I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Four times in the past couple weeks people have said that I look 27. When I tell them how old I am two people have asked to see my ID. I guess I could have worse problems but compared to most of my readers I am what you would refer to as “old”. I had my first real girlfriend in 1987. Since then it has been a long streak of various levels of monogamy. With small breaks here and there, the longest I was ever single was six months until I was in my 30’s. That is a lot of relationships, arguments, and compromises. Some of my friends have said that I have decent taste in women – if only because half of them went on to either date or marry my ex’s *insert side eye* but I like to think the secret is that I possess some kind of evil power that makes highly susceptible out of my league women want to take a chance on a go-nowhere kid with a head full of dead end aspirations. Good for me, bad for them, I suppose. But in the end, hopefully we taught each other something about life. I mean, that’s all you can really ask for when a relationship ends, right?
Most of you have been involved in some kind of significant relationship that had to end for one reason or another. Some of you have been broken up with and some of you have been the one who ended it. Sometimes it was for all the wrong reasons and sometimes it wasn’t on your terms. Break ups are rarely clean, cordial, and mutual. And even more rarely do they end in one evening. Usually they are dragged out over the course of months with begging and self-degrading texts because we all have been in a place where we truly believed that we could ultimately change their mind and make them realize the err of their mistakes if we had just one more chance to explain just how much we love them.
Some of you have been so checked out of a relationship that you can’t even bring yourself to go through the entire break up process because you just don’t care enough anymore. There’s something about when you lose all respect for your significant other you feel like having “the talk” is almost giving them something they haven’t earned, so you just go on with life and entertain the options of a new future. Whether that is a new lover, sex with new people, a new school, a new job, a new residence, a new city – your thoughts are everywhere else with everyone other than the person they should be with.
I have been that guy. I have been on both sides. I have lied to make break ups easier, I have cheated, I have avoided confrontation, I have literally ran from “the talk”, I have texted “the talk”, and I have initiated “the talk” more times than I can count. In over a quarter century of dating, I have been every kind of bad guy you could imagine.
As we age, hopefully we take something away from each of these experiences. We learn to communicate better. We become mature enough to realize ending a relationship never gets easier. Odds are, you and I and most everyone reading this will be on one side of a break up or another again. And most likely, again and again. And some of you will cheat. Some of you ARE cheating. Some of you will be the bad guy. And most of you will lie to save someone’s feelings when having “the talk” because it seems like the best thing to do at that time.
“The talk” doesn’t get any easier no matter how many relationships or years you have under your belt. The only true insight we gain is a better understanding of what we’re no longer willing to tolerate and hopefully more effective ways to convey our feelings. Because when I write about break up after break up, the underlying theme is that none of us know what the hell we’re doing. We’re all just taking shots in the dark and putting our faith in the hope that we hit a target.
Whenever I was deep into internet dating and people would tell me, “You’re not really my type.” I would respond with, “And tell me how has dating ‘your type’ been working out for you so far?” It wasn’t a shitty comeback after being shot down, it was genuine with the intent to make people take a closer look at what they think they know of themselves.
We are all on a slow and steady journey to find some kind of happiness. But the truth is, we spend so much time looking in all the wrong places with all the wrong motivation. We look to things and what people can give us instead of realizing that the greatest and most fulfilling love is the love we give. Ask your mother about this. Ask her how deeply she ever loves her child and I can guarantee she will tell you that her love for her children is deeper and more fulfilling than you could possibly understand.
I don’t have any children. I don’t know that kind of love. But what I do know is what I see. And what I see are parents who have learned that the truest form of fulfillment comes from the love you give – not the love or affection you look for in people who don’t respect your happiness. And if we keep looking in all the wrong places and mistaking attention for love we are damning ourselves to a terminal cycle of unhappiness and break ups until we either learn the lesson or we throw our hands up in the air, tell the world that we give up, and settle for the first person who treats us half way decent. And I don’t want that. And I don’t want that for you. You are better than consolation prize love. You and me – we know if we have earned love. And we know what we deserve.
Break ups are good things. Hell, they’re great things. When I look back at a lifetime of break ups I see each one as a milestone. A huge push forward in my evolution. Painful moments of time immediately followed by a surge of creativity and positive momentum. Like tiny explosions in our heart that propel us forward and towards our end-goal of true happiness.
Do not mourn for what you have lost. Be grateful for each opportunity to move forward and closer. Because each person teaches us something – so that we can be better for the person who genuinely deserves every ounce of love we have to give.