Last night I got a text from my teenaged daughter’s ex-boyfriend. I like him so much, and am mourning her recent break-up with him. I saw it coming… as the balance of attraction and desire became lopsided, I knew that it was unlikely with their limited capacity to understand and express how things fell out of mutuality, that they would find their way back to each other. Once the scales tip, small acts perpetuate the dance of pushing forward and pulling back, until no one knows how they got there.
I am having a harder time than she is letting go of him.
This loss is achingly familiar, too. Recently, I have had a couple of old friends end their relationship with me. Valuing relationship history as I do, I never move towards these endings. I know from the relationships that are most valuable to me that it is in moving through and not away from my relationships where I discover the better pieces of myself that are waiting just behind the shadows to emerge.
And yet, witnessing my 16-year-old daughter moving so fluidly in relationships, unencumbered by the needs that followed me from my adolescence, I realize that I have often been willing to overlook the many ways that the relationships that have ended probably deserved my desertion long ago. Both of these friendships were defined best by the limits and boundaries in which they existed. It was usually me who was reaching out to them and arranging times to be together. Seeing and speaking to them was almost always on their terms. And worse, there was always a hanging back, a shroud of resistance around sharing what was most intimate to them with me.
In hindsight, I realize how I was always trying to do one more thing to keep them connected to me. Watching the dissolution in my daughter’s relationship was the same. He kept trying harder and she kept pulling back. It is almost a kindness, this kind of break-up, where as she admitted to me that it allowed her to see how mean she was being, and how glad she was that she could find their old friendship.
Being in relationships with people who don’t truly value and appreciate what you have to give is not a history worth maintaining. Relationships that always or even, often, make you question your own trustworthiness is a sign worth heeding. I have long argued that we cannot demand the love we want, but only be willing to accept the love that is present. Yet, what I have learned from these break-ups is that no relationship that makes you an untrustworthy friend to yourself is not the kind of healing, expanding love that turns us into our best selves.
So I am learning… letting go of love that never was or could be is a step towards positivity.