We walked around with holes in our hearts.
We put on brave faces for the outside world, but inside we were continually being dragged down. Eventually we found one another through some miracle we ourselves could not explain. And we discovered our hearts were now suddenly full.
The journey had been so difficult for us that we were not sure if we could ever make it again. And so we cherished what we had all the more.
We became the envy of our friends because we seemed to have the perfect relationship. Anything one person lacked was filled by our coming together. We quickly settled into comfortable patterns and roles - the best cook did the cooking, the most organized kept track of the finances. Upkeep, cleaning, all the little things of daily life were smoothly divided, and with that out of the way, we easily moved on to enjoying the rest of our lives together.
Perhaps we were more fortunate than many in that our parents also had wonderful relationships, and we had grown up with great examples to follow.
That is, until our parents became elderly.
The first death came as a shock. Not so much the death itself, since everyone knows we all die, but it was a shock to who was left behind. Suddenly her perfect world was gone. When once she might have been 90% complete, over the decades, both spouses had steadily declined to 50% because it was too easy to let someone else take over what would otherwise have been just redundant work. Her other half was gone now. Nobody else understood her because they had slowly let all their other relationships fade.
But this is not about our elderly parents.
When we saw what our parents were going through without a partner, we realized we were heading in the same direction. Everything had been great, but maybe because it had been so good, it distracted us from the future. We could see we were no longer the nearly complete people we were when we had first met, but were slowly trending towards removing all redundancy between us.
We had to turn ourselves around. We decided to put redundancy back in. We would not allow death to destroy the survivors.
We would work each day to help one another become fully independent. Though it was flattering to feel needed by another person, we decided that this was selfish pride. Real love would mean we would choose one another despite not needing anything at all. It would mean we would have to help one another learn to fly free at any moment, rather than try to attach chains to keep one another.
Complementing one another's weaknesses was good as a start, but we could not stay there. The weaknesses would have to be healed and filled in if we truly wanted future happiness for one another. Real commitment meant that we would return to one another, despite having no reason to, besides actually wanting to be together. It could only be demonstrated by giving one another the ability to fly free, rather than demanding they return.
We had once thought we needed enforcement to ensure our agreements were honored, but we decided that enforcement was something that grew out of fear - fear that there was something to lose. If we were going to help one another become whole, there would be nothing to lose when we got there. We would be working to remove the fear from our relationship, including the fear of losing one another. We would be replacing it with security instead, a security that would continue whether we part the next day or after a long life together.
We didn't really know what we were doing this time. Our parents did not leave us a good example. Our parents had apparently taken a path that was great for most of the duration, but did not have a peaceful end.
This would be uncharted territory, at least for our families. We knew others had already gone down this path before, but it was like learning a new language all over again. And there wasn't a moment to lose, not if we truly wanted the best for one another, rather than just for ourselves.