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March 2, 2018

The Myth of Forever Love.

Recently, I sat down to indulge in one of those weepy movies about forever love.

You know the ones in which the couple is absolutely perfect for each other even though they are vastly different, but then one partner gets a terminal diagnosis. The whole time we’re watching movies like these we know where it’s going. There will be the inevitable life epiphanies followed by the process of dying and grieving. It will make us feel hopeful and sad all at the same time, because at least they had that kind of love, right?

So I’m watching this movie while being single which may not seem like a great idea, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m an incurable romantic and I love a good love story, even if I don’t necessarily believe in them. Or maybe it’s not that I don’t believe in them exactly; it’s just that I don’t know how much I buy into the concept of a soulmate or forever love.

This could just be my own personal experience talking, but so many of my friends who have found a partner constantly assure me that I will too. But why do we assume that everyone has a match? I look around at many couples I know, and I think that some people who are together and choose to stay together, aren’t necessarily truly happy or a good match. I also don’t believe that being coupled makes someone intrinsically better than someone who is single. I know single people who are happier than married people and vice versa. It’s about the quality of life and not about the relationship status.

And I’ve certainly never had a forever love.

I thought I did, three times in fact. When I look back now, I thought that each one should be my forever love. Clearly, it wasn’t as I’m divorced now. Then there was the one I had hoped would be my forever. He’s going to be someone else’s forever now, a choice he made when he walked out on me, ghosting me completely. But for a minute there, I had a glimpse of the future that could have been if he’d been brave. Then there was the third—the narcissist—who pulled out all the stops and love bombed me into falling for an illusion. By the time I realized he wasn’t what he claimed to be, I was deep into financial devastation and had to deal with my children’s attachment to him as well as my own. But I got out. And I keep thinking, “Three strikes. Am I out?”

There was the one that I thought I should, the one I hoped would, and the one who was only an illusion of what I could have with the right person.

It doesn’t leave me believing in forever love. But maybe I do believe in right now love. Maybe I believe that’s all we have which was kind of the point of the movie where one partner gets the terminal diagnosis. Because we all end up dying so we only have this moment, right now.

And one day, I’m hoping that I love someone at that moment who will continue to love me from one moment to the next for all the moments that we have left. That’s the forever love story that we miss when all we see is the staying together part. It’s not enough to stay together if we don’t constantly choose our partners from one moment to the next.

And how do we choose them? Fidelity, for one. There can be none of that “grass is greener” nonsense, making flirtatious conversation and investing our time outside of the relationship as a contingency plan.

There’s the happiness component. In long-term relationships, we won’t be happy all the time. Our partners will surely frustrate and annoy us, at times making us so angry we can hardly see straight. But do we look for solutions? Do we do our best to work it out? And do we acknowledge the deal breakers and deal with them honestly? Because I see a lot of relationships that are clearly wrong, and yet the individuals in them persist as if staying in the relationship matters more than the quality of it, which seems like a waste of our precious time if you ask me. Although, of course, no one is asking me.

There’s the part where we can be couples while maintaining individuality. This one is hugely important. In the three misses I’ve had, I found myself having to give up parts of myself—attitudes, belief systems, interests. Those relationships cost me something and I’m not just talking about the one that drained me of financial resources. I sacrificed too much of me to make room for them, and in healthy relationships, we should never have to give up what we love for the other person. They should be adding value to our lives and not subtracting what we love.

Maybe you’re thinking that right now, love and forever love are the same thing. I wouldn’t know. I just know that no one has ever purely chosen me from moment to moment. I’ve certainly never had that shot at forever. When I see long-term relationships that aren’t happy, or have zero individuality within them, and are rife with behaviors that either hint at infidelity or skirt along its edges, I don’t think forever is the point. I think loving someone and choosing them every single day is the point. And simply staying with them isn’t good enough.

That’s not forever love. Maybe it’s only forever compromise.

I think one day I’ll get to experience right now love. I have that for and with myself. I have that for and with my children. Those are the loves I trust to last, the ones that have never let me down. But do I want a right now love that will keep choosing me? Of course I do. We just need to stop calling that a forever love when we don’t fully grasp what forever means.

Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Andreas Schalk/ Flickr
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Kenni Linden

 

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Crystal Jackson

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned full-time writer. Her first fiction novel Left on Main, the first in the Map of Madison series, will be released by Sands Press in October 2019. Her work has been featured on Elephant Journal, Medium, Elite Daily, Your Tango, The Good Men Project, The Urban Howl, and Sivana East. You can follow Crystal on Facebook or at www.crystaljacksonwriter.com