I was sitting about 200 yards from where I’m typing this, at a campground in Maryland where I’ve taught many movement and relationship classes (yep, even combined the two once or twice). At that time I was very depressed; my relationship was on the proverbial rocks, and I couldn’t see a way through. There was love, but there were core differences between me and my partner that seemed to keep us from being able to be happy together. I had asked a friend who I trusted and respected for some time, and I laid out for her the situation.
I was expecting some words of encouragement from her. I was expecting some hang in there, some stick it out, it’ll get better kind of energy. Instead, what I got from her was a straightforward Maybe you’re done.
I confess, I was shocked. Even angered, a bit. How dare she threaten the status quo of dysfunctional relationship that I –
Maybe you and she have taught each other everything you can, everything you needed to learn. Maybe it’s time to let go and move on and be thankful for the time you’ve shared.
It shut me up. I wish I could say I thanked her for her wisdom, took it to heart, and made wise decisions that were immediately implemented in my life, resulting in an amicable separation as we both moved on. No, nothing like that. I resisted the strong suspicion that she was right, I tried many more times than was good for either of us to figure out a way to make things work.
The Clue-By-Four of Love
It didn’t. In the end, the differences were too much, and we went our separate ways. It has been over a year, and it’s still hard to accept that it wasn’t a failure. In fact, there is only one thing that has ever convinced me that it wasn’t – and that’s when she mentioned that she felt like she had failed. Suddenly I rallied to the defense of what we had experienced, of what we’d accomplished, of what we’d taught each other. It was the strangest thing – it took the implication that there had not been joy in our relationship to remind me of just how much there had been.
Maybe we hadn’t quite learned all the lessons after all. Maybe we still had – still have – lessons to learn from each other as we learn to live beyond our relationship. I wish I could say that now I’ve figured out how to learn all the lessons, but I still don’t quite know how to be gracious with the grief all of the time, but that’s something that, like most practices, I only manage to get better at a little at a time.
Are We There Yet?
At the festival where I’m teaching this weekend, there is a young woman who broke up with her partner just recently. She is obviously still grieving, and I’m not going to do the annoying placation of “You’ll find someone else” or even “Try to just have fun anyway.” No, I respect that space that she’s in, and I simply witness and offer sympathy to her sorrow, with a hug and a smile and a listening ear when she needs it.
The interesting thing for me is the way she talks about her former partner. There is a notebook she carries, full of quotes from when they were together, and she has mentioned many times the many ways she changed during the relationship. Changed in ways of growing, ways of seeing herself and others, changed in how she approached relationships and love.
Right now all she can really see is the sorrow of missing her love. But from my objective view I can see just how much she’s learned from that relationship. I can see, at some far off point in the future, how the grief may fade, leaving the joy and the new knowledge behind.
Almost, I can see my own way to that place. Almost.
Not quite. I still feel that defensive reaction. But…almost.