How do you let go of the greatest and the worst love of your life? That may seem like an oxymoron, and I’m not talking about the “almost relationship” either. The relationship I’m talking about is the one where you would give anything to be the person your significant other wanted.
The lows may have been some of the worst depressions you’ve ever experienced in your adult life, but they paled in comparison to the highs.
The depth of your love was infinite and your forgiveness was unwavering. You were noble, selfless, and at the conclusion of this relationship you are left with an empty, aching chest that’s heaving for air it can’t quite take in. That’s the stage I’m at right now.
I’m not saying this process is easy. It isn’t. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I miss him every minute of every day. Most days it doesn’t even feel like my heart is inside my chest. When I think about us in a loving embrace, I am not teleported to years in the past. I’m taken back only a few days ago, when he cradled my face and professed his love to me without being prompted.
But what I’ve learned from this heartbreak is that there is one universal truth to relationships like this. Regardless of how much water you pour into a cracked glass, the water will always leak out. Love should not come with conditions, but forgiveness should. “There are some things you just don’t say” my Dad always used to tell me. There are boundaries that should never be crossed. From my throne of love and forgiveness, I looked down on you and showered you with both. I made you feel loved, because you were. I forgave you, because you were loved. I forgave you when you did not deserve it.
I forgave you when you said things that should never have been said; when you crossed boundaries that never should’ve been crossed.
I’ve had a profound experience with loss. I lost my mother at a young age as a result of breast cancer, and shortly thereafter I nearly lost my father from a massive heart attack. I say these things not to generate pity, but to show you why I believed that I could carry many of his burdens better than he could, to show you how far I would go to experience loss again. I was strong! I had dealt with much worse in life, and I could certainly work through this with him. I saw the person he was when he was thoughtful, and that person was my soul mate. It didn’t seem to matter to me that the thoughtful person appeared more and more infrequently as the end drew near. I was a fighter! I was noble! I was strong! My love was unending and my forgiveness, unconditional god damn it! If I had to experience loss, I was never going to allow it to be a result of my own lack of trying.
What I failed to realize was that when I forgave without conditions, when I accepted words and behavior that could never be taken back or worked through, I wasn’t being strong. I was being weak in my convictions because it is easier to believe in the part of someone that you hold so dear than to face the reality that you deserve better. I am a firm believer in the idea that you never lose by loving, but inevitably you will lose by holding back. If I can go to sleep at night knowing that I’ve given all I can, loved as much as possible, then if it doesn’t work out I can be okay with that. But there was not enough love for me to give to make him fight for me the way I fought for him. My endless forgiveness only meant that I would continue to compromise portions of myself in an attempt to make the person I loved better.
I did not break him. I could not fix him. I will never be able to fix him. The only person capable of enacting real personal growth is him.
It did not matter that my love was endless. It did not matter that my forgiveness was unconditional. All the compromises I made, all the secret tears shed behind a closed bathroom door, none of it mattered.
There is a very subtle difference between fighting for the person you love and fracturing for them. When you fight for someone you love, you are noble and selfless. You can put aside petty differences because you value the love between you two more than inconsequential arguments. Your pride becomes a secondary thought to the person you hold closest to your heart. When you fracture for someone, you break off some of the good qualities you have in an effort to convey them onto your loved one. You make compromises with yourself over words and behavior you never would’ve accepted before and you will label it “love.”
And when he leaves, he will feel vindicated, empowered. You will be left with an aching emptiness in your chest, a loneliness that will border on the edge of unbearable, and the total evaporation of your sense of self.
Love is a risk worth taking. Even now, crying and writing at 3 a.m., my experience is not one I would ever take back. I loved recklessly, but my love was honest and it ran deep. But do not lose yourself in an effort to love another. Do not make your forgiveness unconditional, because not only will you eventually lose your love, but you will also lose yourself.