“You never know how strong you are until strong is not a choice.” ~ Bob Marley
The first time I saw him, we didn’t break eye contact for the entire night. We followed each other’s every move with intensity of study and curiosity of gaze.
There is a sweetness to those first days in a relationship when we aren’t quite sure why, but we want anything but to be apart.
New love is nothing like loneliness. It drips with rich, honeyed lips and lingering, slow hands. It wraps itself around us, and becomes our most favorite new cloak of crushed velvet softness and raw silk-lined interior.
But, there is something we will discover if we decide to stay. There is an unavoidable fate that awaits us when we choose the alluring, partnered path of love.
We like to admire other people in relationship, to put them up on beautiful gilded pedestals of fabulous sparkling gold. We linger over couples holding hands, and we watch romcoms with smiles plastered on our fascinated faces.
Humans are great cheerleaders of love.
But there is something that we who are in them must admit: relationships, they are f***ing hard.
The flip side to the initial softness and sweetness is the hurt. This is the side that makes our heart ache and our stomach turn, and thieves away a good night’s sleep. It is the one that catches us standing with the fridge door open when we are full. It is the same one that wants another cup of coffee or wine or whiskey when we have certainly had enough. It is the one that craves a cigarette, even though we quit 10 years ago.
Honestly, There are parts of love that are going to bite.
We walk blindly into them, with our arms open and eyes googly, staring into our dear one’s reflection. We don’t see into the future, where all this bonding of flesh and fusing of souls is going to cause us pain.
But, seriously, how could it not?
We can’t stay that close forever. We will have to detach and allow each other to live our own lives. Frankly, the cracking of this initial intimate connection isn’t usually pretty, neat or expected.
It will slap us in the face over breakfast when our partner no longer sits with us, but decides the computer needs their company. It will bonk us over the head when, before bed, books are chosen in place of cuddles. There will be moments when we have to hold our tongue, because we see our partner prefers silence to the sprinkling of our voice in the air.
It will happen, the time when one person desires further depth and truth and the other needs more open air. We will each, at some point in a relationship, turn away.
This might be when we start to feel more like roommates than lovers, and we wonder why exactly this is so.
Here we find the words we had forgotten. We discover that there is loneliness in connection, and we relearn the ache in love. What began as an extraordinary throbbing in our chest turns into pebbles in our stomach and static in our brain.
We understand now what some people say is the worst kind of loneliness, the one you feel when your partner is still right there.
A chasm has begun, and without trying to patch it up we must just observe, for it is here where I rediscover me and you rediscover you.
Maybe we will find our way back and follow the chains of little hearts we made to each other once more. But first there is a waiting in the wee abyss that has opened up between two.
It takes balls to stay here in this achy place.
When I see couples walking hand-in-hand I don’t idolize them anymore. I look at them and I feel gosh-darn proud. Frigg, I look at them and think, “You guys are heroes.”
Here is one ritual to help us with bravery when we find our partners or ourselves turning away:
Sit or stand in a place you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and visualize your partner across from you. Place your hand on your heart. Notice your breath and the rise and fall of your chest. As you exhale, imagine you are breathing out love to them. As you inhale, imagine you are breathing in love they are sending to you. Try this for five breaths. Notice how you feel.
A lasting relationship takes being able to stand the contradiction of hearts that crave closeness and souls that desire room to roam. Intimacy has the nature to do this; it exposes us till we get good and raw.
One of the hardest feelings is to be close to the person we love and not feel their heart anymore. But, the truth is we all need some distance here and there.
If we learn to sit with the loneliness, we find that in connection we can gain the strength and courage it takes to either move forward, together or apart, alone.
“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” ~ Rumi
Author: Sarah Norrad
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Ivan Karasev/Unsplash