La Douleur Exquise

“There will always be struggle, you just have to pick who you want to struggle with”. Before We Go

Last night, I chatted with a good friend who is really going through a hard time. The love of her life and she are separated by some distance, he has a job that is all consuming and leaves little time for a personal life and so they have made the difficult decision to separate. Well, she made the decision, and she is devastated. I suspect so is he because he is a good man.

Love is hard.

And painful — the French call it La Douleur Exquise — the exquisite pain of wanting someone that you know you can never have, and knowing that you will still try to be with them. I’m obsessed with these stories, the latest fictional version on my rotation is Downton Abbey, but there have been many forms of it …Sex and the City, The Way We Were, Romeo and Juliet, Brokeback Mountain and OMG, many, many, many others (don’t hate on me for not mentioning all the good books who have exceptional versions of this, these are just the first that came to mind). I too have been in love with someone, with whom it could never be. And for the longest time, I reveled in this notion of two people who are meant to be but cannot, because it’s romantic — you can’t help who you fall in love with, right? But this is bullshit. It really is. It’s actually kinda sadistic. If I look at myself with real honesty, think I actually found myself in that place, precisely because any future with this person could not be.

Precisely because.

Now, does this mean my feelings for them were any less true. No. But I very carefully, but subconsciously, engineered a situation where I cannot be rejected by this person, because nothing could come of it. No chance of future rejection, no chance of future commitment. I know why I cultivated this, its psychology 101 obvious. But it’s just so, so dumb — just because I couldn’t be future rejected, it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, actually it hurt a lot and I was 100% completely responsible. Like I said, dumb. But, then again, after 4 decades I’ve worked out you can’t out-intellectualise your emotions. The best you can do is look at what you are doing that is unhealthy, get to the bottom of why and how you are contributing to it, and then establish some habits and actions to counter it.

Hence, my recent focus on dating. I’ve been giving it a whirl again since the beginning of the year — I guess you could call it a new years resolution. I’m getting better at it and tonight will be my third in three weeks but I’m definitely not loving the expectations that go along with it — and by that I mean the expectation to be the best version of you, to be entertaining, to be a good conversationalist, to look pretty, to be open, what if I’m not into him or it, how do I tell him without being mean (and no I genuinely don’t care if he’s not into me, actually that lets me off the hook so it would be relief but that’s the problem, right) etc. Nonetheless, I’m forcing myself outside my comfort zone anyway because I need to move on. But I find it hideously confronting.

But as I have been told many times, “where there is no struggle, there is no strength”. So for now I’ll endure the struggle, and maybe at some point I’ll give myself permission to allow someone to struggle along with me.

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