There's ego involved in this "let's fall in love" stuff, and it's high time we all just admit that.
If I had it to do all over again, I probably would have left sooner. And more often.
At this stage in the game — 44, divorced, three kids — I'm sure it's easy, or easier, at least, for me to look back on the long term relationships I've been involved in in my life and say that kind of thing. On the surface, it kind of oozes insincerity. Why even acknowledge that now? Why look back on broken love and try to second-guess your own heart?
I'm not sure, actually. I only know it feels legit now. I don't think I ever left anyone when I should have. It's very possible that certain sorts of people, for whatever reasons, linger around in sh*tty unions long after they've gone bad. But I suppose it's a two-way street. It takes two to make it last. And it takes the same two to hunker down in the middle of Hurricane Denial, too.
Still, if nothing else, not having walked away earlier has taught me a few things about why men DO leave women they love.
In Justice Schanfarber's insightful and inspiring piece, "Why Women Leave Men They Love," she talks about the clutch importance of men being present in the eyes, heart and mind of their girlfriend or wife. And that presence, according to the author, means "...your aliveness. She needs to feel it. She wants to talk to you about what matters to her and to feel that you're listening to her. Not nodding politely. Not placating. Definitely not playing devil's advocate."
In other words, you never shut it down. You don't close up your emotional shop. And you don't pour yourself into booze or work or other women, or worst of all, silence. You communicate. You listen. You actually hear what she says. You remain an active lover and partner instead of a flighty, self-centered dipsh*t.
Same goes for women, too. That seems obvious enough.
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Yet beyond all of that there remains something else, something more that causes men to leave women whom they still adore and cherish.
Men, it turns out, want to be treated like men — but never compared to other men. And as you might imagine, sitting here in the comfortable armchair of an internet article, THAT is the sort of relationship stuff that can get kind of tricky for the ladies.
I went through some bad times in my relationships. And in my marriage, too.
What sucked the most, though, was that I either never had the balls to call her/them on it, OR I was just too lazy to even bother recognizing the tumult in my guts. Throughout the years I spent with several women, I wasn't your typical guy in a lot of ways.
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My life was spent playing in a touring rock-n-roll band. It's what I'd chosen to do with my days and nights and from the very first moments of career choice I absolutely hurled myself at it with every ounce of passion and hunger and desire I had. I was young. Then I was older. But here I was, barely eeking out a meager living (by anyone's modern standards) by doing something that mattered to me. A lot.
Guess what, though? I was surprised to find out that my passion DIDN'T always make that much difference to my partners. In fact, there were many many many times when I felt the opposite was true. Sure, they'd each loved the idea of a rock band guy in the beginning. But soon after they would change their tune about it all.
All of things that musicians deal with — the drama, the laughable account balances, the constant travel, and the perpetual ebbing and flowing of my own difficult hopes and dreams smashing up against someone elses' shores — they all proved to be troublesome in my love affairs.
Women could look me in the eye and tell me they believed in me, that they WANTED me to chase my passion. But behind their eyeballs there was always a lot of secret plotting and planning going on.
After a few years in certain relationships, I began to sense that there was an urgency in an entirely different direction coming from the other side. A ravishing need to get me to be something else, to chase something more "practical" and "sensible."
"Get a Commercial Driver's License so you can drive a dump truck."
That's what I was told by someone I really loved a lot. And I'm not saying she was wrong, either. Maybe I was supposed to be a dump truck driver in this life. Who knows? I can't say for sure. But whatever. I should have left her then and there. And I wonder what may have happened if I did.
There's a ton of ego involved in this "let's fall in love" stuff, and it's high time we all just admit that. We all want what we f*cking want most of the time and rare is the relationship or marriage when that reality doesn't rear its natural head on a regular basis.
Looking back, I'm sure I see my younger self with sympathetic eyes now. I want to shift blame from me to her. I want to rally around my fevered spirit and my unbridled passion for being me, and never ever let that slide as an excuse for someone to have stopped loving me, you know?
But I know enough now to know that it's never ever one thing or the other. Love flares up out of complex conflagration. And loves dies from fifty different arrows to the face at once. Nothing is as simple as saying, "Do THIS and THAT and you'll win his/her heart ... then keep it forever." In fact, it's utter bullsh*t to even start to think that way.
Yet we can learn from life, from failed love, no matter how hard it's been on us. No matter how much it may hurt to leave someone you love, or to be the who is left behind.
The trick, I'm starting to think, is to understand that we're hardly ever doing enough. We're barely ever making the effort we ought to be making to love the person we fell in love with even long after the first years have past.
You cannot change another human being. You can only inspire them to change. For themselves. For you. For the kids. For the greater good. And it's that very thing, that insight and penchant for inspiring change, that inspires our partner to love us until death do us part.
More and more, though, we laugh at the idea, don't we? We snicker at the term "marriage" and we flip our bird at the idea of one love that stands the test of time.
Know why? Because it's always easier to leave people, especially the ones we love, than it is to incite the kind of changes that make both of us want to keep it alive. That's hard, conscientious work. It requires a hell of a lot of passion. But by the time we realize that, we're too busy dreaming of something different. Of a better life someday. With someone else.
So you leave. Or I do. Same thing in the end.