“Make-believing we’re together,
That I’m sheltered by your heart.
But in and outside I’ve turned to water
Like a teardrop in your palm
And it’s a hard winter’s day, I dream away…
It must have been love, but it’s over now
It was all that I wanted, now I’m living without
It must have been love, but it’s over now
It’s where the water flows…it’s where the wind blows.” ~Roxette, “It Must Have Been Love”
It was definitely love. And it was everything I had ever hoped to have in a relationship…and more.
The relationship might be over now, but the love remains. At least it does for me. I can’t speak for him.
Of course, no relationship is perfect. We had great times, we had horrible times, and every shade of gray in between. I could ramble on for hours about all the fun we had and the dreams we shared. And when I reflect on what once was, that’s right where my mind goes: the good. Selective memory kicks in and I conveniently forget the bad and the ugly.
Why is it that we tend to focus solely on the happy memories after a breakup? Or, we do remember the bad, but play it down; after all, it wasn’t that terrible, right? (Is that my Pisces Ascendant putting the rose-colored glasses on me again?) It would be infinitely less painful to cope with the loss and get to the other side of the grieving process if our selective memories only recalled the negative. When I think of my eight-year relationship, I remember things like watching Animation Domination on Sunday nights, the way he’d bring home scratch-off crosswords for me just because, playing 9-ball on our pool table, cooking together and preparing “assembly line” dinners when the kids still lived at home, lying together in bed taking turn scratching one another’s backs, spontaneous weekend breakfasts at our local mom and pop restaurant…and believe you me, I could go on and on. But if you asked me about the dark side of life with Mr. Wonderful, it’s not so easy. Let’s see…he drank way too much which made him a hateful douche, but that was only because he was feeling neglected by me and that didn’t even become a problem until the last few months we were together…oh, and he could be really aloof which frustrated the bejesus out of me, but that wasn’t too often. (See, there I go again, rationalizing and downplaying. Drat!)
Maybe it’s because it somehow soothes us to recollect the positive. In fact, just now, as I recalled the good times, I found myself smiling. Conversely, as I thought about the bad aspects, I felt uncomfortable. It literally made me antsy to remember him stumbling around drunk after knocking out about a case of Natural Light. I could even hear the sound of the pop-top cans opening, one after another, and I felt the same dread; that oh-goody-here-we-go-again feeling I had when it was actually happening. Is it possible that blocking out the bad is some sort of primitive self-protection mechanism?
It’s akin to remembering a deceased friend or loved one. Think about it: when someone we care for passes away, we say things like, “I’ll miss Aunt Betty so much; she made the best apple pie” or “I can’t believe Uncle Fred is gone; he always made us laugh.” Nobody bothers to mention that Aunt Betty, with all her culinary talents, was a hateful bitch, and good ol’ Uncle Fred was so funny because he was a decrepit drunk. The fact that a person is dead in no way erases the reality of who they were or how they lived. We had no problem overlooking their uglier traits when they were alive; why does – or should – it change when they die? Like a departed friend, we seem to prefer to remember our dead relationships in a more flattering light.
I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. In any event, it’s evident that it’s what we are inclined to do. I have read countless “how to get over your ex” articles that recommend replacing our loving memories with ones that remind us why we’re no longer a couple in the first place. In the early weeks and months of our separation, I wasn’t as much sad (at least outwardly) as I was angry. For me, it was simply less painful to be mad at my estranged love than it was to acknowledge the hurt and properly mourn my loss (whatever that means). I would tell anyone who would listen what a worthless, miserable s.o.b. my ex was, and I was never at a loss for detailed examples to justify my feelings. It’s as if it was an attempt on my part to reinforce the anger so I could avoid feeling the sadness. Especially early on, I was a master of denial, always looking for a distraction so that I wouldn’t have to feel. But by doing so, I only delayed the inevitable…and I’m paying dearly for it now.
“I don’t need your loving arms around me
All I need is to be free
That’s what I keep telling myself
And I tell you, you don’t need me
I don’t need children in my old age
No more cluttered leaves around the trees
And I don’t need you, baby
And I know you don’t need me
We don’t need each other baby…we don’t need each other baby…
…or do we?” ~ Kenny Rogers, “I Don’t Need You”