“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow—this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage
Relationships: this one word contains a multitude of meanings.
Sometimes they are light and playful. Sometimes messy and challenging. Often a combination of those dynamics.
In my 56 years, I have had plentiful opportunity to engage in both. As a recovering co-dependent, I have been an emotional contortionist who has bent over backward to please people, and have engaged in ‘savior behavior’ with partners. I have practiced serial monogamy and polyamory.
Each person came bearing gifts of love. Each carried a measure of loss. Each performed open heart therapy/surgery.
I am who I am, because they have been in my life.
I have been a ‘party of one’ for many years at this point, by choice. As a friend who has been a solo act for quite awhile herself, has proclaimed “It will take someone extraordinary to take me out of my single life.” I thrive in both states, when they are healthy. I would rather be on my own for the right reasons, then in a relationship for the wrong reasons. I ask clients who bemoan their singleton status, “Would you want to be in a relationship with yourself? Are you good relationship material?”
If they say they wouldn’t or they aren’t, I ask them why someone else would want to be in relationship with them. I then ask them to consider what it would take to change that situation for the better.
As a career therapist, writer, speaker, minister and radio host with a show called It’s All About Relationships, I AM all about relationships. My astrologer friends tell me that nine of my planets are in the house of relationships. No surprise that they are on my mind a great deal of the time. My friends and family are my treasures and I value them immeasurably. I call new soul friends into my life on a regular basis.
I was widowed in 1998 at the age of 40. I have had short term relationships, wonderful and not so wonderful lovers, as well as friends with benefits. I have learned more about relationships being single than I did when I was married for nearly 12 years. It boils down to a few valuable lessons.
1. Everyone is on loan to us and we to them.
This message came to me when my husband was in the ICU and I would have what I called “God wrestling sessions,” during which I would proclaim “He’s mine and you can’t have him,” to which the Divine replied, “No, he’s mine and he’s on loan to you, like everyone else in your life.” Although we may feel an indelible bond to another, we can never possess them, nor do we have the right to. Love and attachment/addiction are not synonymous. When I have surrendered relationships, I have done ‘cord cutting’ rituals, written goodbye letters, and said farewell in my mind and sent us both back into the pool.
2. Everyone you now know and love will one day die or leave you or you will die or leave them.
This could feel morbid or maudlin, or it can remind you to honor the connection you have with those in your life. Tell them and show them how you feel about them, since you don’t know which day will bring about your last physical contact. Love never dies, even if the person does. I continue to commune with loved ones who have passed. I allow love and grief to intermingle as grateful tears splash down my cheeks.
3. Lonely and horny sometimes overshadow good sense.
They can blind us to the red flags that are furiously waving in our faces, warning us that the person on the other side of the bed doesn’t have our best interest at heart.
When someone’s apartment reminds you of your then teenaged son’s bedroom and you don’t want to sit on the sofa, let alone stay over, when they expect you to pay for dates because you have a full time job and they are only marginally employed, when they expect you to side with them all the time at the risk of being thought disloyal, when they keep really BIG secrets from you, when you are one of their secrets, when you comment to someone who is intoxicated that it might be time to stop, and they have one more, just to prove they can, when you cry more than you smile, when a friend asks you what happened to your joy, you know it’s time to hightail it out of there. Finding fun and supportive companions can help resolve the former. Knowing that pleasure is portable and need not come from another person, can take care of the latter.
4. People come into our lives for a ‘reason, season or lifetime,’ as you may have heard it said.
I have been blessed to have folks in all of those categories. I have met people for an instant and we share a smile, a moment, a networking connection and then…poof! They vanish.
The ‘season’ relationships may last a few days, months, or years. We may see each other through challenges, help each other grieve or celebrate an event, co-create a project or dance together for a brief time and then we or they step away. I call it getting out of the rowboat. If you are the only one rowing, when you stop, the boat goes adrift. The ‘lifetime’ relationships are those that remain, regardless of the duration or circumstances.
Fortunately, I have most in that category. Even if we don’t see each other or speak often, the bond remains. Sometimes it feels like we pick up where we left off. I honor those in each of those groups, since even the most painful or dysfunctional relationships taught me what I want and what I want to cross the street to avoid. They are all ‘blessons’…blessings and lessons combined.
5. When relationships have changed course, I have reminded myself that I had a full, rich life before this person came into it and I will have a full, rich life after we have parted ways.
So often, we believe that another person is the source of love in our lives and that without them, we are incomplete. It reminds me of that gag-worthy line from the film Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” In or out of a relationship, you are a whole human being, with no missing pieces. Another may enhance your life, but you are not broken without them. Love breaks us open.
6. Relationships never end, they just shift form.
Even if someone is not in our presence and even if we never lay eyes on them again, their impact and energy has touched us and forever changed us. I can think back on those who were a daily part of my life for years, and smile with the recognition of who we were to each other at the time. I have felt wistful, but then know that each of us had a path to travel and were called to walk together for awhile and then diverge. My wish is that the love I felt for those people continue to bless us both.
As my favorite line from one of my top five treasured movies, Harold and Maude so poignantly expresses “Go and love some more.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Edie Weinstein
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo Credit: georgios kaleadis at Flickr