As we consider Valentine’s Day this year, perhaps it is a good time to think about love and relationships in general and not just our current relationship.
In our culture it seems we are often tempted to think of relationships that were ended by choice, sometime in the past, as having somehow failed because they did not last a life time. This might make sense if the typical path was for us to meet someone in high school, marry them and remain married to them for the entirety of our lives with the relationship ending by the death of one or the other of us.
However, it is pretty clear that this is not how it goes in western culture. We meet people throughout these very long lives of ours, we enter into a number of relationships, but only for roughly half of us in committed relationships will this union continue until one of us passes away. For the other half, the relationship will be ended by the choice of one or the other of us, or perhaps mutually by the two of us.
So, what are we to do with these relationships that do not last a lifetime? Does that mean that these relationships failed or that we somehow made a mistake? Perhaps. But perhaps too, these past relationships were part of our learning; part of our growing up to be the person we are today.
I believe that we enter into each relationship not just because of our love and attraction to the other, but because the relationship offers us something to live that we need to live; an opportunity to learn something that we need to learn. We are generally not entirely conscious of this until much later – possibly after it has ended or when we are at a point much further down the road when our perspective has been stretched and expanded to include so much more than it could back then.
In her insightful book on Divorce Rituals, Monza Naff asks “Must we say we did not love?” I would prefer to think that we learn about love throughout our lives. For some of us, this will be within one relationship that lasts for the majority of our adult lives. For others, this will be through a number of relationships over time.
This Valentine’s Day, and beyond, I’m wondering if we can honour and celebrate love. And that each time we take the risk of entering into love, that some useful and valuable happens, no matter how long it lasts.