Recently there was a death in the family, and although it’s not a happy topic it’s had me thinking about mortality and loss.
Death is a strange thing. Someone is in your life one day, and suddenly they are gone. It doesn’t feel real at first. At an intellectual level you know they are gone, but it’s almost as if they have just gone away for a while. A part of you almost expects them to call, or show up at your door. But at the same time you know they never will again.
There is pain and a sense of loss that comes from their absence. Depending on how close you were to them, this absence is felt in different ways.
Different experiences bring memories of them. You have moments where you can still see them, and imagine them. You visualize the look they would have on their face if they were with you, and the things they would say. And in those moments they are still with you.
They live on, but now it’s only in memory.
When thinking of those who are gone, there is a sense of loss from their absence. This sadness is for all the future moments that you will never get to share, as well as past opportunities that have been missed and things left unsaid.
And these past opportunities are probably the ones that hurt the most.
Why were opportunities missed and words left unspoken?
This happens because a part of us thought they would always be there. We thought there would always be more opportunities, so we never made it a priority to take those opportunities or say those words.
Chances are there were good reasons. We have jobs, families, friends and hobbies; never mind things like laundry, dishes and other chores. There are only so many hours in the day, and *something* has to give.
I suspect for many of us who have lost someone, once they are gone all of those reasons seem somewhat hollow, and we would give almost anything to turn back the clock and just have one more moment with those we cared about.
But we don’t.
In the moment we decided other things in our life were a greater priority than they were.
That’s not always a bad thing. Life does get busy and those other things do need to be done, and there are only so many hours in a day. We can’t do everything, and make time for everyone. Choices do have to be made.
But the sad reality is, often when you “know” the person is there, at a subconscious level you don’t feel you have to put in the effort.
Promises For The Future
This makes me think about marriage. When people commit to marriage, they are committing to forever.
They are making a promise to each other that they will be there for each other no matter what life throws at them. To me, there is something at once beautiful and powerful about this concept of forever.
When people talk about love and romance, often the focus is on passion and hormones. People kissing, unable to keep their hands off each other as they leave a trail of clothes on the way to the bedroom.
Being lovers IS very important, and it’s something I’ve written at length on maintaining in a relationship. But that’s not all there is to love.
To me love is deeper.
It’s rooted in commitment, trust, and being there for each other. Keeping that vow to each other to be there “no matter what life throws at you”. Growing old together, and reaching out for each other physically and emotionally each and every day.
End of a Relationship
The reality is, many couples don’t get to see forever.
They start full of love and promise, and build a life together. But somewhere along the way it goes wrong, devolving into resentment, hurt and apathy.
For those who can see past the hurt and resentment, the cause is often lost opportunity. All those times that something else was a priority. The latest show on TV, putting in long hours to get that promotion, going out with your buddies, and ironically even focusing on the kids.
All those things are prioritized over our partners, because we know our partners “will always be there”. So we spend months and years losing the connection we once had, and slowly drifting apart.
Dealing with it is akin to dealing with death – except the person is still physically there.
Reaching For Each Other Again
All too often, when a couple has lost the connection it marks the end of the relationship.
Personally I don’t think it’s ever too late (but then, I’m a bit more optimistic than most).
I hear stories about couples who were on “on the brink” and were able to rebuild their relationship – often making it stronger than it had been before in the process. It’s not easy to do, and for those that have been successful there are a lot of common characteristics.
It requires honesty – brutal honesty at times about what has gone wrong and why things have broken down. And it requires an ability to hear those things, and not treat them as criticisms or attacks, but instead see them as facts, and issues that need to be addressed in order to succeed.
It requires checking your ego at the door, and accepting that things will never be exactly the way one person wants it. Compromise is needed on the part of both partners.
It requires accepting conflict and issues as part of life. As part of the reality of two people building a life together.
If requires focusing on what you do have, and the good that exists in your life, instead of focusing what is missing or wrong.
It requires focusing again on the couple, and carving out time for each other even when life is busy.
And it requires empathy. Empathy in a relationship is about taking your partner into account, and understanding that your actions impact them. Understanding that even if something isn’t important to you, it still needs to be a priority if it’s important to your partner.
Here’s a fact for you:
Many couples who divorce wish that they had been able to “make it work”. Even when they have been able to rebuild and move on with their lives, they still wish they had put in a bit more effort and had made their partner a little bit more of a priority than they did. Many believe that they “could have made it” had they just shown a bit more empathy.
Forever isn’t something that just happens, and it’s not something that exists in the far off future.
No matter how strong you believe your relationships is, no future is ever guaranteed. Things happen. Tragedy or illness can strike at any time.
Don’t assume your partner will always be there, and don’t leave things unsaid. Yes, people get busy and life gets in the way. But don’t use that as a reason to not maintain and build your relationship.
People talk about drifting apart or falling out of love. That only happens if you let it. That only happens when you stop making each other a priority and putting in effort.
Forever is something you need to build into everyday life. It is built through looks, touches, smiles, and words of caring and support.
Forever is built by not just saying you love someone – but by reflecting those words with your actions each and every day.
Forever is now.