It was meant to be. I’ve used “meant to be” to justify blurring ethical lines; heck, to justify ignoring ethical lines. If someone is meant to be mine, if we are destined to be together, then surely the fact that they belong to someone else is a complication to be resolved… Because anything that stands in the way of destiny isn’t meant to be.
I am ashamed of things I have done in the past.
But I am also older and wiser.
Especially when my heart gets snagged, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned over time: there is no “meant to be;” ethical lines truly are firm; if someone is unavailable (whether emotionally or because they are in another relationship), they are unavailable – period; “it’s complicated” is an excuse for ignoring ethical lines. I have learned that just because I have chemistry with someone, there is no promise of more than a brief connection with them. And I have learned that emotional affairs are damaging too.
I don’t mean to be preachy. The only one I’m preaching to is me. Because, you see, my heart has been snagged. And I am so very grateful that unlike in my teens, 20’s and 30’s, I am not tormented by indecision. Unavailable is unavailable, after all.
I don’t have to ponder how stable their relationship is. I don’t have to wonder if they are truly a good match. I don’t need to be the supportive friend.
In fact by now I’ve learned all the tricks I play on myself, all the lies I tell myself. I know that just being friends isn’t innocent at all, when I won’t stop myself from being just a little extra charming; when I make sure to always validate and support them, especially for those things that might cause them flack at home. I know what I’m doing, and it isn’t innocent. And it doesn’t have to be physical at all to create micro fractures in their relationship; my innocent behavior can do real damage.
One friend reminded me that this is about valuing Me enough to insist on a full relationship before giving myself over to love. And that can only happen with someone who is completely available.
What is it about the strength of the heart’s pull, that we want to see what isn’t there? That we repeatedly cast aside reality in favor of fantasy? Of course I want to give my heart to someone who can give it back wholly and unfettered. But my heart has chosen someone who has already given their heart away.
All my decades on this planet and I am transported back to my teens, seeking out songs of love and longing that tugged at my heart even before I’d first experienced romantic love. We poke fun of the romantic nostalgia; frankly it feels self-indulgent to write about it. But these yearnings of the heart are real, and when they demand of us something we cannot give, the pain is very real, and quite inescapable.
I know what to do, of course. My only ethical choice is to end the “innocent” exchanges, stop all contact completely and immediately. To do anything else would definitely hurt me. And it would possibly hurt two other people as well; more significantly, their committed relationship to each other.
I am grateful for the knowledge that life has given me: that I don’t have the anguish of indecision; that I can’t pretend that I just can’t help myself; knowing better than to try to walk the line between appropriate behavior and inappropriate.
I am grateful.
Still, the longing doesn’t stop. And the heart keeps making different arguments. I want to love a person who is available. Of course! But I want this person. Who isn’t available. Only I want them to be available. Over and over again, the heart denies the reality. Tries to find some loophole, some way this will work, some way that the heart will be able to love and be loved by this person. Some way to see that really, they are available after all. Isn’t this the definition of psychosis? A complete rejection of reality?
Isn’t this the definition of an addiction?
And isn’t this the definition of love?
I have two women friends, both of whom like me have lived enough of life to know how life and love work. Both of whom right now have broken hearts. Both of whom had their hearts snagged, and who were mistreated by the ones they gave their hearts to. The months go by, and still their hearts ache.
These are smart women. Women who understand that they don’t want or deserve to be with someone who mistreats them. Women who are quite capable of being single. Women who have rich, independent lives and do not need a relationship to feel complete. Women who understand ethical lines. But women whose hearts, like mine, refuse to accept the truth and move on.
The heart wants what the heart wants. With all that age has taught me, I have learned that there is no choice in this. I can choose what actions I take, but I cannot choose what my heart wants. And taking the right action won’t stop the heart’s wanting.
Compared to this, this deep longing for something I can’t have, it is far easier to be content with being single. I’m very good at being single, and most of the time I’m happy with it. When I do go through periods of loneliness, I’ve learned to ride them out. They pass far more quickly than a broken heart.
But I also know that Life, the human life, is meant to be lived and felt and experienced fully. Hearts were meant to love and to be broken. We were meant to feel deep connection and aching longings and gnawing loss. All of that is part of the human experience. I understand the reality. I’m just not ready to embrace it yet.