Ending Relationships

3 09 2012

“You keep listening to those that seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly or despicable. They only say that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.”

-Henri Nouwen

Wow.  That was the first thing that came to my mind.  When I read that for the first time, I was blown away by the depth of that quote.  The circumstances of the situation was this:  A beloved person in my life, I allowed to walk out, and the relationship was ended because we had some irreconcilable differences.  A friend sent me this text when she heard the news of this ending relationship.  And isn’t this quote just perfect for my scenario?  Although the relationship has been ended for almost a year, the pain of the severed relationship still lives on.  I mean, I pledged my life to this person, and when difficulties in my life with a relationship with another person arose, and I struggled over some very intense things, this person was so helpful throughout that whole journey.  They know things about me that no one else in this world knows.  It is so sad that both of us could not get over these irreconcilable differences and move on with our life together.

Part of me misses this person.  I miss them because of the connection I shared with them, and I miss them because of the deep love I still have for them.  I miss them because our relationship was once a safe place for me.

But then I think about the last year of our relationship, and it was very demeaning.  It was very confusing, and this person did not love me with their words and their actions.  This person did not consider me, and they did not treat me like a human being sometimes.  I have just recently begun to realize and remember how this person hurt me a good portion of our last year together.  It all makes me so very sad.

And then I draw back up to Henri Nouwen’s quote.  Upon thinking about it, I discover a few things:

  1. A person’s inability to remain in a relationship with me, is not entirely due to me, but to that person’s own failures and inability to deal with me.   This liberates me from blame here.  When people leave relationships, it is because they cannot handle the relationship and that they cannot provide what the other person is asking.  However, in this scenario, I also could not handle the other person, and I could not even begin to deal with the issues that the two of us had.  But it is  not only my fault that it ended.
  2. My response to the other person’s shortcomings should be that of compassion.  This is very hard for me right now.  I want to be so angry with this person.  I want to throw books at them every time I see them, I want to physically hurt them.  I am working on that.  I doubt I will see this person anytime soon, as we are probably permanently no longer in the same geographical region.  I need to set this person free of my anger and my resentment for their inability to accept me and get over some things.  I think what makes me so angry is that this person seems to have casually just moved on, and there’s no grieving period.  There’s no time in which they seemed to hurt or in which they seem to miss me.  It makes me wonder if I meant as much to them, as they did to me.
  3. I need to reaffirm my identity in who I am, because they are no longer part of that identity.  Call it God, or spirituality, but the ending relationship is  a call back to the love that first gave it.  People leave.  They may die, or they may have to move, but the sad reality is that people leave.  The only thing that I have found that does not leave is our relationship with God.  Our perception of who God is may change, but God is ever-faithful, and ever-consistent.  And when people leave, they are unable to handle you, but God can.  Just because you return to God once does not mean that the hurt is done, it does not mean that the relationship means nothing, it just means that you have to begin a process of moving on.  Over the past year, I have returned to God several times, when certain aspects of our relationship have plagued me more than others.  It’s a continual process, one that I fear will take quite a while.

Relationships end.  It sucks.  But there are so many layers of dealing with it.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get over this relationship ending, because it was such an important one.  But it may be for the best, that we separate, and deal with God in our separate ways and move forward separately to advance the kingdom.  Perhaps one day, all of our limitations will be ended, and we are finally able to interact once again, as we used to.  But both of us will have a lot of growing up to do in the meantime.

If/when a relationship ends, this does not mean that your world ends, it just means that for right now, you’re hurting.  And right now, you’re lonely, but that is an excellent time to turn to someone who is out of this world, and knows what rejection feels like more than anyone else.  When that happens, please, do not allow yourself to go into the depths of despair, but to move forward, however that happens.




One response

26 05 2013
Love begats love all the more. | deafragamuffin

[…] earlier today.  If you know anything about Nouwen, you’ll notice that I’ve quoted him before, and I doubt this will be the last time I quote him.  I value him as an author, because he makes […]

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