There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of: “people generally come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”
If you think about the people who have waltzed in and out of your world over the course of your life so far, you’ll realize just how true that is… even if the reason for their arrival (and possible departure) wasn’t evident at the time.
Here’s the thing: love is powerful and transformative and beautiful, but it doesn’t necessarily have to last for several decades in order to have a profound impact on our lives.
We can experience immeasurable beauty, warmth, companionship, and love with a person who’s only in our lives for a short time, and sometimes a shorter relationship that has a marked effect on us can be a lot more satisfying and life-changing than a mediocre connection that lasts 40 years.
Lessons To Learn
Have you ever had a relationship that helped you grow as an individual?
Maybe it was a whirlwind romance with a stranger while you were travelling, or a tumultuous relationship with someone you loved with all your heart, but which was fraught with drama and difficulty?
It’s probably a safe bet that each experience taught you invaluable lessons about life, love, and who you are as a person. Possibly even who you aren’t, or who you don’t want to be.
If you fall head over heels in love with a person who challenges you on many levels, you may learn greater patience, compassion, and empathy. In turn, they may learn what it’s like to be loved unconditionally as they are, rather than being berated for not living up to another’s unrealistic expectations.
Having a passionate, intimate relationship with a person can heal long-standing wounds, rebuild trust, and unlock aspects of yourself that were thought long gone. Yet those connections aren’t necessarily meant to last a lifetime: they’re meant to be transient; to teach what’s needed in that moment so that you can both move on and keep learning, and growing.
Short-Term Love Is NOT “Failure”
So many people have swallowed the pill teaching us that an ideal relationship is an end goal to aspire to. They forget that what’s important is the growth and experience that comes with the relationship itself.
It’s about the time we spend with others – interacting with one another, helping each other grow and evolve and become better people – not just reaching some finish line that’s expected to stay exactly as is forever.
That can result in stagnation, resentment, and contempt, and having a loving relationship dissolve into that kind of ugliness is something best avoided. Isn’t it far better to think fondly of a deep-yet-ephemeral connection rather than trying to cling to something only to have it wither away and die?
Everything has a natural life cycle, and that includes loving relationships. Again, we’ve been conditioned to believe that unless a relationship results in a marriage/partnership that lasts until death, it has been a “failure,” but this is such utter bullsh*t.
If someone left a job they’d been at for five or ten years because they needed to change direction in their career, did they fail at that job? No, they’re just not the same person they were when they began, and recognized that their needs have changed accordingly.
You’re not the same person that you were a week ago, let alone a year, or a decade ago. People change constantly, and not always in the same direction, so it’s inevitable that many relationships will end once they’ve served their purpose.
This isn’t failure, it’s personal growth, and should be appreciated and respected as such, rather than condemned. Forcing a relationship to last longer than it should out of a sense of obligation, or fear of failure, means that we’re not truly appreciating the connection in the present moment… and that does both parties a terrible disservice.
Love’s Ephemeral Nature Can Inspire Sincere Appreciation
Too often, believing that something is going to last forever can result in us taking it for granted, and that goes for loving relationships as well as physical items.
Expectation is something that most of us are guilty of, and the expectation that a relationship is going to last forever means that a lot of things that are important to one or both partners get pushed aside to be done “eventually.” There will always be time for it later, right?
Forgot their birthday? Never mind, the next one will be great.
No anniversary plans? Note to self: next time.
Etc. ad nauseum.
If we appreciate the relationship in the present moment and acknowledge the fact that it may not last forever, it gives us a new perspective. There may not be a next year to do something nice for your partner’s birthday, so it’s a good idea to make this one count.
Did they put effort into a particularly nice dinner for no reason other than they thought it would make you smile? Let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done, and what it means to you that they did so. It may never happen again, so cherish the moment – savor every bite, and reciprocate in your own way as soon as possible.
When we treat an object or a relationship as potentially fleeting, we tend to appreciate it far more than if we wave it off as something that’ll be around forever, only to miss it once it’s gone and wonder wtf happened and why we didn’t revel in it while it was there.
Real Love Isn’t Always A Romantic Connection
Sometimes, you might meet a person and have an instant soul connection with them. You’ll bask in their company, smile your face off every time you are together, talk for hours about every subject under the sun, and can’t wait to spend more time with them.
…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the connection you have is a romantically intimate one.
We connect with different people in different ways, but most of us have been so conditioned by TV and films to believe that romantic love is the be-all and end-all of relationships, that we are liable to misconstrue a heartfelt friendship with romantic love.
Whether it’s a “bromance” between a couple of guys who sincerely understand one another, a sister-like friendship between women, or a platonic connection between a man and a woman that’s closer than friends or family, real love can blow us away with its strength and perseverance.
Put bluntly, you don’t need to shag a person in order to experience intense love and a soul-deep connection. Platonic, friendship-based love can be almost overwhelmingly powerful, and whether it lasts for just one hiking trip through Iceland or for 20-plus years, it has the potential to change both of you in quite profound ways.
Ultimately, there are many kinds of love, and the definition of love can be quite different for each person experiencing it. The key is to bask in its light when and if you have the chance to do so. Never turn down the opportunity to love, even though it can be scary. You might get hurt, sure, but you might also experience something beautiful beyond measure. Even if it only lasts a little while, you will be changed by the experience, and certainly for the better.
Have you experienced a love that came and went, but that you look back on fondly and without regret? How did it change you? Leave a comment below and share your stories.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.