We cannot demand another person’s commitment
People confuse their emotions to what they’re entitled to.
When a partner leaves us, we are entitled to feel anything — we are entitled to heartbreak, anger, confusion, desperation, or anything else.
But we are not entitled to expect anything from them. We are not entitled to think that just because we’re in a relationship, that means they’re required to always stay. And this is true even if we put a ring on it.
Being left is painful — and nobody is taking that away from anyone.
But “avoiding our own pain” is not enough to make demands on — or feel entitled to — other people’s lives.
Other people are separate beings
And we don’t “own” someone else — or their love.
I wrote before about how we think we can package people up and make them ours, but we can’t.
Too often, people are so anxious about “being left” or “dying alone” that rather than combating the actual underlying feeling and standing alone, they try to build insurance against it by finding a “life partner,” saying some vows, and making them sign papers promising “til death do us part.”
But at the end of the day, all of that is a social construct. These papers carry real legal ramifications, but only within society. Within each person’s heart, even when we’re married to them, they are still a human being that has his or her own human being experience that’s completely separate from ours.
And at the end of the day, their life belongs to them, not you. They may choose to spend it with you. They may stand in front of all your loved ones and even promise this.
But at the end of the day, they stay because they choose to — even if all they choose is to subscribe to the social model.
Our wishes don’t define our partner’s
Their life is still theirs and not ours.
We are entitled to feel hurt. Heartbroken. Devastated. Angry. Blindsided. Whatever — we are permitted to feel whatever we want.
But so are they are. And their feeling may include “wanting to part ways.”
Our feelings are not more important than our partners, especially regarding their own lives. And it sucks, of course, because when we combine lives, we start to build a shared one, and that shared life can feel a bit strung out, stranded, shattered when one of us leaves — but ultimately, our shared life is a unit of two individual people, who are each entitled to their own existence outside of it.
None of us are entitled to ask anything of the other person that conflicts with what they want to give and their life desires. So if their ideas around them change, it’s for us to pick up our own pieces, and them theirs.
Instead, love each moment like it’s the last
The solution is actually a better relationship — one built on mutual respect and daily reinvestment; treating your partner and each moment as something very dear, to be “re-won and re-loved” every day.
The worse relationship is settling back into complacency just because we married them and think we’ve got this shit on lockdown. And wanted that ring as a shortcut to reassurance.
Love them as their own human beings who are going their own way in life, and make deliberate choices every day. Love them as though they are free people who could, if this stopped working, choose to leave.
And promise “now” — over and over
This present moment is our greatest and most valuable gift, and the deliberate choice around what we do with each moment is one of the greatest gestures we can give ourselves — and others.
Wake up every morning and choose to love them all over again. Don’t promise forever. Promise that if we’re here, it’s because we want to be. It’s deliberate, not because we made a promise. It’s a better way to love — one of openness and eagerness and mindfulness, rather than resentment or requirements.
It’s love that’s based on mutual respect for each other as separate human beings.
And frankly, there is no higher love than that.