There’s that friend— you know the one. The one madly in love and totally devoted to their relationship. Who is fiery and defensive at the first sign of criticism of their partner. But who is, ultimately, deeply unhappy. And visibly so. Despite being genuinely and deeply in love, their relationship makes them miserable. It’s obvious and palpable— but they’ll never admit it. One wants kids and other doesn’t, they hate all the same activities, they want to live in different places, they fight constantly. Yet, when they talk about it, it’s always ‘in a rough patch’ or ‘just a bad time, rather than a fundamental problem with their relationship’. They refuse to face the truth: that sometimes you have to walk away away from someone you’re completely in love with.
And you can so clearly that the relationship just isn’t working, can’t you? Because everyone can. Everyone except the people in it. But the catch is, they can see it just as clearly in other people. Maybe they even saw it in you, while you were in a relationship that didn’t make you happy. So why is it so hard to recognize it in ourselves? Or perhaps a better question, if we can recognize, it why do we fight acting on it— or even acknowledging it?
Being In Love Isn’t Unique
Because it’s hard to admit that love is not enough. It’s even harder to admit that being in love isn’t special. When you’re in it, it feels like the most unique and singular thing in the world. But it isn’t. Most people will fall in love one or more times over the course of their life— some of them far more frequently. If anything, falling in love is universal. It’s common. And that feeling that convinces you that this specific love, your love, is completely special and different? Everyone feels that.
That’s not to be cynical— falling and being in love is still one of the most wondrous and exciting things in the world. But that feeling that we’re unique keeps us from letting go, because we think we’ll never find it again. We think this relationship, this feeling is our only chance. So the unhappiness, the pain, the compromise that somehow shifted into surrender is all worth it. It’s all justified, because this is as good as it will ever be.
But There’s So Much More Out There
What we don’t see is what can happen if we’re brave enough to walk away. That making a sacrifice now, going through the pain and suffering at this moment, will open us up to an opportunity. Not only can you fall in love again, you can fall in love in a way that works for you. That strengthens and builds and makes you happier. That makes your life easier and more fulfilled.
There’s no doubt that being in love makes it harder to say goodbye. The sick pleasure of a bad break up comes from being able to hate the person, if only for a time. You can rage. You can purge and heal. But when you’re still in love, there’s none of that rage. There’s just the lack.
You Can Walk Away
A friend of mine walked out of a five year relationship because they wanted such different things that it was never going to work. One of them needed to travel for their job but wanted kids immediately. The other wanted a stable home but wasn’t ready to start trying for children— or sure if she’d ever be. They barely saw each other and the long distance just became too much. And there was no sign that this could ever change, without one of them having to sacrifice too much. During the breakup there was no screaming, no fighting, no vitriol— and she said it was the hardest breakup of her life. It was just a heart-breaking decision to walk away from a relationship that had a lot of love and still could never work.
It’s not too much to ask for more than just being in love. It’s not too much to ask to find a love that fits into your life and enhances it, rather than making everything feel like a concession. It’s difficult to admit that the feeling of being in love that you have right now can be felt again, with someone else. Though it’s painful, it’s worth facing up to. Because sacrifice and pain now can open your world up to so much more. So if you’re feeling unhappy, give yourself and your relationship the same clear-eyed assessment you give that friend who is always ‘in a rough patch’ and never seems to come out. Because you deserve to be in love— but you deserve everything else in life, too.