It’s a very difficult thing, relationships.
Most of them have a very similar pattern. Initially there’s a ‘Stage 1’ phase where you go out to eat a couple of times (because everyone has to eat at some point) and get a feel for the other person. You may go to movies because there’s not a lot of talking involved and it’s a natural conversation starter for the rest of the evening. After a few dates, you can tell whether or not you’ve hit it off and want to proceed, or call it quits and move on. Feelings aren’t overly hurt as the couple realizes that they’re just not compatible. The worst case scenario, one of the parties is out a couple of bucks and a few hours of their life.
If you manage to make it past those initial dates and realize you enjoy the company of the other, you move into a ‘Stage 2’ where you start to incorporate someone into your everyday life. Maybe your companion used to be a competitive ice skater and three days a week they spend their evenings coaching little kids on figure skating. You’d better be ready to pony up and buy a pair of skates because you’re going to be spending some time on the ice, my friend. During this phase, you start to really learn about someone. If it turns out that you simply don’t like ice skating and can’t stand talking about it, watching it on TV, or actually busting out your Blades of Steel, you’d better move on to less icy pastures.
Stage 2 relationships can be a little tricky because people start to invest themselves in other people. And I’m not just talking about the money spent on the ice skates. You really start to learn about someone and who they are. Not just what kind of appetizers they like or what kind of movies they want to go see on a Friday night. These relationships can be much more difficult at the end for both parties because feelings are involved; not just egos. You may realize that you enjoy someone enough to learn how to ice skate. Maybe they realize that they just don’t dig you on the ice. Suddenly those special moments that you had skating around the rink hand-in-hand hurt when the relationship goes sour. You thought there was something special, but she couldn’t stop thinking about how stupid you looked flopping around on the ice like a beached whale.
Then we get to ‘Stage 3’ level relationships. These are where both parties are invested in one another and have changed their lifestyles and schedules accordingly. Maybe on Friday nights you used to hang out with all your buddies at the bar. Now instead you have movie night with other couples or, maybe your partner is awesome and changes their lifestyle to fit yours and they hang out with you and your buddies on the weekend. These relationships have had conversations about subjective things like ‘love’ and ‘caring’ and other emotions. Your partner has probably seen a side of you that you don’t openly display for other people. It’s pretty apparent how well you work together as a unit by this stage. Some people really flow together and others drag each other down like a snitch tied to a cinder block.
At this point, you’re invested in someone else. I’ve always said, ‘The fastest way to lose a piece of yourself is to give it to someone else.’ Essentially, that’s what this stage is all about. You start giving little bits of yourself to someone special to you that you can never get back. Maybe it’s the way you whisper good morning to them in their ear every day before you get up and shower. It could be the way you lean in for a kiss on the cheek when you’re driving and they know exactly what you want. Or they could remember to rub sunscreen on your ears when you go to the beach because they know your pale skin will boil like a lobster. Whatever the pieces are, however, they’re unique to your relationship and you learn to love them. And that’s when you realize just how much you care about someone.
When these relationships don’t go as planned, that’s when people really get hurt. You’ve given all those pieces of yourself to someone else and when they’re gone, you’re left with a feeling of total emptiness. You realize those hugs aren’t there on-call anymore or that dinner and movie isn’t an option any longer. And whether you gave a few little tiny pieces of yourself away, or the whole kitten caboodle, they all hurt the same. All of those tears and smiles you shared start to feel incredibly distant. When that other person isn’t around anymore, you have a feeling inside of you that something’s really missing. All those pieces are gone and the one you shared them with isn’t there.
Life doesn’t feel normal without them around. You go to restaurants, but realize the food doesn’t taste the same without them.
The saddest feeling of all, however, is knowing that the world moves on. No matter how sad you feel about losing someone or missing someone, the world keeps turning.
That, to me, is the most helpless feeling of all. Knowing that in two weeks, or two months, or two years, both parties will have moved on. You have to, because that’s the way that life works. You don’t get a reset button or, sadly, a pause button. In the end, you have the memories that you made, and if those aren’t enough, it doesn’t matter.