Joining Me on the Bridge

Since my relationship ended a year ago, I’ve done a lot of processing. It’s been necessary for me to come to an understanding about why certain patterns have continually played out in my life. It would be easier (and less painful) to put the blame on others rather than owning the reasons why these things continue into my 60s, but there is no growth without self-awareness, and that insight sometimes hurts.

What I’ve come to understand is that I had no business getting married or being in an intimate relationship without having done the fundamental work to understand what that even meant. Perhaps that was understandable in my younger years when the only example I had was my mom and dad, and I modeled that dysfunctional relationship, but as I got older I should have called my beliefs into question following the end of my 20-year marriage; before I repeated them with husband number two, and then one more time with my last relationship.

With each of these relationships I passed judgment on those who left me, and failed to recognize my own culpability in their demise – that my relationships ended because I never expected anything else. I never believed I was worth what it took to stay, and so I allowed myself to enter into relationships that fell short of true commitment. I worked overtime to make things “fit” instead of seeing things for what they really were. 

Maya Angelou once said: “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

In looking back at my last relationship, had I understood this at my core, we never would have become more than friends because the first, perhaps the second, time he expressed uncertainty about remaining in the relationship I would have set us both free of the notion that we should be together as a couple. I would have realized that his repeated hesitancy was a clear sign that we should be friends and not lovers, and I would have moved on accordingly. Instead, I tried to force things; refused to see the red flags popping up on a regular basis; put him through anguish as he tried to make our relationship work.  

What I’ve come to realize is that someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you’ve never been loved before, and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons, it’s important that you leave because you never have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never have to convince someone to do the work to be ready. 

When our relationship ended, his wish was that we’d be able to be friends. I hoped so, too, although it was initially very hard for me to see past the pain of losing him. But in finally gaining insight and perspective, I’ve come to a place of peace about the two of us. That peace means I recognize that, while we love each other, it’s love between two friends and nothing more. The pain of that realization is less sharp than it was a year ago, but there’s still a discernible twinge that gets my attention now and then.

The most difficult part of coming to terms with this latest ending has been aligning both my head and my heart to the reality of what our relationship was and what it wasn’t. And I think I’m largely there. I can honestly wish him well and remain grateful he chose to walk through that open door five years ago and trust me with his love. And despite not being able to join me on that bridge, I know he did his best to meet me there.


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