Sounds so final, doesn't it?
That's the problem.
Throughout our lives we evolve and change. If we do not, then we stagnate. Unfortunately, the only people who can maintain a steady and unchanging "relationship" are those who have stagnated. As we change, new issues will arise, new differences of opinion, changes of direction, and alterations in our entire life path. He had a steady nine to five job when they first met, but he's since been promoted to management and now he works long days and is away for weeks at a time on business trips. This will take some getting used to.
If two people truly know that they want to be together until death do they part, then they must evolve together in the relationship. If one breaks away from the pack and leaves the other still wanting to party like it's 1999, then there will be a problem. They must work together to resolve the issues that arise with time and change. That is not what I would like to talk about. There is plenty of reading on how to maintain a successful monogamous coupling that is a partnership agreement forged in love.
What is love?
Poets and philosophers have given millions of definitions of love over the years. There are millions of different kinds of love, so this isn't surprising. Love in its purest sense is unconditional and requires nothing in return. The closest we get to this in a natural setting is the love a parent has for a child. No matter how many times the child fucks up, mommy will always love him. When it comes to love between adults, we normally take a completely different course. It becomes about arranging an even trade instead of unconditional love.
There are those who mistake obsessive love for unconditional love. It is an easy mistake to make, but there is a very wide ocean of difference between them. Someone who develops an obsession with someone else is not giving unconditional love, he is demanding a return on investment, generally thinking that what he believes is love for a person is being shamed by the refusal of that person to acknowledge and accept that love. Pure love never would ask such a thing. It lives beyond the need for acknowledgment. It simply is.
Will my love for someone I have a long friendship with make someone uncomfortable or freak them out?
Friendships are a kind of relationship. The quickest way to damage that relationship is by trying to make it into something else, but does it need to be?
That depends on how you approach it. Some people bury love for a person deep inside themselves for years, fearing rejection or mockery. The desire they have to "be" with this person as some kind of couple outweighs the actual love portion of the program. We need to make certain that desire and lust aren't being misinterpreted as love or that they aren't outweighing the love.
There is a very big gap between, "All this time I have wanted and desired you, and you enflame great passion in me. We must be together" and "I've always loved and respected you and want you to know that no matter where you go or what you do in life, you will always take my love with you." No one ever uses these words, except me, but the words aren't the point. When you say, "I've always loved you," it is heard as meaning something. If your statement is heard as the second example, then things should be okay. If your statement is heard as the first example, you better hope they feel the same or you are going to create a chasm between you.
Woody Allen devoted the better part of his career to making movies about people fucking up their friendships because their desire for each other outweighed their love for each other. If you truly love someone, you wouldn't want to do anything to hurt them or make them uncomfortable around you. However, sometimes you cannot control your desires and your passions. Think instead about how much you love them and you'll know what to do to avoid damaging or ending the existing relationship.
"I still love her, but I've outgrown her. She no longer understands me. We've grown so far apart."
I hear you, brother. I hear you, sister. Rejoice in our independent growth, but don't forget that real love never ends. Perhaps you have grown too far apart to stay together as lifelong partners, but why snuff out the love over natural patterns in life? If someone cannot continue to love someone they can no longer "be with" then they have confused love with the need to possess and hold onto things that give them comfort in a cold and lonely world.
Instead of "breaking up" or ending relationships, let them evolve and follow their natural course. You loved that little girl with the glasses that you dated in high school, but you stopped talking to her when she went to the movies with that track star guy. You couldn't honestly imagine being with her now, but sometimes you wish you hadn't lost touch. It would be nice to talk to her again. You did love her, in a teenage kind of way, and a little piece of that has stayed with you for your entire life. Why did you really throw her out of your life? It was necessary for you to take the paths that you took, but your desire and need to hold onto things outweighed the love you had.
People go through bitter divorces that leave them hating each other and wanting to throw incendiary devices through their living room windows. What happened to the love they apparently felt for each other? Is there really such a thin line between love and hate? There is if you feel that your love for a person meant that they were supposed to follow you and your codes for the rest of their life, or they demand compensation for the time spent together, as if the memories were less important than the fact that it didn't last forever.
What am I? A doormat?
Only if you aren't willing and able to walk away. If you believe that love requires you maintain an orbit with another person then you can end up beating yourself up. Remember, you are beating yourself up, not them. You are enabling them to use and abuse you. Telling someone that you love them and are always going to be there for them and stand-by at all hours to meet their needs, then you've already fashioned yourself into a doormat. When the way in which you are expressing your love is not a positive energy for both parties, then you must step back.
Walking away is often mistaken for abandoning love. If you feel love for a person and you walk away from them because they are hurting or taking advantage of you, then the love will live on. The longer you stay in such a situation, the more chance there is for the love to be destroyed and turned into something else. Unconditional omnipresence and unconditional love are two different things.
"Let's be friends" doesn't have to be an insult.
In every bowling alley and every mall for as far as the eye can see there are occurances of "I love you" followed by some form of the "let's be friends speech." This has been acted out more often than any of Shakespeare's plays. You are not alone and you aren't breaking any new ground.
Any relationship, whether it is defined as a friendship, or love for someone with whom you have a partnership or the potential for partnership, suffers when we try to slap a label on it. The primary basis must be in friendship. You can guarantee that any "romantic" relationship will fail if the two people aren't friends first. Eventually the sex and fancy restaurants will get old and you'll want different company.
The best thing you can do for any relationship is reach a genuine agreement that you will always be friends first. If the course of your individual lives changes in a way that alters the nature of your relationship, the friendship will always been there. Real love will warm you when you your friend is with another lover and you can see their happiness. The other kind will make you want to punch the other lover in the face and spit in his martini. If this other lover is making your friend miserable, thats when real love makes you want to punch him in the face and urinate in his apple juice.
Is being together the best thing for both of us?
Crisis point is breached in your partnership. It happens in both friendships and in "romantic partnerships." A decision must be made, but often that decision is passed on. Is being together, maintaining this same orbit of each other, really what is best for both of us? It is a question you need to ask in order to lower the risk of staying in a stagnating partnership and ending up despising each other. It can cease to be a partnership and devolve into a convenience or habit. "We've been together for twenty years, why change now?"
There is a point at which you can save the foundation of the relationship, the friendship which sets everything else into play. There is a point of no return where you can seriously damage that friendship by trying to force the relationship in a direction it is not willing to go. You don't have to walk away, but you must decide whether you both believe the right course is to continue. It only works when both parties believe. If one person doesn't, it doesn't matter a rat's ass what the other believes. It is time to walk away and let things take their natural course.
And ships will sail...
We take things for granted and we generally expect them to last longer than they do. When the time passes, we lament "what we lost" instead of the time we had. Things change, people change, circumstances change, just about everything changes. What ever happened to all those guys in that circle of friends you hung out with in college? How many of them do you still have contact with? Do you still talk to that friend you did that little blood brother ritual with in the fourth grade?
When we attain a level of intimacy with a person, whether it is emotional, sexual or otherwise, we form a bond with them. Lovers tend to share more than most because sexual intimacy often leads to greater openness and sharing. We feel betrayed or let down when it doesn't last forever. We discard lovers like apple cores from apples we've finished eating. Friends with whom we never have any sexual or romantic involvement with have a much longer shelf life. Why?
Drunken one night stands and the like aside, sexual intimacy creates a bond between two people. Sexual loyalty is a learned consideration that we have grown to see as an interpretation of love. "If you really love me, and we have great sex together, why would you ever want to have sex with anyone else?" Monogamy and sexual loyalty based on that being your interpretation of love is a hard pattern to break out of, especially when we believe that once discovered it should last forever.
There is nothing wrong with monogamy, it is a very honorable passion. Eternal monogamy is another issue. Some people are unable to end sexual relationships and maintain the friendship that was supposed to be the foundation on which the sexual relationship was built. Most sexual and romantic relationships are temporary. If every one we became involved in never ended, we'd never find our true partner in life. Imagine remaining loyal and monogamous for the rest of your life to the first person you ever had sexual relations with. Not the kid that diddled your fiddle in the ninth grade, the first person that you had genuine sexual and emotional intimacy with. Thinking about it might make your beer shoot out of your nostrils. Then again, there are those for whom it has worked. They are rare and blessed.
The art of letting go
Life is scary. It is filled with danger and uncertainty. It is also filled with wonder. Because we are afraid of the unknown and of being alone, we naturally cling to what has worked in the past to keep those fears at bay.
As a result, when someone does not want to maintain the same level of intimacy in the relationship that we still desire, we fight to change their mind. Sometimes we do really stupid things. I've been there. I once sent someone a Hallmark greeting card every day for three months to "prove" that I really loved her and that she needed to change her mind about dumping my ass. We had been engaged after being together for over a year and when she decided it wasn't what she wanted, I took it as a slap in the face instead of giving her my love and best wishes for a happy life wherever she traveled. I would grow so depressed over my perceived inadequacy being the reason for this rejection that I committed suicide.
Letting go is a leap of faith, especially when we love someone and genuinely feel they will be better off with us than without us. A romantic partnership gives comfort and security. Losing it puts us back out on the road "alone" again. We have an inate desire for some kind of intimate partnership with another human being. It may be the very reason we are here. Accepting that this was not "the one" that was meant to be a lifelong partnership is difficult, but it must be done. Retaining the love and friendship is critical, when we do so, we are never really alone. We forget that very easily. We also forget that we can't make people do what we want them to do just by invoking the word "love."
Anastasia's Prayer for the Lonely
Bless this road I travel
Alone or with company
Give me strength for the hard times
Let me enjoy the moment
Let me savor the memories
Let me always move forward
In good times and in bad
Let my love be pure and true
Let me understand the reasons
Why some things pass and others remain
Let me accept that we are all independent
And that I cannot make decisions for others
When I am alone and depressed
Give me the strength to see the future
Let me know that this is just a moment in time
And that things will change
Give me the strength to believe in myself
And to give love unselfishly
And know that my journey will go on
Life is a journey, not a mathematical formula for happiness.