Dating: Relationship Reruns

June 27, 2008

Published in the September 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake: Utah’s Gay and Lesbian News & Entertainment Magazine.

I recently received a message on a social networking Web site from a man I met several years ago. We went out on a handful of dates, and things faded out. Sometime later, his profile read that he was “in a committed relationship.” And that was that…at least until he contacted me a few weeks ago with a profile that read “single.” I replied asking how he was doing, and he never wrote back. Now the main photo on his profile shows him and his (ex?) boyfriend. Oh, and his status has returned to “in a committed relationship.” 

Sound confusing? 

Sound familiar?

Getting back with an ex is something many people — gay and straight — do. But under what circumstances is this a good idea? A relationship ends for good reason, and usually several good reasons; I mean, two people don’t just suddenly realize that they’ve broken up. Typically, a lot of thinking and soul-searching happens before you reach that outcome. 

I suppose, to a certain extent, that it’s natural to want to get back with an ex, particularly immediately — and by immediately, I mean in one to six months following a break-up. Think of it like the person next to you in bed suddenly rolling over and taking the covers: Your first instinct is to pull the blankets back and regain the warmth and comfort you’ve just lost. Just like a blast of cold air int he morning, being single after a long relationship can be jarring. 

People don’t change very quickly, and usually they don’t really change at all. Even if they do, you probably don’t have the patience to wait it out — in most cases, I would hope that you have the intelligence not to. 

Of course, there is something to be said about not giving up and for giving things one (or ten) more shots. But it’s important to know why you want to work things out. You can love someone with all your heart, you could be really good for that person in a lot of ways and he or she could be even better for you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you two should be in a relationship. Sometimes people use love as an excuse. 

I’ve heard people give a lot of reasons for getting back together with an ex. Being “so unhappy after the break-up” is one of the usual ones. Now, I suppose my life experience could be the exception here, but unless I’m mistaken, life isn’t always happy. Sometimes you feel alone and sad. Sometimes you get depressed. But none of those feelings mean that there is something wrong with you. Just because you make a decision that brings a period of hardship doesn’t mean the decision was bad: Sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the right thing to do. 

Ladonna Moore wrote an excellent column in the Salt Lake Metrocalled “Grieving Lost Relationships.” My favorite quote from that piece is, “have the courage to stay with emotions.” If you feel sad, then acknowledge your feelings, and let yourself grow. We all have occasion to find ourselves in the shadows, but the darkness always dissipates. If you feel that things won’t ever get better, there is help. There are people who will step up if you let them know you are struggling. They can be friends or family members, even trusted clergy and therapists. 

I would never claim to know what is right for another persons’ relationship. Most of the time, I’m not even sure what’s right in my relationships. But I do know that people grow at their own unique paces, and that there are different planes of emotional and intellectual existence. Timing, while not everything, is really important. And sometimes, you have to let go if you’re ever going to get a better grip.

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