It’s February, the month that we commercially celebrate romantic love. While personally I believe that love should be celebrated every day in all its wonderful aspects, love is also something that is very much in my awareness these days.
I have found myself in deep contemplation about the loving relationships that I have had in my life and the deep grief that I have experienced coming out of those relationships. I read a quote the other day, “Grief is love with nowhere to go.” This quote feels very real to me since I feel like I am moving through a time of deep grief, as memories raise tears in an instant, as a lyric in a song does the same, my chest is often overwhelmed with a heaviness, a heaving of emotional waves of deep love, of deep grief.
At times I have stared at the ocean and asked why? Why is this happening? Why am I not moving beyond this? Why does it hurt so much to know that I have this huge well of love in my heart with nowhere to go?
I usually try to write this blog when I have sorted something out, when I have written and uncovered my truth but my truth on the topic of love and more specifically intimate, romantic loving partnership has me entirely baffled.
In my early teens I fell in love with my first boyfriend, M. I loved every minute that we spent together. Unfortunately, with my fractured family coming apart and my parents finding new partners and suddenly not wanting their children around I ended up being moved to my grandparents’ house over one very unfortunate weekend (a long story of its own). During that 3-hour car ride to my new home, I sobbed and my heart hurt. I would not be able to see M, I didn’t know how we could do this.
We committed to letter writing for a very long time and phone conversations, as we both entered high school things got more difficult. I wanted to go to dances, I started seeing someone else, M called one day, he had a car, he wanted to come and see me. I said that I had moved on, in the moment it felt like the right thing to do, to free each other for what was present but as those words escaped my lips my heart crushed and closed. I loved him and the fact is while today I don’t even know him, he still holds a special place in my heart. Every person I have ever loved does. I have never stopped loving anyone I have ever loved. I have just found that love has just settled in for the duration of time. It just is.
That boy that I started dating to go to dances with became my first husband, he was devoted, and he let me lead the way. He followed and over time, I knew that I wanted a partner, someone to challenge me, not someone to just go along. I realized that I wanted a life that was full of travel and adventure, and he wanted something much more consistent. The best part of this relationship is and always will be the two wonderful beings that we brought into the world together. I will always love him; he holds another special place in my heart.
While to some of you this will come as a surprise and others are aware, my next relationship was with a woman. She and I started out as colleagues, and she introduced me to consulting. She is the reason that I am in business for myself today. She was strong, confident and had her own inner gypsy. We worked together and became close friends. She was gay. I was not.
As our friendship deepened, we shared each other’s deepest stories and became close.
One night over too much wine, it crossed a line. I told her afterward that that could never happen again. I was married. We were colleagues and friends. At this point my consulting company was working with her company so my livelihood was also tied to her. While I am not going to go into the details, suffice it to say, it happened again. I didn’t know how to get out of it without losing my best friend and while supporting my family. I felt like I made the best choice in the moment, she was my best friend, I could continue to support my family, my husband and I were on different paths and in the end it would all work itself out.
It didn’t, everyone lost something, my children lost their family unit. My best friend didn’t truly get a partner who could love her in all ways. My husband lost his wife and his life as he knew it and I lost all those things but mostly I betrayed myself in all of it.
It would take me 7 years to get out of that relationship because I didn’t want to lose the friendship. We tried to make it work by opening the relationship but of course she felt betrayed by that, and I felt like something was still missing. We tried everything and, in the end, lost it all anyway. It has taken me a while to forgive myself for the self-betrayal and for the way that I dishonored my husband in what happened, he deserved better. He deserved my honesty from the beginning.
It was during the process of unwinding my relationship with my best friend that I walked out of an elevator to greet my client in London and saw him, tall, dark, handsome, deep eyes, and a devilish smile. My eyes traveled to his hand, stopped, and checked myself. Nope, not even entertaining that thought. I had an open wound around betrayal and wanted nothing to do with traversing close to that road again.
Over the next month, we worked together, became friends outside of the office as we were with the rest of the team. We would get dinner together after work or head to the pub for a pint before heading to our respective flats or hotels. During a crunch period in our project, we would work Saturdays trying to make a deadline.
It was on a particular Saturday in November that he came into my office, and we sat at the table to talk through what he was working on and before we knew it the conversation veered off into life, happiness, relationships, and connection. He shared how much he was missing the connection with his wife. I suggested that when he headed back home that he talk to her openly and honestly and try to get her to go to therapy or something, I wanted to see them turn toward each other.
Suffice it to say, he followed my advice, but she said she thought everything was fine and refused. He returned to London and told me that he had fallen for me and was leaving her. I didn’t want to be the reason that their marriage ended and yet it didn’t feel like I had done anything particular to cause what was happening other than be a friend but if I am being truly honest with myself what was happening with all that deep conversation, the sharing, the vulnerability, it was building a connection.
I felt that connection too, it wasn’t something we consciously set out to create but it happened.
He asked her for a divorce and a few days later, on a mountain top in Italy we said that we chose each other. After my relationship history, I wanted this one to last the rest of my days. I wanted to love unconditionally and devoted myself to this relationship and this quest. I knew that this was not going to be the easy path, there would be judgements made about how this looked, the timing of our coming together but I was committed to showing up fully in love and compassion for everyone.
That first year was extraordinarily difficult but it was also a time that we continued day after day to turn toward each other, to support each other through the difficult time. He had wounds, so did I but we both had adventurous spirits. I have never experienced anything like it, it was a big, bold love. It felt chosen. I chose him. He chose me.
In year two, I began to worry that we might lose it. They were fleeting thoughts at first, him complaining about my work travel, me feeling trapped by the weight of our lifestyle at that time. We had gone on a big adventure buying a boat and sailing it back to the US from Fiji and living aboard. In subtle ways perhaps we started to not turn toward one another perhaps to find the best way forward for both of us rather than to just accept things that troubled us.
In the end there were events when we didn’t turn toward one another, when trust was broken, when the wounds were just too big to be in a relationship with. And yet, I was committed to unconditional love, I loved this person so much that I had totally forgotten about me. I continued to say yes to pretty much anything he proposed, thinking that perhaps this would make him happy regardless of if I felt betrayed by it.
Even now I can hear the voice in my own head that is saying that perhaps this was your karma for the ending of your first marriage and how this marriage had started. I don’t know if that is true, either way I have always tried to show up in integrity and own it when I blow it which we all occasionally do. But it is also obvious to me now that I was not being in integrity with myself or with him when I agreed to something that I knew I didn’t want just because I thought it would make him happy.
Near the end I found myself in that same conversation, asking him if he would do therapy, that I wanted to try to get us reconnected, to reestablish integrity, trust, and commitment. He said no, he thought everything was fine. I knew that I had a great love to give and as I sat there I had nowhere for my love to go, he was refusing it, my heart felt shattered.
I wanted him to choose my love, to see it, to see me but he didn’t. I was left with no choice other than to save myself. I knew if I stayed, it would be an empty existence not being loved, not being seen continuing to give while not receiving. I was terrified of the path ahead but the path I was on felt like standing alone.
I wanted to love, deeply, I want to see and be seen. I needed to unconditionally love me again, I needed to remember who I was and make sure that I was showing up fully in whatever relationship that I chose to have in the future.
So far in my life this man remains my greatest love and my greatest sadness. I still love him deeply and some days I don’t know what to do with that other than try to accept that it still is trying to find its rightful settled place in my heart, the place where it can just be my truth while I move forward to hopefully love greatly again.
Grief is love with nowhere to go, I still grieve, my heart still yearns to be seen, to be felt.
I dream of a love that is devoted, a love that is boldly chosen, a love that is connected in spirit, a love that is full of adventure. I dream of a love that is also grounded in reality, dirty laundry, dishes and washing the car. I dream of a love that is deepened by stories told in truth, by tears shared to heal. I dream of a love that turns toward each other forever and always knowing that we will both be wounded, we will both be imperfect, neither one of us will truly know how to love well and yet each day I dream of choosing my beloved and showing up fully to love.
Love after all is not a noun, it is a verb, it is something we do, and we must choose to do in every moment in every day even when it is the hardest, most uncomfortable choice to make.
Is there anything that you are seeking closure on?
I hope my experience and thoughts about love get you thinking or writing or both. Here are a few questions that I am pondering in my journal, as I drive and, in my shower, perhaps you can do the same.
- When and how have I felt loved?
- When and how have I chosen to love as a deliberate chosen action?
- What does it look like for me to turn toward myself (and your partner, if you have one), in a relationship each day?
- How can I love greatly with or without a partner?
I blog because I love the process of posing questions to myself, pushing myself to uncover those deep answers in the power of the words. I love forcing myself to grow in this way.
If you want to question yourself, then subscribing to my email list will ensure you have an opportunity to do that. You will not receive a ton of emails from me, only what I hope to be the best questions that we can ask ourselves to be better tomorrow than we were today or at least to know ourselves better and without a doubt to love more fully on this journey of life.
Finally, if you think someone else would enjoy this blog and this practice, please share. I will be forever grateful!
With the greatest love,
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