Three years ago, I was in an unhealthy relationship. Well two actually but this story isn’t going to be about dairy products. Both of us were unhappy in our jobs, our living situations and our lives. We were going in different directions and we didn’t understand each others priorities. We tried the ill-advised long distance relationship and it failed of course, but not gracefully and the upshot of it all was that we didn’t speak for two years.
I now face a similar, if not somewhat messier situation, with my last partner. Together for over two years, almost all of which was spent living together, my ex and I had a roller-coaster relationship. We had wonderful times – mini-breaks to PEI and NB, late night discussions concerning the heart of our insecurities, and countless hours spent talking about our future. But for every hour spent this way, another was spent arguing. For my part, I was terrible at communicating and often flew off the handle for stupid things. For his part, he was also terrible at communicating and became, near the end, impossible to deal with. We parted ways four months ago, each with the expressed intent of salvaging what had become a very unique friendship. But hurt feelings have persisted on both sides and we’ve now reached a point where it seems that friendship is impossible.
My question then is this: Where does the love go when a relationship ends? Up until now, I have always tried to maintain contact with ex-partners. Why? Because even if there was a lot of hurt and silliness, the foundation is rarely destroyed for me. I can still remember why it is that I like this person, and I can still appreciate all of their great qualities. I still want to know what happens to them; I want to be there for them when things aren’t great and share in their excitement when things are going well. In the case of this most recent relationship, I put so much of my life into this person, became so immersed in their family, in their hopes and disappointments, in their insecurities, and planned so much in terms of the future – what was then our future – that I can’t believe I’m not going to know how it all turns out.
My answer to my own question is this: The love is still there, but it’s more a love of the experience than of the individual. You’re in love with the past. Like those friendships that you had at summer camp where you were the best of friends for two months and then never saw each other again but came away from it with a beautiful experience. Every person I’ve been with has taught me a little bit about myself and every interaction has been a useful and interesting experience. The most recent one provided some particularly harsh lessons, but I’m also coming away from it with some pretty fabulous memories. So while there’s still some anger to work through, I think I’ll ultimately find that I will love both the positives and the negatives of that relationship because of what I’ve become. But it’s more the past, less the person.
The result of this little thought process is that I’ll never stop caring and I’ll always hope that things turn out well for everybody concerned. But I’m going to let go and move on.