In today’s installment of “At Least My Love Life Is Better Than Troi’s” we entertain the following question: Is it possible for your romantic love of a previous partner to remain and yet move forward into a new relationship with somebody new? Or must that romantic love pass prior to giving your love to another person?
Having traced the checkered history of my past romantic relationships (See www.troihasn’thadagoodrelationshipsinceY2K.com), I’ve found that I traditionally subscribe to the philosophy that moving forward works best when not looking backward. When I walk forward but look behind me, it never ends well, because I miss what’s right in front of me (dog poop, a pothole, a cliff that one time). Similarly, in the Decidedly Ineffectual and Shaky Attempt at Striving To Establish Romance (DISASTER) that is my dating life, I find that moving forward works best when I avoid lugging yesterday’s heartbreak into today’s relationship. Moving forward means setting my sights on something in my future, and accepting that the love from my past wasn’t meant to last.
It sounds so straightforward, but what happens when that love doesn’t leave? How do we navigate new love when our feelings for a former flame remain well past the relationship’s date of expiration?
I’d like to think that as I approach the age of thirty-one, I’ve become sufficiently evolved as to acknowledge that deep affection for a past love without allowing it to preclude my capacity for love of another person or prevent me from accepting into my life someone else’s love for me. And while in principle my evolution may have indeed reached such enlightened heights, in practice I’m a tadpole waiting to sprout legs so that I can walk this fine line rather than wade uncertainly around it.
Imperfect tadpole that I am, I’m gradually beginning to strike touches of illuminating gold when digging through the sands of my past to uncover life lessons so that mistakes made aren’t made again. I do believe that a person can acknowledge the presence of feelings that remain without being vulnerable to them. It involves acknowledging not only the feelings themselves, but the reason those feelings weren’t enough to sustain the relationship. This acknowledgment is crucial, as feelings are typically first to come and last to fade, long after we’ve conveniently repressed the reasons the relationship failed.
In a scene from one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer, a character simultaneously mourns and fights the passing of a relationship that wasn’t meant to be. Another character tells him:
“You’re just remembering the good parts. Next time you look back, I think you should look again.”
When he looks back, he sees the perfect picture he’d painted, but he sees it for the first time against the backdrop of an imperfect pairing that couldn’t be salvaged by a few touch-ups.
It is an inevitable fact of my life that I have loved people with whom I wasn’t meant to be. But when I, too, take another look, I see a discrepancy in commitment and values that simply wasn’t bridged by the depth of my feelings. Every time I look back, I see the love that remains, but every time I look forward, I hope to see the possibility of love that shares not only depth of feeling but also shared values and a mutual respect for our differences that remain.