I remember gazing across the table in that dimly lit bar on his birthday and thinking, “I can see myself spending my life with him.” It wasn’t a sudden revelation like in all my past relationships; it unfolded slowly and patiently without my knowledge. And since all my other relationships had failed, I reasoned that because this one took time, it was somehow better. I thought that because I had finally decided he was it for me, so it would be.
But it wasn’t. And I never saw it coming either. Because he adored me. Because he was insecure and I was always the one that had to quiet his fears, to assure him about how much I cared. Because I was out of his league and he felt lucky to be with me. Because he told me he loved me every day. He was always a great boyfriend: considerate, kind, romantic, open, and effusive with his praise and affection. It felt like we were standing on the precipice of a large cliff, always looking out over a beautiful ocean and into a wonderful sunset. So when my back was turned and he violently pushed me towards the sharp rocks below, I never saw it coming.
For weeks, it felt like I was just falling. I could see his face as I looked up from where I fell and yet I couldn’t believe he was the one that sent me hurtling towards the ground. I cried out, I screamed, I wailed, but it didn’t stop the inevitable bone shattering pain that occurred when I met the earth below me. It was devastating.
I didn’t think I could feel that sort of heartbreak again. I foolishly thought that I had somehow outgrown the heart wrenching pain of earlier breakups; that with maturity comes a sort of invincibility. And yet, this might have been the worst out of all of them.
I didn’t ask myself, “Why?” I learned a long time ago that the answer to that question is almost never satisfying and that it does not change what happened. Instead, I kept asking myself, “How? How could he do this to me?” As if the answer wasn’t already in front of me, displayed by his actions. But I asked it all the time and as I sat across from my therapist, trying to explain through my tears and choked sobs that I never thought he would hurt me like this, a response came:
“Maria…all relationships are a gamble.”
Maybe it was the truth of the statement that resounded with me, or perhaps it was the knowing look of recognition across from me: the look of a fellow veteran who had made it out from the trenches alive. I repeated it like a mantra in the weeks and months that followed. Nothing is definite, not even a promise made. And rather than send me deep into despair, accepting this truth was liberating. There was no way to predict with any certainty that the ground beneath me would give out to air and sky the way it did. And there was really no way to protect myself from the fall or that I loved him so shamelessly and completely.
And I think that is the real reason the end was as painful as it was; I had finally allowed myself to be vulnerable with another person. And that meant taking a chance that they might not be as careful with my heart as they were with their own.
There are no real certainties when it comes to our relationships with others. Maybe real wisdom is accepting that fact and choosing to love anyway.