How Do You Fall Out of Loveand survive?
2 July 2018
Part 1: September 2017
I fall in love pretty often. Once or twice a day, on average. I fall hard for the melancholy man making my coffee in the morning, and for the sweet old lady who offers me 20p for the bus fare when I come up short.
I obsess over the shape of someone’s lips or the flash of danger in their eyes, over the perfect scallops of an oak leaf, or the gentle refrain of a really, really sad song. The slightest hint of infatuation sends me soaring towards the sky, blasting through mediocrity and grey clouds, leaving everything behind like discarded dirty laundry while I bask in a direct hit of pure sunshine.
I’m in love with falling in love. I’m used to it.
But I’ve never had to contend with the reality that one can fall out of love too.
See, my past experiences of love have mostly been vignettes; short, sharp bursts of emotion and fervour that linger warmly in the mind long after the first fireball has burnt away. Those little loves have sustained me, the experiences and attached feelings forming the building blocks of who I am. But, because they’ve been such snaps, such short moments in time that are gone before I can catch my breath, I’ve never had to feel that love fade, or change. It remains static, locked in time, a memory of a beautiful moment caught forever in a tangle of synapses.
Finding that romantic love has faded is a disconcerting feeling. Something shifts in your stomach, in your throat. Thoughts become flabby, tired, and those memories that you cherished become harder to recall as you mentally exhaust yourself by trying to reclaim and solidify them against the odds. You fight so hard to retain those feelings that once gave you such happiness, but they’ve turned into ashes in your hands, in danger of blowing away completely should the slightest gust of wind pick up. The grey clouds have gathered. It’s going to rain.
How do you tell another person that they are no longer the centre of your world? How do you explain to someone that you truly respect and admire, that their respect and admiration is not enough? Bat For Lashes had it right when she sang “when you love someone, but the thrill has gone/your kisses at night are replaced with tears.” Falling out of love is not a feeling that anyone takes lightly, there’s no lightswitch moment, no “oh, that’s it, onto the next.” There is no relief.
Instead, what’s left when the fire has burnt away and the tears have dried, is a dull sadness that gnaws away slowly at your gut, threatening to hollow you out forever.
Part 2: November 2017
All lines are blurred in this no-man’s land.
A simple sentence misconstrued can ricochet off the walls and fly back in your face. A well-intentioned act can become a sharp blade that cuts through the few frayed strands of trust holding the two of you together. An accident can turn into a betrayal.
Apologies ring around the stinging atmosphere in an empty room. Memories of picture frames that contained life stories stain the walls. Shared possessions are parted.
Any tentative movements toward friendship work on a one step forward, two steps back basis. Will this smile set off sadness? Will a simple conversation descend into chaos? The remnants of your old life are still there, but trapped behind glass. You mouth words back and forth but you can’t break through. You can’t reach each other. Both of you are too fragile, and the glass is bulletproof.
Everything is still. The storm was a big one, but it has passed and now it’s time to survey the destruction. In its wake, the Disney detritus has been blown away and you find yourself left with these truths.
Real love is blindness.
Real love is slow death by strangulation.
Real love comes for us all, smacks us down then leaves us by the side of the road, unclothed and shivering and cold as the dust blows in the wake of its tyres.
Real love never looks back in the rear view mirror. It’s end is as unexpected and devastating as that Russian meteor that smashed a bunch of windows when it exploded over Chelyabinsk.
Real love, when it departs, leaves only coldness and silence behind.
Part 3: January 2018
The sunlight is stark as it streams through your window, warming the empty space in your bed that no longer feels strange.
You pull the curtains closed and change, relishing the silence that surrounds you. You’re tired, and a little thinner, but your head feels more clear than it has for weeks. You’ve learnt that drinking your feelings doesn’t work. Talking them out until they’re well-worn and ragged doesn’t, either.
The silence is a comfortable one. You befriended it, let it enfold you. You fell backwards into its depths and it gave you the space you needed to think.
Life has changed. You are not who you were last year, or even last month. New opportunities have presented themselves – friendships forged over textbooks and wine, journeys taken with old faces, kisses shared with someone whose smile has the power to spark yours. Mistakes have been made, and tears have been shed, but they’re yours. You, and you alone, own them.
Things aren’t perfect, but when are they ever? Right now, they’re OK and that’s enough.
You meet on a night when the wind is whipping and biting, but the cold doesn’t matter. Drinking hot wine and walking underneath the ferris wheel lights, you laugh together like you did for all those years. You debate riding the waltzer for a while, but choose the fun house instead. In-jokes resurface and the conversation flies and in that moment you know that everything is going to be fine.
Because you’ve taken the time to realise that love takes many forms, none more valuable than the other, and that falling out of love takes more than the brief snuffing of a spark. You know that one person can love a thousand people and a thousand people can love one, and that this in no way diminishes the love you feel for that one person right there, right now. Life has blinded you and lied to you and told you that it’s all or nothing, there or gone, but you know there’s more beyond the black and white.
You know that real love does not fade. It evolves, and changes over time. It turns its face away then back and presents something new, and a little shaky, but still familiar and comforting and true.