But We Won't Be Like That

When my last boyfriend and I were discussing the deep intimacies of our past loves, and how they fell apart, I remember distinctly the last sentence that followed the explanation of his last heartbreak - "but we won't be like that." It's not the only time I've heard it; I've even said it myself a few times before. But as many times as I've heard it and said it, I've only recently come to understand how tragic those six words can really be.

Every relationship is basically the same; all meaningful relationships start the same.  The people are different, but the formula is the same.  We all start off loving someone in the wake of loving someone else.  You are excited to be with them, and look forward to the plans you make. You are in this state of euphoria where they can do no wrong, and things seem like they will be just perfect forever. No one ever foresees the end of something they care about, because we don't ever want to believe that something we love can ever not be forever.

I think that once you use this phrase, you are immediately making a comparison between something old and something new.  We always rationalize the old as not being real - but at the time we felt something we were convinced was real.  How can something be real and not real simultaneously?  What we had was right, until it went wrong.  When you say "but we won't be like that", there is the implication that the relationship you have currently is more or less what your previous relationship was like, when things were "right".

Now, let's talk about "types".  I have types; like everyone else, I have specific types of people that appeal to me.  I have a specific type of lover, friend, employer, mentor, and so on.  I suspect that these types are so ingrained that they work subconsciously, attracting us to certain kinds of people with overlapping qualities, temperaments, and dispositions.  I think that, at least in some cases, when we say "but we won't be like that", there is a momentary realization of how alike you're new person is to the old - and a hope that somehow, this won't end similarly.  I think that it is a statement of uncertainty and helplessness.

All anybody ever wants is a guarantee; to feel assured that our investments are going to rise in value, at the very least stay stable, but never plummet.  We want safety, and never to be in danger.  We never want to be vulnerable.  Personally,  being vulnerable makes me feel sick; as soon as I start to care about someone, I tend to hold back for fear of getting what I want and potentially being unsatisfied with it, or hurt by it.  But if I've learned anything over the past few years or so, it's that nothing ever comes with a guarantee.  People come with good intentions but can never make promises.  Things happen in life that can't be helped, and they happen with or without our permission.

Sad, right? Alright, let me turn this around like the good Taoist that I hope to one day be.  When I say "but we won't be like that", I mean to say that right now, I feel vulnerable because I don't want you to not be a part of my life.  It means that you are special to me, for whatever reason, and it would make me feel less of who I am if that was lost.  But that's not 100% true.  As special as you are to me, and I am to you, if we lost each other, we'd learn to live again;  we would have to.  I recognize that you can never give me a guarantee that you will protect my heart from harm, but when I say "but we won't be like that", I'm saying I'd like you to try as hard you can, because I will too.

People come and go from our lives - we grow in and out of them like shoes.  They teach us things about ourselves, and are valuable to us no matter who they are, or how we grew apart.  Sometimes if we grasp too hard to preserve something, it ends up being its own undoing; "but we won't be like that" can be a strangle hold of expectations when taken too far.  But if we tread lightly, look carefully at what we have, appreciate it, and let ourselves move forward full of love instead of fear of failure, we have a better chance of successful relationships.  I think that the important thing is to embrace the vulnerability and volatility of all relationships, because despite their sometimes startling similarities, they are also independent of each other.  It is unpredictability that defines our whole experience, and our compulsive need to make sense and order of it is counterproductive.  I guess, we can't learn anything at all if we don't venture into the unknown.