I am always astonished by my mom’s insightfulness. We were speaking recently about how desire inevitably ebbs and flows in long term relationships. During the conversation I mentioned that in my relationship with my ex-boyfriend the physical desire for him never wavered. In fact, I said, it grew and grew over the years and when we finally broke up it was at it’s height. I used this personal example to ‘prove’ that the curse of long term relationships to destroy passion wasn’t always the rule.
Once I finished telling her my thoughts she responded with an observation that had never crossed my rose colored mind. She said “the passion lasted because you never really had him”. Wow. That is absolutely true and it took me over 20 years to learn it.
This is the ex I have written of before. We met when I was 23 and were together off and on for 12 years. We were serious for long stretches of time, then would break up, and eventually would find our way back to one another. Sometimes the break up lasted a day, sometimes a few weeks, and once it lasted almost 2 years. This is also the ex that I had an affair with once I learned of my husbands infidelity. This “affair” was mostly emotional since he lives in another state but it had it’s physical moments as well. I finally ended it for good almost 2 years ago. 21 years after I met him. But my mom was right – I never really had him. I always knew that he could walk out the door the next day. I felt insecure in the status of our union and anxious about our future. I never truly was able to depend on him and when I did he usually let me down. It was that thrill and that uncertainty that kept the flame alive.
I think this is the case with most affairs as well. We feel a heightened sense of passion because we know at any time the person is going to be pulled from our grasps. We desperately cling to the moments we can hold them, touch them, see them. And we are left longing for him/her in those long lonely nights when they are not with us.
This is a horrible way to live. Always worrying that it’s the last time you will be together, wondering if the feelings are true, imagining them with their spouse and their families, knowing deep down that if they really wanted to be with us they would be. We go days without hearing from them and our anxiety builds with each hour -then comes the thrill when they reach out again and this act calms all of our insecurities while setting us up for yet another round of passion followed by loss. It’s a painful cycle. We want so badly to believe in the fairy tale ending. But at some point in our adult lives we need to accept that fairy tales are not true. We do not have them.