A while ago, by coincidence I was in the same room with an ex partner. As we sat next to each other, I recognized the feeling. Everything we said was fine, but below the surface I felt a deep defense from him to me. In the last phase of the relationship I had gotten used to it, but now, it struck me like an unpleasant smell you want to walk away from.
It was such a contrast with the things I experience in my present relationship: veiled rejection versus connection. The closed door with the blocked-up mailbox opposed to an elegant gate made out of lights, and a doormat that says ‘Welcome’. It gave me a cheerful insight: the best thing about being dumped is that you never (or hardly ever) have to sit next to someone who doesn’t want to be with you.
When someone ends a serious relationship, they have been in a process for a while. It can take weeks, months or years, but step by step, they move away from you. As their partner, you notice every inch of the separation. Every indifferent hello, every dutiful ‘I love you too’. Every wandering eye, every routine kiss, every lukewarm goodbye, every disapproving sigh, every soulless session of lovemaking. Everything.
What being abandoned teaches you
How is it possible that I underwent this covered rejection as something acceptable for so long? Because it was too painful, to unsafe to accept, and I wanted so badly to believe that everything was OK. Because I thought I could regain his love by scoring points. Because I thought my love was big enough for the both of us. And secretly (because my self-love isn’t the problem) because I thought: I’m lovable, so you’ve got to love me. Now I know: I don’t decide about other people’s love.
If someone closes the door to their heart for you, you can’t open it. The door only opens from the inside. You can keep dribbling in front of the door with your package of love, but it remains closed. If someone seriously considers leaving you, it’s probably too late. The path outside is only open to who’s outside already. This can be comforting later on: there is nothing you could have done to change things.
You don’t have to bang on their door anymore
For the hardcore people among us, who have hope even after they’ve got dumped: it’s unlikely that someone opens the door again after ending a relationship. After all, it’s not in their interest to do so. In order to see the decision of going as a good and necessary thing, they need to avoid true connection or loyalty – even if there are children involved.
Once I’m alone again, at home, I sigh. It’s not a sad sigh, but a relieved one. I don’t have to bang that door anymore. And it’s cost me a couple of years, but finally I’m able to say: I don’t even feel like it anymore, not the slightest bit.
Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Joe Gardner