An eighteen-year-old girl once confided in me. She told me that she had had a fight with her long-term boyfriend and that she had decided that now the relationship was over. She told me, emphatically, that once she makes a decision, she sticks to it and that it that. She was very sure of this at eighteen years old. I told her that the chances were that she and her boyfriend would make-up, fight again, make-up, and fight again, in a cycle until they came to a point where one or both of them truly didn’t want to do it anymore. Most long-term relationships that end, end in a slow death. These relationships are often like a dance, one person moves forward while the other moves back. They take turns, the dance continues until both decide to move back at the same time and then they move away from each other.
The more you invest yourself in a relationship with another person, the more you try to make it work. Even when others around you wonder why you are both still together, you fight to make it right. You don’t want your friends and family to see you fail. This is especially true if you have children who are counting on you.
After each argument, a little piece of you dies. You make-up, get back together, but things are not the same. You try. They try. Then one of you hurts the other again. Another piece of you dies. You forgive and continue on with the relationship. You change for them, and slowly, you lose yourself. You lose your voice so that you fight less often. But all the time, you are dying. Your relationship is dying. Until the final death blows fall and you’ve had enough. The other person may even be surprised. Sometimes they will say that they didn’t know that the relationship was dying, they just thought that this was the way it was supposed to be. They took you for granted, they expected that you would always be there simply because you hadn’t left so far.
In the end, you ask yourself, “Am I in love with this person? Do I just love him/her for what we have experienced together in the past and for the people in our lives that bind us together?” If you can’t say “I’m still in love,” then it is just a matter of time till it ends . . . unless something changes drastically. Unless you (the you of today) can fall in love again with who they are now, not who they were then.
Sometimes, in a long-term relationship something happens, an illness, an accident, a new focus that forces change your perspectives. These catalysts sometimes actually save a relationship. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate and change so that you can both feel loved the way you each need to feel loved. Even then, it doesn’t mean that the dance stops. It just means that you will, hopefully, spend more time in synch with each other. At other times, that catalyst acts like a final heart attack and it ends all hope that this relationship can work.
So when my eighteen-year-old friend made up with her boyfriend, she didn’t want to tell me. Instead, I heard about it from other people. They stayed together for a few more months, but eventually they did end their relationship. I’m not sure of which one of them finally ended it. When I saw that they had broken up, via Facebook, I reached out to her. I told her, “You needed to finish the dance.” Now it is over and they have each moved on to new relationships. She is young and if she hasn’t learned her lesson yet, she will learn it in time. When long-term relationships die, they die slowly; if they don’t, then they are never truly over.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy