I hate trying to pinpoint the day I realized that the “love isn’t always enough” concept was actually true. Practicality and logistics didn’t belong in the same conversation as the one about the depths of your emotions, as far as I was concerned. Love was supposed to triumph, to defeat all doubts and provide a balm that soothes away any disagreements about where to live, who wants kids or whether religion is an issue.
It feels a little bit on par with a loss of innocence when you come to understand that two people can’t always make it work, even if they really love each other. Whether or not you subscribed to fairy tale endings as a kid or love predictable romcoms, for me I think I just believed that as long as you had the feelings and the passion, you’d be committed to finding a way to work through anything else. But when it doesn’t work out that way? It sort of resembles the five stages of grief.
I think this was the stage that lasted the longest personally for me. Meeting someone you totally click with, who thinks all your idiosyncrasies are adorable instead of off-putting and who loves and respects you doesn’t happen every day. When you meet someone who it really works with, who makes you laugh, who’s there when you’re hurt (and not the cause of it), and supports your ambitions, it’s not a relationship that you want to see come to an end. And when it does — in one particular case for me it was because one of us wanted kids and the other didn’t — I kept trying to see around that issue when mourning the break-up. I didn’t want to believe that it was over because aside from that, we were wonderful together. And we both discussed the notion of changing our minds, or how the other person might change theirs, even though we knew it wasn’t likely. You’re consumed with the “but WAIT, this doesn’t have to be over does it?”
I’ve written before about how these kinds of break-ups can feel like the worst kind. And while disagreement on major life choices are a valid reason to end a relationship with someone you love, you’re not always going to feel rational and calm about the decision. I’ve found myself morphing into an anger ball, replaying moments over and over. Going down a destructive route in my mind where I blame my partner for wasting my time, or myself for wasting my own, or just wanting to be mad for the sake of finding fault somewhere, as if anger might make it easier to cope. It’s a powerful emotion and the present situation might be making you feel powerless, so it feels like a way to reclaim a sense of control.
This phase has caused me to create a variety of situations that aren’t at all healthy. For one relationship, my ex-boyfriend and I decided that it still made sense for us to meet for frequent lunches and retain our connection on a platonic level. We had an unspoken agreement that we didn’t discuss any other romantic possibilities, just chatted about work and our families and friends, so that we could still be in each other’s lives in some way. But bargaining for a watered down version of a past relationship doesn’t always work. Or perhaps we hadn’t let enough time pass for us to sufficiently heal from deep love and transition to a more casual friendship. In the end, for us it felt like we were censoring a part of ourselves just for the temporary high of spending a little bit of time together. And it bred resentment. Off limits topics? Not being able to be physically affectionate anymore, or worrying a hug lasted too long? Or if we slipped back into each other’s bedrooms, it felt like a fresh break-up all over again the following day. The repeated emotional hangover was not worth trying to grasp onto some semblance of what used to be.
Ahh, the most familiar stage for any break-up. Here, depression feels a little bit like a combination of the previous three feelings but with the added fun of crushing sadness that you no longer get to be with someone you truly love. Which feels incredibly unfair because the difficult part was supposed to be FINDING the person, not finding them, loving them and having to say goodbye to them.
Everyone moves at their own pace when it comes to breaking up. I have found the pace to be far more plodding in nature when I’m putting a finite end to something that was by all accounts a beautiful time in my life. And accepting that a relationship with someone you deeply loved is over doesn’t in any way mean you’re not going to miss that person. It simply means that you’ve accepted that there is an insurmountable roadblock right now to the possibility of being together forever. It might be a disagreement about whether to have kids like it was for me. It might be that you loved each other but something felt like it was missing. It could even be that your ambitions and professional dreams require you to accept job offers at a moment’s notice in any geographical location and your partner doesn’t feel capable of aligning with that lifestyle. Whatever it is, there are reasons why love isn’t enough, and it’s always ok to understand that, regardless of how painful it can be to accept.