Thought Catalog

How The People We Once Loved Become Strangers Again

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It’s interesting to think about how we make people who used to be everything into nothing again. How we learn to forget. How we force forgetting. What we put in place of them in the interim. The dynamics afterward always tell you more than what the relationship did – grief is a faster teacher than joy – but what does it mean when you cycle out to being strangers again? You never really stop knowing each other in that way. Maybe there’s no choice but to make them someone different in your mind, not the person who knew your daily anxieties and what you looked like naked and what made you cry and how much you loved them.

When our lives revolve around someone, they don’t just stop doing so even if all that’s left is some semblance of their memory. There are always those bits that linger. The memories that are impressed on the places you went and the things you said and the songs you listened to remain.

We all eventually find ourselves standing in the checkout line, hearing one of those songs come on and realizing that we’re revolving around them again. And maybe we never stopped.

Do you ever really forget your lovers’ birthdays, or all your first times, intimate and not? Do your anniversaries ever become normal days of the year again? Are the things you did and promises you made ever really neutralized? Do they become void now that you’re broken up or do you decidedly ignore them because there’s simply no other choice? The mind tells you to go on, and forces your heart to follow suit I guess.

I want to believe that you either love someone, in some way, forever, or you never really loved them at all. That once two reactive chemicals cross both are changed. That the wounds we leave in people are sometimes too raw to risk falling back into them. I don’t want to believe that we write each other off because we simply don’t matter anymore. I know love isn’t expendable. I wonder, and maybe hope, if we ever just force it to be out of necessity.

Maybe it’s just that we’re all at the centers of our own little universes, and sometimes they overlap with other people’s, and that small bit of intersection leaves some part of it changed. The collision can wreck us, change us, shift us. Sometimes we merge into one, and other times we rescind because the comfort of losing what we thought we knew wins out. 

Either way, it’s inevitable that you expand. That you’re left knowing that much more about love and what it can do, and the pain that only a hole in your heart and space in your bed and emptiness in the next chair over can bring. Whether or not that hole will ever again include the person who made it that way… I don’t know. Whether or not anybody else can match the outline of someone who was so deeply impressed in you… I don’t know that either.

We all start as strangers. The choices we make in terms of love are usually ones that seem inevitable anyway. We find people irrationally compelling. We find souls made of the same stuff ours are. We find classmates and partners and neighbors and family friends and cousins and sisters and our lives intersect in a way that makes them feel like they couldn’t have ever been separate. And this is lovely. But the ease and access isn’t what we crave. It isn’t what I’m writing about right now. It isn’t what we revolve around after it’s gone. We are all just waiting for another universe to collide with ours, to change what we can’t ourselves. It’s interesting how we realize the storm returns to calm, but we see the stars differently now, and we don’t know, and we can’t choose, whose wreckage can do that for us.

We all start as strangers, but we forget that we rarely choose who ends up a stranger too.TC Mark

Want more articles like this? Check out Brianna Wiest’s book The Truth About Everything here.

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I asked women to tell the story behind one of their Instagram photos 📸

“This is me on the roof of my building forcing myself to laugh. Every time I make my best friend take photos of me I remember that I’ve been single for 5 years and don’t have anyone to be in the photo with me. I’m just alone. My hair looks good though.”

This is the reality of Instagram...

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