Today I want to do something I’ve never done before; it’s a little thing but I’m profoundly affected. I read “I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married” by Elad Nehorai over on Pop Chassid while on a work break and I want to take the opportunity to write–maybe not a response, but a reflection on the piece.
When relationships end, the series of emotions that follow are complicated and confusing and painful. There are these expectations that people have: you’re supposed to cry and cry and cry and then get better, you’re supposed to want to talk crap about your ex, you’re supposed to go out and have fun, you’re supposed to not think about it. Well, I’m sure all of this is well and good for some people but for me it was bullshit.
My relationship ended after about 11 months just under 6 weeks ago. I didn’t cry and then stop. I cried and then I stopped and then I cried again. My co-worker came to my apartment and held me, she didn’t even mind the tissues everywhere. I barely cried because I knew it was for the best in the long run. But the next day, I showed up to work and I cried in my boss’ office while she figured out how to get me out of my responsibilities for the day. Then I stopped and I thought how stupid it was to let this get in the way of my career. Then I listened to a song, a special song, and I sat alone in my dimly lit office and the tears flowed. Loss is a roller coaster, it’s this constant thing that evolves and transforms until it collapses on itself and forms a hole. It’s a hole that won’t ever really go away, and can’t ever really be filled by something else–but I think loss can be surrounded by other happier, better, and CURRENT things.
We had our fair share of problems, my ex and I. Our relationship had not always been a beautiful thing–in fact it was marred by truly awful times, painful experiences that break couples down. The ending of “us” was a necessary thing. That said, I was hurt. I felt betrayed and unimportant. But I never wanted to talk about how “terrible” he was or spend time gossiping about his misgivings. I told my mother that I still respected him and even if he had fallen out of love–I had not. I didn’t want to hear the “he was wrong for you” talk or the talk about lies that may or may not have been told. I wasn’t ready to listen. I think that is okay, even though hating my ex would have been a lot easier.
So often friends would ask me to go out and drink, go out and spend a night on the town; they would often tell me that staying home was unhealthy and I needed to get out more. But I was mourning, grieving the loss of a love. Everyone does it differently. Eventually I grew ready to reenter the world, but it took time to build up the confidence and strength–both of which came from hiding for a few weeks and only leaving to go to work.
I thought about what happened a lot. I replayed the conversation–our breakup–in my head a lot. I taunted myself with the things I should have said, questions I should have asked, answers I should have demanded. But it was really simple, he didn’t feel the same way about me anymore. I have come to terms with it and I’ve spent a lot of time pursuing catharsis and closure. Reading the piece by Elad, though, has given me a new perspective. I spent the time we were together doing things for my ex, becoming a better girlfriend, a more giving partner and reminding myself constantly of the reasons why I wanted to share my “life” with him. I would make him breakfast, hold him tightly, tell him sweet things I thought he might like to hear. He spent the course of our relationship on a steady decline. As the infatuation faded, he didn’t try. We didn’t go on dates, he didn’t do simple things that might please me, he didn’t listen to my needs. I never realized that love was a constantly changing thing too. It was intuitive for me to keep growing. On the other hand, when the fun left my ex failed to realize that he had to make it come back. Love isn’t the giddy feeling of dating someone, it’s not as simple as that. Love is, like Elad said, a verb. Something you have to do. You have to make love happen, keep making it happen, keep trying all the time. It is not easy–it isn’t supposed to be.
People think of love as something we fall into. We tell epic stories of how we fell in love with our partner, but this is so wrong. We don’t fall into love and we don’t fall out of love. Being in love with another person takes effort, it takes reminding oneself everything single day of all the reasons why this is THE person. When we stop trying, putting forth equal effort, matched with equal desire and dedication, that is where the problems lie. We have to stop seeing love as something that happens to us and start seeing it as something we do.
I’ve spent much of the past 6 weeks getting to know myself again. I became a different person. So much of my identity had become defined by my love and my relationship. I didn’t go out to parties anymore, even though I should have been celebrating my senior year. I dropped most of my relationships with my friends to devote more time to my ex. I do not regret most of these decisions–but I regret that I allowed who I was to become someone else. Someone who didn’t know how to have fun and didn’t ask about the lives of her friends. I’m not going to do that anymore.