Can Love Be Re-Purposed?

I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for DIY programs and channels. I’ve noticed a positive trend toward ‘re-purposing’ or ‘upcycling’ :  what’s no longer desirable, fashionable or functional gets a new life and a new chance to please our tastes and needs. Funny how this works with ‘things’, but not so much with relationships. How did my brain connect those particular ‘dots’?

For me, daily life often plays out in themes:  repeated situations, or encounters that present similar messages and opportunities for learning about myself, and others. A recent theme involved random meetings with one-half of a couple who’s gone – or who’s going through – a painful break-up.

The ‘upside’ in these stories has been sweetly classic:  “I fell in love with my best friend.” The relationship seemed ideal. But non-negotiables appeared at some point. And despite both people hoping to reach some kind of compromise, the impasse came. Career decisions or promotions created physical distance; or, changing desires led to statements like, “We don’t seem to want the same things anymore.”

A separation between lovers, although painful (especially if the union has been long-term) can be amicable, when and if true friendship was the foundation. I went through that myself, albeit a very long time ago. For a while after the break-up, occasional conversations, emails or texts continue; birthdays are still a shared celebration; relationships with extended family somehow co-exist around the dissolved couple. We try our best to re-set our heads and hearts; to ‘re-purpose’ intimate feelings as friendship.

But it’s complicated –  even when the love remains strong. In the most perfect versions of ourselves, we want the person we were so in love with to be happy – wherever they decide to go, and whoever they choose to be with. We try to exalt our love beyond jealousy and resentment – but can’t avoid making comparisons and obsessing over why things didn’t work out.

The person who initiates a break-up might have an easier time adjusting than the one who is being ‘left behind’. But taking the crazy-to-turn-down-dream-job 3,000 miles away still brings feelings of guilt. And even when the decision to part is mutual, there’s typically one person in the relationship who feels less-convinced that ‘calling it quits’ is the right choice.

Someone once said (although I can’t recall who, the statement has stuck with me), “The more passionate the love affair, the less-likely the two people involved can, or will remain friends.” I’ve seen enough opera and read enough Shakespeare to feel that this might actually be true. My own thinking is that, when a break-up happens, each person should get to decide whether or not they’re going to be noble, or stick to the energetic “high road”, by trying to re-purpose that passion as friendship. It shouldn’t be an action we think we should take, just because we’ve read that this is what self-actualized people do. Sometimes it just feels right, to cast-off the whole experience, without trying to salvage anything, and without a backward glance.

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