The past few days have been a blur, and yet sharp –blurry from all of my effort to forget, but still sharp enough to cut through flesh, to pierce the heart, and to leave in shards whatever else may be left inside this frail glass, that another, at least externally, may refer to as a human body. I am fully aware that every effort to forget is squandered as I write, for to write is to remember. But as it is with all beautiful things, the pain of forgetting surpasses the pain of remembering.
The key ingredient to a failed relationship, we have both decided, is to all the while assume that the other person feels loved even when you don’t put in any work, even if you don’t say anything, even if you don’t do anything. People break up, give up on their marriage, go their separate ways thinking it was because of the most recent event –the most recent fight, the hurtful thing so recently said, the deed that was just recently done. But if you trace back, you’d find trails, hints, residues somewhere along the way, pointing to the ignored truth that things have long since been falling apart. It was all those things you suddenly stopped doing, all those things you stopped saying because you thought anyway, he knew, she knew.
It will start out as one little misstep, one seemingly harmless slack. One day you’ll find yourself paying a little less attention than usual, tuning out certain details of a story as you get caught up in your own affairs. Multiple opportunities for such things will come, as quick and gushing as afterthoughts, and before you know it, you’ve altogether stopped caring and altogether stopped listening. What will start out as something so little will be ignorantly fed and unknowingly nursed, until suddenly there is now a big blot on your favorite shirt, a blot that neither of you could seem to rub off.
We finally took that walk that night –that long-overdue walk on the very first night that we finally saw the possibility, and however heartbreaking, the need to no longer be together. We finally entertained the thought of permanently suspending our hopes and plans with each other in them; we finally entertained the idea of a plan B.
In many ways, the walk was just like all the others we took over the years. We made sure to pass by the streets we frequented, and talked. But this time, finally, we were completely honest with each other. We withheld judgment to every line that the other said. We stopped trying to be right. We stopped saying things in order to manipulate the other, we stopped making the other person believe, agree, succumb to whatever point we were trying to make. We didn’t impose our own point of view into each other’s set of truths, but instead we were quick to see things from the perspective of the other. We allowed ourselves to be strangers again, but surely strangers of a different kind. No longer the kind of strangers held captive by silence over the years, victimized by inappropriate amounts of space and time, but strangers who were again genuinely interested in each other’s thoughts, desires, opinion, and depth. And we accepted each other just as we were, handled things just as they were. We unsubscribed to the meanings that were inevitably tied up to the past events. We set aside the feelings and insisted to ourselves that we needed to be rational because it was the only way we could figure it all out. And we did.
We let it slip away. Somewhere along the way we grew complacent. Somewhere along the way we stopped trying. Not necessarily simultaneously, perhaps one after the other, but at some point, both of us stopped pursuing each other, we both stopped fighting for what we had, we both stopped the bold efforts to keep alive whatever remained. We stopped doing things that mattered. We stopped doing things and going to places for the first time. We stopped communicating. We stopped being honest, for fear of confrontation and arguments, for fear of being judged by the other. We grew tired. We stopped going the extra mile. Everything became too comfortable.
I honestly didn’t see it coming. I always thought it was different with us. I didn’t know I was already doing it, I had no idea I was capable of it –of growing cold, of, as the Mad Hatter had put it, losing my muchness. My excuse was this: I thought C.S. Lewis was right when he said that one can never possibly feel exactly the same way for the next fifty years. At some point the passion and the fireworks during the first few months, that feeling of “being in love” in every sense of it, will have to be subdued. It doesn’t take a conscious effort to do so, it’s just something that naturally happens. And that’s not so bad. Because that would give you time to shift your focus on other things that are as important such as your work, family, friendships, even sleep. And there then arises a different type of love: “Love as distinct ‘from being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit,” Lewis wrote.
Maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit. That was the part I missed.
When we took our focus and attention to be shifted towards career, family, other friends and whatnot, I thought it was perfectly fine, perfectly healthy. But I guess we took it too far, that we took each other for granted. And now, all we’re left with are unrecognizable fragments of what used to be whole, a pile of worthless debris from what used to stand so strong.
I don’t know where this big change is all leading, how everything is going to end up. I have my hopes, but to hold on to those hopes so stubbornly may not be the wisest as of now. The best perhaps, is to give the other a choice – a sincere choice wherein a no would be as good as a yes. And of course, even if it may be difficult at first, we both have to start over – start from scratch, start with a clean slate. Eventually we’re going to have to suit up again, put on that armor, anticipate the scars, look back just once and make sure we’ve taught ourselves well. And then finally, go back out there to the battlefield.
After all, I’ve heard that even literally, the heart is always the last organ to surrender.
Published in Rebelle Society as Key Ingredient To A Failed Relationship