Love Ends and That’s OK
I see love fall apart all the time.
I see it fall apart because of personality conflicts, different needs and desires, and chores. I see love disappear between people as the realities of life sink in past the oxytocin rush of a new relationship. At this point in my life, I’ve seen love turn ugly and mean much more often than I’ve seen it sustain itself.
I watch people struggle to define love and act in love. I watch people blame each other for problems, for pain, for the full garbage can. I see friends attack each other for big and small slights. I see lovers do cruel things. I see married people move away from each other. I’ve got thoughts about how relationships do work, and most of them do not come from a lifetime experiencing working relationships. Most of my ideas about how relationships can work come from observing all the thousands of ways they don’t.
It took me a long, long time to realize that the ending of relationships is not a tragedy. It isn’t a “Romeo and Juliet” everyone should probably die now sad event when a relationship ends. In fact, most of the time it is supposed to end. Statistically speaking, all relationships end. Most of those end before death. We have this “till death do us part” model of relationships between two people, forever, in the culture I live in. I find it ridiculous and unrealistic at best, damaging and abusive at worst. Not every relationship is meant to last. Most aren’t. Most are destined to end at some point.
When I came out as polyamorous, I got a lot of criticism for my choice. One of the criticisms I heard was that poly tends to break up marriages and long-term relationships. I’ve certainly seen a lot of marriages end that were poly. I’ve also seen a lot more marriages end that were monogamous (at least in theory), if we want to throw numbers around. The specious part of that argument is that we assume all marriages are supposed to last forever. They aren’t.
I know that’s totally against how most people go into marriage. I myself am married and plan to remain married to this guy for the rest of my life. However, if you had asked me a few years ago, I may have not said that. We struggled and nearly came apart over untreated mental illness that made life unbearable for us. I realized that we could spend the rest of our lives in suffering, or part and try to heal. Thankfully, through hard work and good treatment, we didn’t have to. But it was a close call that had nothing to do with my love for him and everything to do with my ability to live in a miserable situation for one more day. That close call may someday turn into a parting of ways. I don’t know.
I don’t believe that every marriage is meant to last—that any marriage is meant to last. I believe that people come together and fall apart, and that’s normal and OK and not some horrible moral failing. If my husband and I fall apart, I will be devastated. I will not get on board with the fact that I failed somehow or that he did. We do not fail when we end relationships. We simply accept that life is supposed to be this way (or we don’t, and we spend years or decades feeling like a loser because our relationships “don’t last”). There’s really nothing that is supposed to happen. I’m fond of repeating the rule of life per my therapist: Do you want to, or do you not want to? The rule is, if I want my relationship to continue, then I will work for that. If I don’t, I won’t.
Me being me, I will struggle and be weird about endings because I hate them. But I refuse to fight them, and I doubly refuse to shame myself for them anymore. Endings are normal.
Endings. Are. Normal.
If you’re heartbroken, if you’re lonely, if you feel like you just can’t figure out the whole relationship thing, I hope this piece speaks to you. You’re not weird, unloveable, unworthy, or broken. You’re normal and alive in the human world. I can’t figure out the whole relationship thing either. I’ve been divorced; I’ve had breakups and lost friendships. It always hurts, but for once I am here to tell us both that we are not failures. We are just people living lives. Endings are normal. And if you are looking for someone to talk to, I’m around.