I don’t want us to look back and say this was all for nothing. We carried each other through our first years away from our family, and nothing was telling us these feelings would fade. Could anyone blame us for getting married after five years together? It seemed right.
We can listen to “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” and feel sad for what is no longer there – but it was there. We have those memories, we can know that there is someone out there who really got us better than anyone else, and knowing that means knowing there are other people out there, too. There is love in us. We shouldn’t be ashamed because we got so close that we imagined devoting our entire lives to each other. That closeness is such a beautiful thing, even if it didn’t last as long as we had hoped.
I guess the concept of marriage is tainted for us now. How will either of us learn to trust again? No, how can I ever trust myself to know what I really want? I was so sure of this, but I was the one to ask for the end. I don’t want to hurt anyone else – I’m damaged goods.
But, no, I’m capable of more. I can rebuild myself, and you can, too. We don’t know how to move forward, but we are moving forward. Every new day we reconstruct ourselves further. We can choose to be ashamed of that label, of being ‘divorced,’ but it’s a sign that we once allowed ourselves to love someone fully. There’s nothing wrong with having been young and in love – this can be such a lonely world, and you gave me freedom from that feeling for so long.
Even as we soon part ways, you going off to either claim your PhD or moving back in with your family for a bit, me staying behind in this same college town, a part of you will remain within me for life. I assure you, there’s no replacing what we had together – but new towers will dot our skylines.
I started crying in the middle of Night of the Living Dead.
Not at the film, of course. My distracted thoughts reminded me it was October 5, the day that would have marked six years since I began dating my partner if I hadn’t asked for a divorce only a few weeks earlier. I had to walk out and get some fresh air, and you were the first person I thought to bother.
We’ve been at a distance since our own break-up, because who wouldn’t be, but you were fully there for me that night. You were my one friend who could relate; I’m getting divorced before most of my friends are even considering getting married. But you’re older, and really, our lives this last year have sort of paralleled each other.
The most important topic we hit that night was that we never wanted to hurt our husbands; that, because of this fact, we likely delayed the inevitable. The relationship we had built together was supposed to be a side-thing, but we both realized that we only wanted a side-thing because we weren’t getting what we needed from our primary. And, because we weren’t getting what we needed, we could never give what they needed, either – we could put on a performance, but that could only go so far.
And who wants to only be given performative acts of love?
When you love someone enough to marry them, I think there’s something there that forms that goes beyond romantic love. There are so many ways to love someone, ways that might blind us to the truth. I do believe we both still love our ex-husbands – just not in the way they need. But they’re, well, like family. We want what’s best for them, and we’ve realized we’re not that.
There’s only so much time in this world, and I’d rather all of us go back to finding new loves than committing to a futile struggle to reignite old ones. We both came to the conclusion, wouldn’t it be nice if the person being broken up with could accept that this was simply what had to be, that things would turn out better for them in the long run than if we tried to stick around? That the end of romance didn’t have to be this tragic thing, that we could all be happy we had this person in our life for this certain period of time?
Why do people only see value in love if it lasts forever?
I was in a panic that night because I had convinced myself I was eternally scarring my ex-husband. But that’s not true. He’ll grow from whatever wounds I have caused. Someday he’ll meet someone new and be thankful I let him go, so that he can experience this new wonder. Who knows how many times that cycle will repeat, for all of us? But I just want to be happy with whoever I have in the moment – if it’s for a month, a year, until the end of time.
We can talk about future plans, the things we want from a partner in the long term – and we can focus on the loves we lost until it drives us to madness. But all we ever really have is now; the future is a series of present moments we’re yet to live through. Cherish the memories, but spend that precious time with the people who love you in the current shape you take.
We swung by your favorite chicken place as soon as you got back from the holidays. Despite the divorce, we still enjoy each other’s company; in the end, the issues of our relationship stemmed more from what we wanted than any problem with each other’s personality. We grew together, and unfortunately, sometimes growing together means growing apart.
You told me of various escapades that a more reasonable person probably wouldn’t tell their ex-partner, but I guess we’re just like that, before telling me that you paid a visit to your old neighbor. The one who essentially invited herself to our wedding and insists she’s a family friend, despite everyone in your family seeming more annoyed than anything else by her presence. I guess it’s because she’s a little old lady who was abandoned by her family, the type of thing that makes you feel sorry for someone – despite being fully aware of why her family might have been so vexed by her as to leave.
Apparently, she hates me now – no, wait. Apparently, she never really cared for me. Despite only meeting a few times and having me sit through her endless stories of whatever popped into her mind, I must have done something wrong. As you say, she only offers room to speak so she can find a new topic from the first words out of your mouth. People are but an audience to her, so I guess I must have been a poor crowd.
It’s funny, the way people think they can speak to you after a breakup. As if that person you once invested so much time in, got to the point of wanting to spend your life together with, was never that good. Is the sentiment supposed to be helpful? “You were wrong to care this much.”
It’s weird the things people assume. I’m sure these people don’t expect what they say to get back to me; could they even imagine you sharing these kinds of thoughts with me, despite everything? Are they aware that you told me because what they said hurt you? How can someone speak so casually and carelessly about a relationship they never saw the interior of?
Through everything, I still see you as a best friend. I know you need distance due to the divorce, but it’s clear you care too. And how could anyone suggest we shouldn’t care? Neither of us would be who we are today if we hadn’t met and fallen in love.
You deserve answers. I care too much about you. Even as our relationship fell apart, you still held something irreplaceable in me. You became like family.
So I guess it staggers me to realize how flimsy these relationships can be. Because, obviously, this old neighbor of yours means nothing to me. But, god, to think that people are angry at me because things simply didn’t work out between us, despite the two of us knowing better than that. Neither of us are really at fault here. These things happen all the time.
So what did all of this mean to everyone else? How quickly every other connection snapped as soon as things fell apart between us. Was it all an act? Did anyone ever really care? Or is accepting an outsider into your family always an act?
Is performative love inescapable?
We spent the first six years of our adult lives together. We’re never going to erase that and I don’t think either of us want to; I just wish other people could learn their place.