When you know you’re not the one they’re going to marry, it may not be because you got into a fight and broke up and you’ll never see each other again. It may not happen in the middle of plans to marry one another, it won’t happen after the engagement, when you’re picking out colors and flowers and invitations. Most frequently, it will happen in the quiet moments of the morning, or when you look up at the person sitting across from you at dinner, or when you lie awake in bed at night and realize your thoughts aren’t about them and that one day, this will end. It’s a very soft, very small voice that tells you, “this isn’t ‘the one’,” whatever ‘the one’ means to you, but it’s few people that listen to it before they end up letting their ignorance wreck them.
It will be bittersweet and sad, a final sentencing looming over your head. Because what you have will one day end, and it will become stark and apparent as you see couples taking those next steps, whether or not you want to take them yourself. Whether or not you ever planned on getting married, whether or not it ever meant much to you. Because even if you’re not the type to get married, the act of getting married isn’t the thing at play here. It is forever that is no longer up for grabs. It will loom over you when you realize that you are not ultimately right for them, and they are not ultimately right for you. That you will not end up together. That your time is finite.
But not having forever does not mean that this is the end. Not quite. Not yet. Because love comes and goes, and the people we love come in and out of our lives with their own reasons, their own rhymes, their own agendas and sense of timing. And this sense of timing, their reasons for staying, and their obligation to leave does not mean they loved us any less, or that what they have with you and feel for you is any less good or real. Because it is good. And it is true. And whether or not that good thing amounts to the kind of love we’re told to search for, the kind of love we’re groomed to want to meet at the end of an aisle some day and somewhere — the fact of the matter is that we still have it. That we still love someone, and they hopefully love us. And that is precious and rare, and to end it sooner rather than later just because you fear the end, is to take for granted the fact that you have it, that you found it, that it’s still love.
We build up all these notions of finding the one, of searching for forever and the future and the not-so-distant horizon that sometimes we forget about right now. Because the person we are in the moment needs love, too, whether that is a forever sort of love or a love that manages to take care of us here and now. Your middle school crush is not your high school sweetheart is not your college fling is not your first live-in lover is not your rebound is not your long-term is not your long distance is not your forever. Each one serves their purpose. Each one is special, and one person can embody some or all of these lovers, but multiple people can play different roles, too. What you need is what you need. What you need is love.
And so when you realize that the person you’re dating is not the person you’ll marry, you’ll want to let them down easy, to avoid wasting their time. But how could loving someone be a waste of time? How could wanting to see them happy be anything but productive?
I am not the one for you, you’ll whisper in those quiet moments when they’re asleep and your mind is racing beside them. I am too loud and too opinionated and we disagree on politics and I can’t stand your mother and you hate avocados and who hates avocados and something just feels off between us and denying that doesn’t work; denying that feels like settling.
And your mind will keep going and going because you’ve figured out that it will all end, but still, sometimes it’s worth it to keep going because you don’t quite know how or why or when yet. Sometimes you need to just see. Sometimes it’s worth it to read the story anyway, no matter the spoilers. Because even tragedies have their happy moments and their jokes and their comic relief and the memories that are worth discovering on their own merit. Because to disregard a love that does not last forever is to disregard a love that still could be powerful and life-changing in its own right. Because you never know what the future has in store until you get there. Because you never know, you could be wrong. Maybe you want to prove yourself wrong. Maybe, you think. Maybe I am the one you will marry after all.
And because right here in this moment, if you love that person in the here and now, whatever the future has in store, then loving them now is what you should still do.