I dated a wonderful guy for nearly 9 months, and this post is about the end of that relationship and my feelings about it. I’ve had a lot of relationships in the past 20 years or so that I’ve dated. I have learned from all of them, and none are the same. The context of the relationships before I was married in 2000 was a lot different than the context of those that followed my divorce a short time after. I was never one for white-picket-fence-dreams of my own Prince Charming who would one day ride in on his white horse, marry me and make babies with me. I knew from an early age that I never wanted children of my own, and that is one of the few things in my life that has remained constant since. I didn’t dream about my wedding or being married. It was never a goal of mine.
Long story less long, I dated a British guy for a couple years when the internet was still young, and we were still on dial-up. When it came time to end the cross-continental relationship, he decided to do so by selling his family business and moving to Ohio to take the distance out of our relationship equation. We married in January 2000 after using a K-1 Fiancé visa to get him over here. He went back home about 6 months later after not getting the right stamp in his passport on his way over to allow him to work in the US. It wasn’t a fun experience for him, and in hindsight it made all the sense in the world for him to head back home after that.
But when he left, it was the first time I had received a definitive NO at the end of a relationship. And while prior to that I didn’t think so much of marriage, afterward I felt very betrayed. Like, “You can’t just pick up and go back to England! We’re MARRIED! We signed stuff! YOU PROMISED!!!” It was very hard for me to accept at the time. And that’s when I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons:
- There truly are no guarantees
- Safety and stability are an illusion
- Happiness is not a future event that is contingent on anything happening. It is always present, and it is always a choice
I was really angry with him for the next couple years. I demonized him and felt very wronged. And then one day I realized that he had never done anything to hurt me. He was just living his life and doing the best he could from moment to moment. As we all are. If anything, the biggest mistake he made was moving over here in the first place. Him going back home was best for both of us. It just took me awhile to see that. I contacted him and apologized for the actions I took and words I spoke in anger. He accepted that and we are on good terms to this day, though we haven’t spoken in years.
Before I got married, I hadn’t realized how much baggage from my upbringing I had gathered around that concept. At the time, I think I was only the second divorce on both sides of my family or something crazy. Those folks just stayed married. In the years after my divorce, I released that baggage and became even more clear on my philosophy about relationships. And that pretty much boils down to the following:
- Enjoy each other
- Be respectful to each other
- Don’t stay together unless you are both still growing together
- Re-evaluate often
Fairly simplistic, but that’s it right off the top of my head. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an external force. In a relationship, the default mode is staying together. And many of us, myself included, tend to stay in relationships longer than they serve us. Breaking up is hard. Nobody likes it. Even if things have gotten really terrible and you’re relieved that it’s over, it’s still a hard thing to go through and takes time to process. But if you’re staying with somebody largely to avoid a breakup, you’re probably not happy there and you likely won’t be.
I think my longest relationship lasted nearly 5 years (definitely not my marriage). And I stayed most of those years because I felt like real relationships took work. Lots of work. Relationships are hard sometimes. Stick it out, stay the course, make it work! Only… that’s pretty much all it was… was work. There was a lot more there in the way of shared space than there was shared experiences and joy.
My most recent relationship ended yesterday. Not out of malice or spite, or just plain getting sick of each other. There was still a lot of good there. We’re both awesome people. He’s extremely intelligent, kind, compassionate, funny, multi-talented, helpful, and just an all-around good person as well as a really great friend. And I do miss him already.
But it became clear to me that we were in very different places on our respective journeys. And though we learned a lot from each other, I feel that I need to travel this next bit either alone or with somebody who is in a similar place to me. And I feel that’s ultimately best for him, too. Sometimes it’s OK to just accept each other where you are, recognize the distance between the two, and not continue to try to bridge that gap. It’s OK to be in different places and respect each other there. Neither one of us is less than the other. Neither one of us is wrong. We both did our best to care for each other, and at times that was really great. It’s a new experience for me to come to the end of a relationship without a boatload of resentment on both sides. I wish there was a way we could’ve come to it without any pain for either of us. But I did my best, and I know he did, too. <3 </3