Day 69 -Seeing Endings in the Beginnings
I went to a lecture the other night and the speaker posited why our only real marker for success in relationships is longevity? Mind blown...
When she said this, I was overcome because I felt TRUTH raining down all over me. It was one of those moments where I felt this huge paradigm shift. It is weird that we seem to think that the only successful relationships are the ones that last. This caused my mind to grind...
I know lots of people in long term relationships (50+ years) that are not happy. Many of them knowing that they should have left these relationships many years before. Now, they feel that they stayed too long and leaving would be too hard, isn’t worth the effort or even though they would really be happier with something or someone else, they have accepted that they will remain until death do they part.
I have had many relationships and until she said that I considered all of them a failure because they ended. As I sat there in the Granada Theater, her words rang inside my body and spirit and I knew that I considered them failures because my only yard stick of success was how long they lasted. If I expanded my view, and allowed for other markers, then I might be able to look at these relationships and their attendant endings with new eyes and from a different perspective.
I began to review. My marriage ended but I can still consider it a success. We loved each other, married, had two kids, did our best and when it was over and I could no longer maintain my self and the relationship, I ended it. I did so with grace and dignity. I only called him a motherfucker one time and hung up on him. I called him back five minutes later to apologize. We divorced, sold a home, divided up the money and stuff, made intelligent decisions about the children, helped each other pack up and relocate. We are welcome in each other’s homes. We did not tear our families and children apart. We did not demand that friends pick sides. We worked it out. Not without pain, heartache and loss. But we had a very successful divorce. No court. No attorneys. I drew up our agreement on the back of a Panera napkin while we had lunch with each other. I am a divorce lawyer, that is fucking amazingly successful. We did not out live our shelf life. The ending kind of made the whole thing more perfect actually.
From this point, there was not one relationship of significance that I would not and could not characterize as successful despite the attendant ending. Lane was the most successful of all despite its difficult and painful ending. I grew so much in that relationship. I loved, laughed and enjoyed the hell out of him, his children and our time together. Why have I labeled it such a dismal failure? It wasn’t, it was the best one I have ever had to date and the fact that it ended is totally ok. We loved, we grew and now we moved on. That feels more successful than it does failing.
After some reflection, I realized that I could not think of one relationship that ended that was not also successful in some purpose - great or small. And they all ended or at least changed into something else. My marriage became a friendship which is what we were best at together from the start. My relationship with Lane extremely successful for me in going all in and not holding back as I had always done before. Both of these major relationships that heretofore I experienced as the perfect examples of failure now reborn into a conclusion of success. Totally got my money’s worth at that lecture! I just completely reframed my two most intimate relationships from being dismal failures into success stories. Thanks Esther Perel!
But then something else happened....I began to look at present and future relationships differently. The current ones I have and the ones that are on the horizon. I began to look for the ending at the beginning. Instead of fearing it and avoiding it, I began to embrace it. Let’s take Nooner for an example...
He is fresh out of a 30 year relationship. He is only a year out. While he is charming, hot, fun, smart and interesting, he is not ready for nor does he want to enter into another long term deal. It doesn’t really matter how amazing the person that walks across his path might be. He has some oats to sow. He has never been an adult and single. He has a big job, teenage kids and a large friend group that all are vying for his attention and time. He is not divorced yet. He is lost in the best sense of the word...he is just taking things as they come and not really thinking about anything all that much. He is having fun. He is enjoying his new found freedom and who can blame him? Not me. When I was where he is, I will completely admit to enjoying the fuck out of my life. I felt like I had won some sort of emotional lottery. I felt freedom on a level that I had never experienced before. I could not ever see myself getting married again. I wanted to have fun and connect but I wanted autonomy. I needed autonomy.
But I did not stay in that place. It was a lay over in my life. I enjoyed visiting the post divorce airport but I was bound for another destination so eventually I got on the plane and headed forward. Today, I would get married again but it is not a goal. I am not looking for my next husband. I am not sure that I want one but I am open to him if he happens to walk into my life. I am open to whatever and whomever walks into my life. But that took time. Five years of time for me to get here. Nooner is not there. He can’t be. It doesn’t matter how wonderful and amazing a person walks into his life, he isn’t ready and doesn’t want another amazing relationship right now. Totally get that. I see the ending in the beginning. I am not coloring it something different. I am not insisting it be something other than it is.
I think this is why being friends is important to me. It gives the possibility but not requirement that there is something after the physical relationship ends. Friendship isn’t a guarantee of longevity either but it does seem to increase the shelf life. Friendship also allows for the communication of care and concern that is more easily expressed in a friendship rather than a nascent romantic relationship. Friends are free to care and be concerned while romantic partners must do that most exhausting dance of how much to share and how much not to lest we send the other person running for the hills or a restraining order.
In being willing to see the end at the beginning, I am free to identify what elements of the relationship have markers for success and which ones really do spell failure. My life's view has now so shifted that I feel like I have pretty much given a full access pass to all who wander into my life. Come on in, sit down, tell me about yourself. Who you are, what do you think and dream about. Stay as long as you like. It is all good. I no longer need to chain you where you sit in order to think well about you, us. People are free to walk in, sit down, stay awhile and then get up and leave. It doesn't make me afraid anymore and I feel no need to make you stay. I can see the end of us, at the beginning of us which makes something that used to feel scary and daunting much lighter.
I think most relationships become the strongest at the places where they almost ended. My new perspective allows for more of these opportunities. I can be honest and open with you which grants us both access to information that we might have denied or attempted to re-characterize another way. I am no longer tethered to trying to make you stay forever. You likely are not going to. You are going to move the fuck on and so am I. I cannot begin to tell you how much peace and freedom this brings me. I feel reborn and able to access my life and participate in a manner never before possible. It all starts with clearly seeing the ending at the start. In my identification of the perils ahead, I feel like I have given both participants the ability to teach each other something new without demanding the possibility of a life time commitment. Nooner will not be in my life forever. We likely won't even be friends for an extended period of time. This frees me up to enjoy the hell out of what is occurring now because my enjoyment of the now is not dependent upon the promise of a future. There is likely no future and that is totally, 100% ok.
Everything that has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well. The Buddha.