(Un)conditional Love and Break-Ups

I think about the nature of love and loss of love every time I hear of a divorce or break-up.   If we assume it’s a given that divorce and break-ups will happen, then within this context, how do people go from “death do us part” to “I hate you and never want to see you again”?  Why not (as we used to say in middle school):  “It’s been real.  It’s been nice.  It’s been real nice… but it’s time to part ways”? (I added the last part.)

A good psychologist would undoubtedly provide a long, thorough and logical thesis on the subject of love turning to hate.  Or perhaps such transitions boil down to a few key ideas, such as failing to take responsibility for one’s own role in the relationship.  It’s hard to imagine how else one goes one extreme to the next without vilifying the other in some fashion.   It’s also hard to imagine how to demonize someone else whom I perceive to be only 50% responsible for the demise of the relationship.  However, if they’re the villain and I’m the victim, then it’s easy to go there. I might feel innocent and vindicated, but how will I learn to be more effective in my next relationship when I choose the same sort of partner?

To me, love is not connected to a switch that we flip on or off.  My love for my ex friends, boyfriends, husband and in-laws do not shut off because we’ve decided to not spend our time together any more.  And if I don’t vilify them, I think there is a tendency for them to not  vilify me (though clearly not a guarantee).  We can then part ways amicably and wish each other well on their new path.

Many people think my relationship with my ex-husband (and my boyfriend from college for that matter) is odd.  We still do an occasional holiday together, hang out together at celebrations and events, enjoy chatting and catching up around our co-parenting conversations.  We neither go out of our way to see each other, nor do we avoid each other.

I don’t know for sure how he feels, but I will always love him and have his back.  Yes, I wish he could’ve done more to help us resolve our relationship issues that led to our break-up, but he tried his best and that’s all I can ask.  I could’ve done more too, I am sure, and he seems to have forgiven me for my shortcomings as well.  In this manner, perhaps we are able to maintain our “love, honor and cherish” part of our vows, even if “death do us part” went by the wayside in terms of our daily living arrangements.  I don’t feel we’ll ever be completely separated.  After all, we do share our children, and someday we’ll share grandchildren if we are so blessed.

Continuing to honor part of our vows is some consolation from the divorce.  But having a real partner and ally out there in the world, instead of an enemy, even if it’s primarily from a co-parenting perspective, is a big plus in the good karma column.

Same Problem, Different Relationship

It’s always a surprise, but it shouldn’t be.  Our friends and family, though, can see it coming a mile away.  In the meantime, you’re kicking yourself for falling for the same type of person who just broke your heart.

See, it’s tempting to think by kicking your Ex to the curb that you’ve learned your lesson and you’re going to do better the next time around.  Your new love just seems so perfect.  So different.  What you don’t remember is how your Ex also seemed so perfect when you first fell in love.

“You complete me” – Jerry Maguire

There are two parts to this equation.  First, according to relationship experts like Harville Hendricks, we fall in love with people who replicate our childhood wounds.   Since I have discussed this previously in What Every Couple Should Know Before Getting Married and Blessings of a Dysfunctional Marriage, I will just summarize to say that we fall in love because, on some level, we feel that we’ve met the person who will heal our childhood wounds.  When we realize they won’t is when the trouble, conflict and discontent occur.

The second part of this equation is your choice.  You can either blame your partner and get all your friends to agree what a horrible person she is (see A Random Act of War, Part 2), or you can heal your own childhood wounds.  By healing your wounds, you also help your partner heal hers, and thus strengthen and reinforce your relationship (see Do I Stay or Do I Go?).

“You bet on me like I bet on you” – Rod Tidwell, from Jerry Maguire

If you choose blame and denial about your role in your troubled or failed relationship – guess what? – you’ll go and repeat the cycle with your next partner.

If you don’t believe me, go out and try it.  Or maybe you have already.

“How’d I get myself into this?” – Jerry Maguire

If you’ve gone from failed relationship to failed relationship, ask yourself:  what is the common denominator?

If you’re now launching into a 20 minute answer, then maybe you’re fooling yourself.

You don’t know what it’s like to be me” – Jerry Maguire

If your answer is “me”, then you know what to do.

“Show me the money!” – Jerry Maguire

How to do it is another story, and is a major theme of this and many other blogs, books and therapy sessions.  Know that it is a life-long journey that is filled with wonderful discoveries, beauty, joy, and forgiveness.   Remember:

It’s about the journey, not the destination” – Dad

(If you need a Jerry Maguire quote the only thing I could find that works is, “If you fuck this up I’ll kill you.”  It just seemed wrong.)