I was trying to avoid a (cliched) romance-related post, but Valentine’s Day provides the perfect conditions upon which to reflect on what we learn (good or bad) from our relationships, and for me in particular, how the meaning of those relationships can evolve over time. Companionship has looked different for me than most people considering that I have yet to stay in one place for longer than a year in over a decade. Given those dynamics, the meaning of ‘companionship’ often changes with every new and different stage of my life, which can be a beautifully frustrating thing.
In this particular stage, I have just received my visa to the Philippines and heard about making it as a Fulbright finalist to Samoa and I am attempting to reconcile the end of a relationship, the possibility (or not) of a friendship, and the spectrum of emotions that these crossroads create in our lives. You’ll see whether or not I attempted that successfully.
But really I wanted to share this because whether or not your love life resembles mine, these most vulnerable moments tend to look similar for all of us. Breakups are never easy. Coming to terms with what we want verses what is actually before us is necessary. And being open and honest no matter what will always be better than trying to come off unscathed in the struggle that is love.
From: Johanna G. <email@example.com>
Date: March 17, 2014 at 10:31 PM
Re: A Letter
I want to respond to your letter because I think it is important to acknowledge feelings and to communicate more fully, particularly if a lack of communication is a reoccurring issue for us.
It’s funny because I keep on returning to your letter and it seems to take on new meaning with every passing day. I think it’s safe to say that things on our periphery change rapidly for the both of us. I guess it’s always been that way, but seems more so now than at any other point in our relationship, or really, our lives.
So, naturally, that makes things hard. And maybe it makes things hard for the both of us in different ways.
I hear you with this email, I really do. I’ve heard you loud and clear since xxx, although you are right to predict that I had hopes that things would blossom into what I really want. But spring never came for us and we still remain at a bit of an impasse. And it’s a struggle that I think really comes out with your letter. I’m someone who is important to you. You want me in your life. You want me to meet your family and friends. You want everything but any sort of committed relationship with me. I understand; I’ve come to terms with it.
I do want to have a real and active friendship with you. I mean, that’s something I’ve always wanted. It’s something I hope we have. That’s why I agreed to going to xxx. I know it’s what you want for us.
But I also feel like we are often not on the same page and that you don’t get me. And I often question whether or not this friendship is simply a continuation of you getting everything you want and need out of me and me having to come to terms with the fact that the vice to that versa is never going to happen for me. I know I am going to perpetually want and need something more out of you; something that I do not think you are capable of giving.
So in that vein, I think you need to be honest with yourself and embrace whatever it is that is holding you back in life. And I am saying this out of the context of us for the moment. What is making you unhappy? What is making you feel so unsatisfied? What is making you feel like you are shitty at what you have decided to devote your life to? Perhaps spend this week to take the time to really wrestle with and think these things over. I always find that when I feel those feelings it’s because I’ve missed something I’m meant to be doing or I’m not somewhere I’m meant to be. Sometimes those feelings are there to push us in the right direction and it’s nothing we should be fearful of.
Or at least that’s been my experience during my time here in DC. And probably another reason why I found myself in a pathetic pile of tears on your couch Thursday morning. I seriously couldn’t bear the thought of gaining nothing out of this experience. Of not growing at all (I do not feel particularly challenged at my job…I am not learning new legal skills, and I find Congress completely and utterly depressing). I also feel like I will look back at our experience here and realize that I haven’t grown at all interpersonally. That I will look back on life and see this as largely wasted time. A time in my life where I spent 6 months sleeping with an ex instead of really putting myself out there. Out to find a relationship with someone who actually wants to be with me, isn’t burdened by my strong emotions, pushes me to be my best version, loves me at my worst version, is open and honest with me, allows me to be open and honest with him, reassures me when I feel weak, makes me feel stronger than I would otherwise feel alone, etc. Perhaps this is a pie in the sky kind of wish list, but it requires a sort of presence that I have never found in you, friend or not.
Maybe these emails are more of us just talking at each other instead of with each other. And that, X, is what I find as the impasse between us. We talk but we don’t really listen to each other. Or at least I don’t feel heard.
I am not asking to be your girlfriend. That kind of went out the window when Manila came into the picture. And if Samoa happens, I am certain that any hopes of a real relationship with you will go out the window also. What I am uncertain of is if there actually exists a friendship between us that can weather and last. It didn’t exist when you came here, what makes you think it will when I’m on an island in the South Pacific? If we’re going to do this friendship thing, than we are really going to do this friendship thing and I am going to push you on these hard questions. If you don’t like it, perhaps you should have chosen your friends more wisely 😉
In sum, I think a lot of this issue of us and the possibility of friendship lies with you. Perhaps that is me using a cop out card, but I honestly do not know what more I can do with you. I have been vulnerable. I have put myself out there on more than one occasion to find that you are not there with me. And I have come to terms with it; or at least I am coming to terms with it, especially now that a future in Samoa is a possibility for me.
The most important thing you wrote in your email was this: I’m not happy and I wish it was simple, or that I could let it be so.
You’ve got to figure that out before anything. And before anyone can be there for you or you be there for anyone.
*photo credit: From ‘Once Upon a Honeymoon’ with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers