When I was 24, I had it all. A great job. Booming social life. Regular workout regimen. Solid relationship of four years with a wonderful man with whom I shared a dog and a home. It all felt very grown-up for being in my early-twenties.
It was special. Comfortable. Lovely. Up until the very last month.
I’m a big believer in the power of experiential learning. Sometimes we need to experience being broken before we can heal. We need to blast through a few speed bumps to learn the importance of slowing down. We need to walk away from something great to truly appreciate it.
The life I was leading was great, but not necessarily great for the 24-year-old me. I wasn’t ready to take a leap into foreverland. Though I loved what my best friend and I had started to build, I toyed with the thought of tearing it down. I wanted adventure, excitement and uncertainty. The day we decided to call it quits, he said two seemingly unrelated things that to this day make my chest heavy: “I would marry you tomorrow,” and “You’re so brave.”
Though I may never know what he fully meant, to me it seemed he felt the same way as I did -- that we both fell into such a comfortable togetherness, but there was much more to see and explore on our own; that we both had our doubts and fears about the serious path we were heading toward, and I was the ‘brave’ one who poked a hole in our safe little bubble.
After a quick split from a long relationship, as the dust was still settling, I read an article in Psychology Today that has guided my thoughts on relationships ever since. This idea stood out:
If there's one thing that most explicitly detracts from the enjoyment of relationships today, it's an abundance of choice. Our antennae are always up for better opportunities.
We have so many options, when it comes to relationships. Okcupid. Match. Meetups. Sexual meditation communities. Polyamorous relationships. Open relationships. Closed relationships. Missed connections and casual encounters.
When we broke up, we were only able to stay in each others lives until it hurt too much to do so. I was beyond consoling for months after, crying in bathroom stalls at work and to sleep at night. I punished myself for making such a hasty decision, referring back to the Psychology Today article over and over to highlight all of my mistakes.
Now I know that breaking up was the right choice. The brave choice. The choice that opened me up to a world of unknowns that have challenged me in unique ways.
I needed to get out and experience things on my own terms. This was the only way it could happen. I had to go through the one-nighters and the all-night-fighters. The dearly devoted and the dating-impaired. The ups and downs of feeling treasured then mistreated. I had to experience love without lust and lust without love to understand what it is to have both at the same time. I had to explore the possibilities, even though they lead to breaks and breakups. Because all of it has profoundly shaped my experience of relationships and my understanding of what I truly want.
In a time where people are moving away from monogamy and choosing to cohabitate without the nuptials, I still want marriage. Though I know that I don’t need a partner to be motivated, successful, or even happy, I want one. I could stand alone in my victories, go on solo trips, own a home in a warm community. But what I truly want is to share all of that with a man. Someone who I want to go to extreme efforts for, who I want to talk on the phone with when we’re apart and touch belly buttons with when we’re near.
Why do I believe in marriage and monogamy? I see an example of it in my parents, how it helps them to know someone always has their back, who will jump in the car with them to take roadtrips, who will hold their hand and be their rock when they are upset.
Whenever my mom dresses up, my dad still gets that grin that says "I’m the luckiest guy in the world."
He loves when she sings, no matter how off-key because, “It means she’s happy.”
And, I’ll never forget the look of despair on my dad’s face when he felt so lost he had to ask his 17-year-old daughter for advice, in a last ditch effort to find peace during one of their worst fights.
I remember these things about how my dad loves my mom, and I aspire to find a man who thinks of me this very same way, despite all the options he may or may not have.
When I once again get the chance to leap into foreverland with my best friend, it will be with the intention to create a beautiful partnership, love bravely, trust fiercely and chase our dreams. I’ll honor the commitment I’ve made. I’ll be grateful for the time I took to walk away so that I could not only find myself, but find my way back to love.
[jbox title="About the Author" border="5" radius="15"] Kristen McKee lives in Portland, Oregon where she paints, writes, blogs and explores the fitness scene. In January, she left her corporate job of five years to live a more empowering life. You can read about her journey on CourageLoveIntensity.com. [/jbox]
Photo credit: Three Winks