“We broke up. I was single again. But I still loved him.” This is how the story ended. Not an extraordinary finale. In fact, cliché – I know! However, this statement is WRONG! And this is why.
Two months passed by. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was paying visit to a married friend with kids. I was sitting on the couch sipping from my bottle of beer, while unenthusiastically browsing through the dating profiles of other men on my phone and silently observing the kids getting ready to play on the living room floor.
Hannah, my friend’s daughter, had just arrived hand-in-hand with the neighbour’s son David, her so-called boyfriend. They played harmoniously for a while – until the great crisis broke out and Hannah started crying. David had involuntarily dropped her Lego creation on the floor, bringing whatever it was down to pieces. In anger, Hannah shouted “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.” while David watched her lose her temper without showing any empathy.
For a moment, I watched the scene unfold without giving much thought to it, until it unexpectedly hit me: I had just witnessed a completely extrapolated love and heartbreak story unfold in front of me. And of course, my anxious mind would not let it pass without raising more questions.
“When asked to tell stories about love, how many of these are actually stories of heartbreaks?” – I asked myself, slapping idealistic and naïve 17-year-old me right on the face.
Never mind! That day went by, weeks passed, and that food for thought started to grow in my mind:
17 years old – I loved him. And he said no.
24 years old – I loved him. And I said no.
28 years old – I loved him. And we said too much.
31 years old – I loved him. And we did not say enough.
In every single story, I remember the ecstasy of falling in love, the joy of saying these three words for the first time and the thrill of hearing him say it back to me. (Un)fortunately, I also remember the tormenting and nerve-wracking feeling of saying “I love you” as a reminder of how I should be feeling instead of an assertion of what I really felt. If falling in love was instantaneous and effortless, the end of it was time-consuming and excruciating.
And then what? Did love end for me?
Well, my relationships did! Even though they were meant to be “for better or for worse”, they all came to an end somewhere in between. I always apologized. Sometimes I said sorry for being too much. Sometimes for not being enough. And sometimes I had to learn to apologize for things I did not really understand. Like this, between gratitude and forgiveness, the silence and the moments of solitude led me to find closure and move on.
And this is it. Variances in the levels of passion, intimacy and commitment have compromised my relationships to the men my love was attached to when I was 17, 24, 28 and 31. And as these relationships ended, my love did not.
Each of my cherished partners departed and I started walking the path of life alone again. I detached my love from them, giving room for a growing feeling of respect, caring, appreciation and most and above all, thankfulness for all we lived together. At this stage, my love was still attached to the memories, just not anymore to the man standing in front of me.
Thus: No! Love did not end for me! I did not have to stop loving before learning or choosing to love again. Every time my heart broke, it broke open – it broke free. Then I realized: I never really fell out of love. I fell out of the persons my love was attached to. And in doing so, I moved on to the next chapter in life carrying along with me all the loving energy accumulated in the previous one.
But love continues. As its load gets too heavy to carry around, it eventually attaches and it stays – not because one is falling in love again, but because a choice has been deliberately made. And when this happens, all heartbreaks suddenly make sense.
So again, “We broke up. I was single again. But I still loved.” This is how the opening line truly reads. But I still loved – not him, just loved!