Relationships come and go, no matter how badly we want them to stay.
In an episode of Modern Family, the eldest daughter, Haley, experiences her first real breakup with her high school love, Dylan. They had been on and off for a while, but that night, they finally called it quits for good. She knew that this was “the one” that ended it all.
Her father found her alone, crying in the living room. And he told her that if a relationship ending hurt so badly, that’s how she knew it was one worth having.
And so it goes.
We love, we lose, but we win a lot, too, even if the people we used to know (and be) aren’t beside us anymore.
This is the nature of being human: falling in and out of love, making friends and losing touch, and realizing that, along the way, we’ve always been our truest constant.
Relationships We’re Meant to Have
There are many different types of relationships we’ll come across in life, but most of us tend to get caught up on romantic ones. They’re great until they’re not. And their memories – and lessons – can last a lifetime.
But just as equally valid and important are all the other connections we’ll get to form during our time on Earth. Let’s start with our parents.
Our parents are our compass. They are the first people we ever know, and how we bond with them tends to affect how we connect with others the rest of our lives.
For some of us, there is a lot of work that has to be done as we grow and realize we are very different from the people are parents are — and the people they expected us to become.
Re-parenting is difficult, often painful, but a blessing in and of itself. We learn through our parents’ shortcomings who we are truly meant to be. They gave us life, and we give it meaning.
When you learn how to become your own compass in life, you gain wisdom. You need this wisdom to weather the storms you’ll encounter through all your other relationships, especially the ones that were never meant to last forever.
Like your best friend from childhood. Some of us are blessed to have a friendship that lasts a lifetime, but many of us lose touch with the person we once thought would always be our best friend.
You may not have ever had a true falling out either. You could still message each other on important days, like birthdays or holidays. But your window into their life has been condensed into a phone screen.
Whenever you miss them, you type their name into a search bar. All of their biggest milestones unfold on a feed, from graduating to having a baby. You wonder if they named it after their dad, like they said they wanted to back in college.
Speaking of college, the best friend and other ties you made there may still wax and wane. You never thought you’d lose touch like you did. You used to talk about how adulthood seems so scary and boring, but you won’t wind up like your parents or professors.
Surprise. We all grow up, and some people grow with us, while others grow beyond us. We also find ourselves outgrowing people. Instead of feeling left behind, we have to accept the fact that we’re no longer who they knew – we’re not who we thought ourselves to be, either.
These early relationships shaped us into who we are today. Into the people who others are going to meet and love. Other people who are out there, unaware that your paths will someday cross and change everything.
When we think of all that is still to come, is moving on such a bad thing after all?
When a Good Thing Comes Back Around
It’s okay to part ways when life is calling you in different directions. And it’s also okay to reconnect when your paths naturally cross in the future.
You may meet someone at the wrong time only to meet them at a right one later.
You could do everything to make a relationship work with someone in your 20s, only to have it finally click and flow naturally in your 40s.
You can find a childhood friend on Facebook and, after decades of not speaking, feel like you’re still living just across the street, and you haven’t really missed a thing in each other’s lives.
There is so much beauty in rediscovering someone who we once knew. No matter how well we knew one another at some point, we are no longer those people. But we can also learn to love each other as we are now.
Maybe your strained relationship with your parents won’t last forever. One day, you wake up and realize that the things you used to hate your older sister for really weren’t a big deal. And so you decide to send a text message that’s not overdue after all. It’s coming at just the right time. Here and now, right where you are.
Letting Go of Relationship Anxiety
If nothing can last forever, how will you make the most of today?
The present is all any of us are guaranteed, so choose to cast your sights on today and today alone.
Get excited for what’s to come, and let yourself mourn what’s missing when you need to. But always remember that the heartaches, the highlights, the losses, and the beautiful, unexpected connections brought you to this moment.
For some of us, relationship anxiety isn’t an occasional occurrence. It may be such a problem that it stops you from even letting yourself truly open up to others.
If you find that relationship anxiety is stopping you from being present with those you love, therapy may be able to help. Through therapy, you can learn how to accept and process your anxiety and live life to the fullest.
What About the Relationships That We Lose?
In a perfect world, we would all get to keep everyone we love in our lives forever. But unfortunately, we may lose people far before we’re ready to. Is there ever even a good time, anyway?
Whether it’s through a breakup that sidelines you, a sudden accident, or just a realization that things no longer work, we will lose people we want to hold onto.
And it’s okay to hurt. The possibility that things may not be lost forever doesn’t have to stop you from loving them fully now. If anything, that’s all the more reason to practice being present, let people know you care, and truly embrace the days we’re given with the people we love the most.
What you don’t want to do is let anxiety stop you from living or loving. You don’t want to let a fear of abandonment prevent you from deeply appreciating the wonderfully committed people you have in your life today.
And you don’t want to let fear stop you from growing. It’s through our willingness to love in spite of its often-impermanent nature that we get to fully experience being human.
You won’t be the first person to go through heartache. And you’ll likely find that the feeling, although familiar, still stings a bit differently each time.
Give yourself the grace you deserve to accept that pain happens, even when we do everything to prevent it. Truthfully, all we can do is accept the possibility and choose instead to focus on the reality. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny when compared to what lies within us.