To all the questions I’ve ever had about relationships

The secret to life is to learn to ride the wave. Everything passes by in peaks and troughs. You have to learn to value the effort you put in more than the success it brings. Because success is always a moving target and you can’t really ever attain it. It’s only when you’re not on the top of the wave that the direction of travel is clear.

I was with my wife for something like twenty two years before she died. And it was a happy marriage. In all the ways that mattered. But in that happiness was buried a lack of growth. I would submit that I have grown, as a person, as a father and as a thinker in leaps and bounds since she passed. I spent my life with her on the top of a wave and it’s only in losing her that I’ve found a purpose in life.

Maybe the two women I left in my wake would have a different opinion on my value as a partner in life. But I gave them a lot of love in the short times we were together. I’d venture to guess that neither of them would go back just to save themselves the heartache. There’s no great loss if there wasn’t much love.

Both of those women were ambitious and goal oriented. One achieved every goal she ever set for herself. She ran 5ks, 10ks, even a marathon. She pursued a bachelor’s degree, then a Master’s. Rose up through the ranks of her career to a pretty high position. But was never satisfied. Success was always just out of reach. She was depressed and unhappy. She went through relationships exactly as she went through goals. When the wave passes by and she reaches the bottom of the trough, she lets go and catches the next one.

The other woman did many of the same things. But at one point she was passed over for the position she most coveted. She took a right hand turn and redefined her purpose. Because, although she wanted more responsibility and career success, she also loved the work she did. I can’t say if she’s happy now or not but I’m quite certain she still loves teaching those kids. It’s what she does that’s important, not the peak of the wave she’s always been swimming towards. She doesn’t date much and seems pretty content in that situation.

Because everything in life is perception, my take on both of those relationships is now that of interested observer. Of both my behavior and of the aspirations of the women in regards to our liaisons. These women were ostensibly seeking a life partner. I’m not in the least bit aware of what my initial, or long term, intent was. I was lonely, skin starved and in a lot of pain from the loss of my wife.

I don’t think most people enter relationships to use other people. At least not overtly. There’s always an element of give and take in a relationship though. These women offered me companionship, sex, love and comfort in return for the same elements from me. And maybe a promise of something that would last?

It’s that last one that seems to trip me up. It’s taken a lot of self reflection to realize that I enjoy the passion, connection and love of a budding relationship. The climbing of the wave, as it were. I have no desire to surf the top of the wave of a lifelong relationship again. That ship has sailed for me. Marriage and kids were a wonderful experience and something I will always treasure. But I won’t repeat that episode of my life again. With anyone. There are too many compromises involved in that lifestyle for me to accept it at this stage of my life.

I love the image of the old man and old woman walking hand in hand along the beach after seventy years of marriage. A life well lived and a love everlasting. But it’s mostly a fantasy. It does happen, for sure. For a vanishingly small minority of couples. Life is full of speed bumps and potholes. Love is hard. Two people maintaining a connection like that through decades of change and struggle is uncommon. It may be worth seeking but it’s not worth settling.

Keep riding the wave. Hope for success but if you aren’t enjoying the ride, get off and catch a different one.

Thanks for reading.

Written by

father, motorcyclist, old retired guy who’s just a little lost on a blue marble corkscrewing its way to oblivion

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