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The End of Love

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The last scene of a once-wondrous romance isn't pretty. The pain is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. (I was dumped by the man who helped jump-start my career but did me dirty in the realm of love.) Looking back, I can realize the major role he played in reopening my heart after the dramatic loss of my young husband. But that insight came only after years of self-inquiry. He left our relationship to live with a woman who reminded him of his wife — the mother of his children, yes, but also the mate he had cheated on massively. Naive me, I learned about his new living arrangement from his business partner, but however the news came, I was a victim of divorce. Premarital it was, not needing legal advice, not officially divorce as it is known. But oh, the pain. The deep quiet ache that doesn't leave, its traces still available years later.

And if you're hurting even as you read this, you probably don't believe there's a way out of the emotional meltdown we women are particularly susceptible to — and it's certainly not to stop risking your heart. The solution (the only one I feel good about passing along) is to keep your own spheres of interest, your own friends, your own voice. Put simply, I'm declaring that even when (especially when!) there's a very good person vowing true love forever, holding on to your selfhood is a wise way to make sure your universe doesn't eddy down a giant black hole if/when love ends.

(Take a moment to assimilate that gem.) This balance is crucial to the decision not to wrap your entire life around your one and only and to resist the tendency (in our DNA) to surrender your very soul in the heat of togetherness. Behind that bit of self-sabotage is the mistaken belief that total surrender of one's identity is the real thing and that anything less isn't.

Wrong. Wrong! A zillion times wrong. Keeping a reserve for yourself is in truth the only way to wholly love another person. Yes, this may take a few more readings, but the wisdom of holding on to your own life when you enter his, ladies, is actually an act of supreme generosity because it eases the pressure on him to be all things to you. Not only that but also it makes you so much more interesting, alluring, mysterious. Oh, and one more thing: You're sexier. If you can't always get up and go with him when he whistles, there's no way he won't desire you more — not to mention appreciate your company when you are by his side. The biggest plus of this kind of partnering is, of course, the strength it gives when someone you love makes a choice you don't like.

Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at susan@single-file.com.

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Having never lost myself that completely in a relationship, I can't speak to whether it makes a breakup more painful. It does make sense logically, though.

More importantly, prioritizing a relationship at all costs is likely to kill it. Ironic, huh?

Because, as you point out, your partner presumably fell in love with YOU, including your wants, needs, hobbies, interests and commitments -- even if he didn't share all of them. Becoming a Stepford Wife, who lives only to serve his every whim, may sound good in theory, but anyone who's ever had such a relationship knows that this kind of relationship tends to be boring at best, and a bit scary at worst. And it denies your partner the satisfaction of giving to please YOU, whether it's letting you pick the restaurant tonight or saying without resentment "Of course it's fine if you visit your sister this weekend. I've been meaning to take my dad golfing, and we'll hit up House of Bacon and Other Man Food for dinner. Have fun!"

Moreover, if self-sacrifice doesn't kill your partner's interest in you, it's almost certain to erode YOUR love over time. Martyrdom tends to cause resentment to build, and you can tamp down that resentment, along with your wants and needs, only so long. SOME sacrifice of your desires is normal and positive (he's allergic to cats, so you forego your desire for one), but if you're sacrificing ALL of you, (no cats. no kids. no Barry Manilow music or Cat Stevens. no asparagus. no gardening. no quilt shows. no green, even as accent color in your wardrobe or decor. no TV after 8 p.m. no Words with Friends on silent while he watches TV. no window open while you sleep. no AC. no vacations to anywhere tropical. no live music. no stir-fry. etc) you are dooming the love you are trying to protect!



The best relationships, the ones everyone wants, are about give AND take.
Comment: #1
Posted by: hedgehog
Wed Apr 1, 2015 8:45 AM
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