“Life is good. Life is hard. These two truths are unrelated.” Stacy Morrison
I’m not sure why I decided to pick up Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart in One Piece, a memoir about going through a divorce. For someone like me who is trying to piece a broken relationship back together, it certainly wasn’t inspiring to read about the pain and heartache of dissolving a marriage. I struggled to get through it at times, her tales of disaster upon disaster (some divorce-related, others just plain old life-related) which at times sounded a bit on the melodramatic side, even for someone going through hell.
I waded through nearly 200 pages of sadness and misery until her words began to click. I saw much of myself in Morrison as a young woman—focused on pushing, pushing, pushing to a place that she imagined would be safe, secure, and stable. Only after they divorced did she realize she’d left her partner behind.
When SCL and I first started dating and I realized where the relationship was heading, I remember telling my mom how hard I planned to work to make our relationship last. It was like I was armed and ready for the first conflict to arise, so I could tackle it, identify our issues, work through them, and continue forward. I wanted to anticipate every single problem that we would face and be ready to work through it. I was going to make it work no matter what, damnit! I wasn’t going to be one of the statistics about children from divorced parents. I saw my relationship with SCL as something to be conquered rather than cherished.
And what that meant was that in preparing to combat the future problems and issues, I lost sight of the daily joys, the small pleasures, the being together on the couch, the real stuff that made our relationship what it was. I quickly became so engrossed with creating a long-lasting relationship that I forgot to nurture the relationship I had at the time: a young, exciting, vulnerable, unpredictable love.
What I couldn’t prepare for was rupture. In my mind I was already at the altar, making a commitment to SCL, that it hadn’t occurred to me that I had charged ahead of him, leaving him behind. I didn’t realize that he’d wanted to slow down (in part because he had not told me) when all I wanted to do was accelerate to a place where I thought I’d feel safe: a ring on my finger, a public commitment made, and a life bonded together by marriage. I wanted SCL to grow up—to catch up. Then, I thought, I would be content with where we were and could really start living as partners, as a family. Then his parents would accept our relationship as something real. Then I could really love him the way that I want—freely, generously, and without fear.
In the months since SCL broke up and made up, I have found myself in a constant state of anxiety and fear about our coming back together. Am I just setting myself up for more heartache? Have we learned anything in such a short period of time that would really help in beginning again? I fear SCL’s lack of commitment and what that might mean for the future. I tell myself, “If this isn’t forever, then it isn’t worth it.” My love for him has become tainted by fear, which is a hard place for love to reside. Some of the time my love feels more like desperation, like I’m just clinging to what one day I might lose again—ring or no ring.
There is no way to know if these decisions I am making now—to stay with SCL, to be patient with the process, even to live a few blocks away from him—are ¬wise or foolish. But I know they are heartfelt and risky and out of the love, care, and hope I have for him and for our relationship. I want to love without fear of the unknown. I want to give myself to SCL in spite of him having hurt me and how difficult this time has been. I cannot control him, his actions, or his feelings. I cannot dictate how the next month or year or decade will go. But I can be true to myself in how I love and live throughout this good, yet hard time of uncertainty and discovery.