, travel, events, New Year’s Eve parties, birthdays, fun, food and hugs for years are now suddenly no longer there. The extended circle of dogs, kids, parents, sisters and brothers … gone.
The end of a relationship is hard, even if it is in fact the right thing to do. And all of us connected to the people in the relationship feel the ripples of loss and share in the sadness. I think I am a bit stunned by the numbers around me…so many all at once. Loss can be stunningly, breathtakingly physically and emotionally painful and I do not know if there is a way to even remotely capture its essence in words. But here’s what I do know:
- Love can hide and be denied, but it does not just evaporate, disappear, vanish, melt, weaken, stop, terminate, cease, finish, go away in a heartbeat, in the quick blink of an eye. It takes time to live with a love that has no place to go.
- A good relationship, a good love is always worth it; worth the work and tears even if all you can do for your relationship is make tea and read out loud to one another from favourite books and magazines while you work on your individual stuff until that light at the end of the tunnel shows up.
- Sometimes ending is the right thing to do. Sometimes it isn’t. Pride has no place in that decision; compassion and respect for self and other does.
- Nothing is permanent. Nature and biological processes give and take. We are born, given a limited number of years in which to live, make choices, leave the world a LITTLE better than when we entered it, even if that is simply by touching one heart, loving one person. And then it ends. We are after all, mortal. Nothing is permanent. How long is always anyway? Til the seas run dry? Memories fade. Molecules of love that have fallen away regroup, join up with other other molecules in different places to form an entirely different thing that will at some point, be ready for something new.
What I do not know:
- Anything. I don’t know anything really, which totally null and voids the above paragraph. I was just riffing some thoughts because the musical notes and tones I wish to assemble to convey my musings and ponderings about all this ending stuff are in an instrument I do not own.
What I wish — not only for the people I know who once were together and now are not, but for anyone suffering a broken heart — is a speedy, healthy recovery. Spring is soon to turn to summer, and ice cream and beaches and birthdays. As seasons change we are reminded yet again, nothing is permanent, including pain.