Sometimes I think that the people who ponder the most about relationships are those who aren’t in one. Last week, I was having a conversation with a girl that I was interested in and the topic drifted to past romances. She told me that she felt like she’s been unlucky in love, especially because she believed the last guy she was with was “The One.” I disagreed with her on that point. To me, it seemed more likely that she wanted him to be “The One.”
Now, maybe I’ve grown up to be a cynic who doesn’t believe in Le Grand Amour, but I have never really fancied the idea that there is literally only one person in the world that can be your spouse. It always kinda sounded like a crazy myth a la The Matrix. This abstract romantic singularity is supposed to come and be your everything and save you from a world of loneliness and the possible absence of progeny.
The whole idea is ludicrous to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s mathematically improbable, maybe even impossible. It presupposes a world in which you make the following assumptions:
- You have met and interacted with every single human (all 7.3 billion of them) and vetted them for supposed compatibility with you and life you plan to live.
- It also assumes that you will only ever be able to fall in love with that one person.
Obviously, nobody has ever satisfied both conditions. In deciding on the person or persons that we plan on spending our lives with, what we’re really doing is applying a series of filters to whittle down the list of potentials based on whatever criteria we think we think we might like. And then we go out hoping to find the person(s) that best meet those predetermined requirements (or do it online as is the modern trend). Basically, there was no fairy tale involved, it was not magic or miracle, there was no “One.” If you really sit down and think about it, there was, is, and will only ever be the One You Choose.
I’m sure right about now, some of you think I’m just all up in my feelings but hear me out. From the first date, through the I Do’s, and on to whatever comes after that, you are consistently choosing that person. Sure, it feels like magic when when everything is going well and the choice is easy, but that’s not always guaranteed. Some days, it’s pretty freaking hard. The way I see it, a relationship only exists where all parties continuously choose each other in mutually compatible ways. That’s especially important to remember when things get difficult, especially to the point of breaking up.
Sometimes when a relationship ends, we have a tendency to focus on the negatives and rightly so. It’s heartbreaking. You spent a great deal of time with this person, planning for a future that looks very different than the one you are currently experiencing. That’s hard! But I don’t think it’s always helpful to focus on the negatives. It’s important to remember that when you’re building a relationship with someone, you’re not just choosing that person, you’re also choosing how you want to interact with that person. As such, when the relationship ends, sometimes it’s because the people involved have stopped choosing each other altogether and other times, it’s because they’ve decided to choose each other in a whole new way. That’s not always a bad thing.
I once read a poem called, “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert. In it, he describes his reaction to his divorce in similar terms to how he thinks about the legend of Icarus from the Greek Myths. My inner poet and inner mythology nerd went crazy for this poem, but I’ll spare you the literary analysis. I think the poem speaks very clearly for itself.
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails…
…I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
To be clear, I’m not trying to shit on anyone’s actual relationship. I just think the fairy tale ideas about love and romance are sometimes unhelpful in dealing with the day to day of being in a relationship. Personally, I prefer a more intentional approach to thinking about love and romance. If I should ever be unfortunate enough to go through a break up from a long-term relationship or divorce, I hope to carry Mr. Gilbert’s mindset with me.
What do you guys think? Am I wrong about this?