The beauty in saying it’s over: Finding the good in past relationships

An illustration of a person leaning onto another persons suit. Identify of both people is unclear, as it presents them from the chin down.
Ed Farley

Romantic, platonic, in-between… Relationships. They’re the good, the bad and the ugly. Or so they say. I think they can be good, bad but also beautiful, especially when they end.  We’ve all had it happen, someone treats you coldly, giving you all the answers you need as to why they’re not worth your time. But what is more complex, is when you have all the answers as to why you could stay, but you know ultimately, you can’t. I’m speaking of the pain and comfort found in the end of something that was a great experience, with someone you still care about. We don’t spotlight those moments half as much as the terrible splits that all too often, abuse our personal timelines. Ed Farley explains.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. It’s only going to last a paragraph. To be direct, you don’t have to be grateful. I’ve had times where romantically or not- I’ve been mistreated. But, to feel comforted, I still responded with the energy I craved. I realised that I often gave people kindness in bad situations, because I thought that despite being mistreated, on the nights I was spiralling, I could say I tried not to do what they did to me. But in the need to be truthful, you’re being untruthful. You don’t have to be the nicer person. If they’re cruel or cold, they’ve given you the answers already. You don’t have to be horrible to them by any means, but you don’t have to give yourself to them either. No closure is (though horrible) a form of closure. The pain is proof enough that you were a good person because they violated it. Yet, once the storm of the awful clears, you can see the clear, peaceful (but melancholic) space where the good endings were. The relationships that were always kind, that never made you second guess yourself into trying to be a good person, because they were the ones that made you know you were. These relationships though passed, had a life truly deserving of celebrating. Once you know when not to give your kindness so freely, you can be purposeful in giving it to those who do deserve it. Not all endings are dark, and by being purposeful with kindness or acceptance, I can now say I know how to separate those from the ones I’ll speak of now.

what a waste of humanness it is when we decide to tar the (let’s face it, rare) good endings with the bad

I’ve had instances (one rather recent) of arrangements that have ended, that were actually beautiful. Shakily crafted and delicate; they were made with the intention of creating something we ultimately couldn’t, experimented in a space that even if for a short time – felt safe. The truth is that you never go into these things thinking you’ll ultimately dislike someone or the situation. So often, we are conditioned to think we need to be apathetic to an end. We have to be appalled, or find excuses to have an “ick”. What if we just said there wasn’t any?  As explained before, there are times when we genuinely can look at instances where there was cruelty. But what a waste of humanness it is when we decide to tar the (let’s face it, rare) good endings with the bad. If we don’t have to concoct pain, we shouldn’t. A part of being human is to have the desire to consciously love or care.

It is wonderful to get to know someone with no mask or façade, knowing that they were exactly who they were when you first approached them. There’s meaning in meeting a beautiful human and having an experience that feels just as beautiful. Thinking fondly of laughing in a cafe, brushing knees under a table, and theorising about futures on busy city streets will always be emotional. Though at the time it was wonderful, I’ll of course occasionally reflect back in sadness, lamenting “He didn’t know it didn’t last long” or “He didn’t know that was the last time.”  But, in the wet, salty cheek staining of perceived so-called loss, I don’t cry because it disintegrated with nastiness. Like a masterpiece in a museum, it’s protected behind glass. I cry as it was wonderful, and it stayed that way.  I cry because he had the ability to show himself to me, and me to him.  I have the knowledge that one day, at a time of our choosing; we can do it again to someone else who is just as deserving of our attention.  It’s a privilege to have the strength to allow yourself to feel lucky that it didn’t end in malice or ruin. Instead of forcing yourself to feel grateful in dire situations, you can learn when to feel grateful for the true, real moments that call for it.

to communicate effectively sounds like it’s the bare minimum, yet ghosting, or leaving on delivered is something that’s too common

I believe that in most examples, something amicable ends with mutual appreciation and respect. In fact, I am still staggered when a man acknowledges something is not working.  He has the ability to show his heart, and that he feels safe enough to tell me he wants to protect it, and renter it elsewhere. To communicate effectively sounds like it’s the bare minimum, yet ghosting, or leaving on delivered is something that’s too common. We are told that dating is a game. We have to play hard to get or act like we don’t care. I don’t think we are conditioned to show respect and care openly with our chests anymore. There’s a fear of being embarrassed by being soft or gentle when it’s the only thing that can get you in a place of connection in the first place.

For a moment, another individual has given me the respect and care I don’t often give myself. When the last message is sent, the thrill and the so-wanted fantasy ends, but so does the worry of not getting a response. A read receipt is no longer dangerous, but a sign of gentle freedom and acknowledgement; a relief as well as something to mourn. I’ll miss it, of course. I don’t date for something to go nowhere. But, dating has also shown me how emotionally responsible I can be, and how if you’re lucky enough like I was- others can.

you were a human, and you made me feel like one too

I get remedied by understanding that I have the capacity to connect with someone even if it lasts a matter of months- even weeks. This heart is open, and someone wanted to see it. To a “Situationship” (A reductive word), ex, old friend- I might see them on Instagram, or passing by one day. Yet, armed now with acceptance, I’d stop, look, and think: “Whoa. I met you. I held your hand, touched your skin… I got to know who you were, what your vulnerabilities and hobbies were… and you felt safe enough to let me know them. You were a human, and you made me feel like one too. Thank you so much.”

The reactions and feelings to a relationship are always more permanent than the relationship itself. Embracing it, and realising you were able to show your humanity in whatever capacity- be it with yourself, him, her, them… is the greatest of gifts. Whether you’re the giver or receiver of this, I think that there’s freedom found when you can ascertain when to give it. Relationships are a tightrope whatever status they are; alas the difficult balancing of the good and bad is still achievable.

Ed Farley

Featured image courtesy of Impact’s Ed Farley. No changes were made to the image.

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