I am in the unique position of being recently single, and also spending time with my ex-boyfriend.
This might sound strange, but I love him ridiculously (and have done so for 23 years), and it is my hope that we stay friends forever.
Despite the fact that he did the breaking-up, I’ve been startled by how big, free, loving, and expansive I feel now that we’re not together.
Note: A huge part of this expansion is certainly due to the fact that I spent the last year battling PMDD and have won the battle, for now (thanks, birth control!). The world of mental health issues is very small and dark indeed.
But another part of it has to do with relationships in general, at least in my experience. Specifically, the way we hold completely different expectations for our partners than we do for everyone else— and how those expectations are like soul-poison.
As Tom and I have navigate our way through this breakup, I’ve been completely knocked on my ass to realize how much more love I have for him now than I did when we were together. When he was my boyfriend, I had a lot of… complaints.
I had a lot of needs, and expectations, and demands that weren’t being met, which made me feel hurt and unloved. But the only reason I had these needs expectations, and demands was because his life and future were intertwined with mine, and because every little thing he did affected me, and my life, and most importantly, my future.
Partnering with someone is an incredibly strange thing to do, IMO.
You decide you like someone enough to do life together, and all of a sudden this person’s interests, habits, career, growth, and future plans all affect your life for better or worse. When you were just two people hanging out, their addiction issues, or estranged relationship with their family, or habit of sleepwalking to the fridge and eating everything inside it, these things are just quirks; details that don’t affect you.
But once you make the decision to link your futures together, those things start to matter because they affect you and your life and your future. Things that at first are no problem at all when you were just two people suddenly become problems once you’re partners.
This is why I adore being single, actually. Every single date, the person gets to be literally perfect, because I need and expect absolutely nothing from them. They couldn’t let me down if they tried, so all I feel toward them is appreciation and delight.
I feel the same way about my friends, clients, and strangers of all kinds. Everyone is perfect, and I am able to appreciate and adore them without needing anything in return.
Since I have no expectations and they don’t affect my future in any way, I can love everyone broadly, fully, expansively, and enormously, flaws and all!
This is how it is for me. I felt that way about Tom when we first started dating almost 2 years ago– everything he did was perfect and interesting and wonderful! But once we were partners trying to build a life together, I found myself with a long list of problems.
Inside of a partnership, I have expectations and needs and I am constantly affected by their decisions. Inside of a partnership I take things personally and feel let down and stress about how this will work in the future. That means that inside of a partnership I am much harsher, more critical, less generous, and less loving.
This sucks, because it means the person I love the most gets the least love from me.
Now that Tom and I are no longer together, and I am freed from any expectation of building a future with him, I don’t care how he spends his time, and I don’t feel any need to understand his life choices, and I don’t find a single thing about him “unacceptable.”
As such, I find myself able to see him more clearly, and love him significantly more deeply and fully, than I did when we were together.
He is imperfect, and I find myself able to adore these imperfections again, the way I did before we dated. He is flawed, and extraordinary. Now that his life and personality don’t affect me, I can see with shocking clarity how perfect he is again.
This has happened before, with other partners. After nearly every breakup I’ve ever gone through, actually, I’ve experienced something similar: a restoration of unconditional love and acceptance once they were no longer my partner.
The implications of this realization have given me a LOT to think about.
I certainly hope for a romantic relationship someday that allows me to be as unconditionally loving and accepting (and fun, and expansive!) as I am when single… but I can’t imagine it.
The moment I decide to partner with someone, their life choices and flaws DO affect me, right? So how can I extend them the same kind of generosity and love that I find myself able to extend to everyone else, despite that?
Is there something I need in order to stay centered in my own life, or will the “right person” be someone whose life and future aligns nicely with mine? Maybe a setup where we never lived together would be ideal, or something like polyamory or commune living would help.
Maybe it’s impossible.
After all, there are SO few relationships that I am inspired by, or want to emulate. Most relationships seem to just be an inevitable chipping away at love, a slow subtle loss of intimacy and admiration, and a settling into baggage and resentment.
Perhaps this is the way it always goes.
Having discussed this stuff all week I’m struck by how many people consider it to be just part of the territory when it comes to relationships– it’s not ideal, but what are you gonna do? It was even suggested to me more than once that it’s natural, because we feel safe enough with the people we love most to “let them see our worst selves.”
But I’m not comfortable with that.
I want the person I partner with to feel wholly loved and accepted, supported and respected and admired, and I want the same in return.
I’m fine with someone seeing me fall apart and be triggered and all that, I’m not ok with my partner actually bringing out the worst, smallest parts of myself.
Ah, relationships. They’re such a fascinating thing to unpack and examine!
For the record, I am still interested in partnership, and I have every intention of seeking one when I’m ready again. But while I wait, I examine, and I ponder, and I discuss.
And as always, I’m curious what you think! Hit reply to share your thoughts or perspective! Just know I’m looking for connection and discussion, not advice. 😉
Yours in BIG EXPANSIVE LOVE,
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