The long dark night of my soul

Some rainy night musings on love and loss.

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If we’re lucky, we get the opportunity to love a lot of different people in our lives. Parents, children, one or more spouses, lots of friends. And then there are the romantic liaisons that for one reason or another just don’t quite end up happily ever after.

Some end clearly. There’s a moment of “we need to talk”, possibly a complete surprise to one party, but it at least puts everything out in the open. A conversation follows and decision is made. The relationship becomes part of each person’s past. There’s pain, but it’s like ripping a band-aid off, sharp and startling but it’s usually over fairly quickly.

Then there’s the loss from death. I loved my wife. Like I will never love another in this lifetime. But when she died, the relationship came to a natural end. An end that is clear and delineated. There’s closure. I’ll always miss her in my life but moving on is like pulling away from a stoplight. Everything has changed, but the past is behind me. The pain is unique and long lasting (likely life long) but you at least know why it ended.

Some aren’t quite so cut and dried.

I walked down the street from the bar with the rain beading up on my glasses. And I pondered, as I have several times over the past few months, why it was that I still couldn’t quite get over her. Just as I will always love that beautiful dark haired Italian woman from thirty years ago.

I realized it was because the relationships never came to a coherent conclusion. There was no point in time where there was a clear signal that this was over. And I think it’s because the love didn’t really end. The relationship just didn’t work in the context of each partner’s lives. Maybe the timing was wrong. Or maybe there just wasn’t a way to rationalize each person’s values with the other’s. Despite the love, two people sometimes just don’t fit together.

I think most of us have one or more relationships that end in this fashion. I suspect it’s how most marriages that end in divorce come to their final conclusion. The love doesn’t actually go away. Someone cheats, or finds they just don’t feel that same passion. Maybe the kids grow up and that glue that held everything together just sort of dissolves. There are as many reasons as there are couples who split up. But there was love there once. And I suspect it’s still there. The relationship just can’t survive the new reality.

This pain fades slowly. In fact it’s actually grief. But a different form of grief, because the party that is central to the pain is is still alive. Often, I think, the grief morphs into anger. Possibly, for some, it runs through all five of the stages of grief, although that hasn’t been my experience. For me, there’s always just been a profound sense of disappointment. It’s a failure. And I don’t deal well with failure at all.

I guess what I’m really getting at is, it sucks. Sometimes life just doesn’t give us the answers that we seek. Nowhere is that more plain than in relationships between people.

One day I’ll undoubtedly find myself with another love interest. But those two relationships will always be behind a door in my heart that I can’t quite close.