Maybe some loves are perennials – they survive the winter and bloom again. Maybe others are annuals – beautiful and lush and full for a season and then back to the earth to die and create rich soil for new life to grow.
~ Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior
This quote beautifully depicts the role love plays in our lives. It captures the ebb and flow and suggests that some of our most important growth and becoming happens when a love dies.
It also holds the promise of survival, of building ourselves back up when we’ve fallen, climbing higher than before to the place where we can truly thrive.
But I struggle with Glennon’s next thought: “Maybe there is no way for love to fail, because the eventual result of all love is New Life.”
My marriage failed and gifted me the opportunity for a second chance. To do it right this time. And more importantly, to step into who I was created to be.
This is the story I’ve been telling myself, and I feel safe inside this story. It ties up the pain, sadness, heartbreak, and shame into a neat, easier to understand tale of transformation. But it also keeps all of the “love failure” pain locked inside of it.
I don’t regret my divorce. I never have. But I do regret not being able to love my ex-husband better, the way he deserved to be loved. I was a different person then.
I was highly critical of myself and therefore held impossible standards for him. I didn’t know how to deal with disappointment, so if my expectations weren’t met, it would plunge me into a sadness from which I didn’t know how to recover. I didn’t know then how devastating expectations can be to a relationship.
I grew up believing in fairytale endings. I was sure that one day, my prince would ride gallantly into my life to “rescue” me from my singleness, and we would ride off together into happily ever after.
No one told me that princes don’t always put their dirty clothes inside the hamper or clean up their messes. And nobody told me that princes aren’t responsible for making their princesses happy.
We both did the best we could during the decade we spent together, but it was never enough―for either of us.
Maybe we couldn’t fail at love because we didn’t understand it enough to fail at it. Or perhaps our decision to end our marriage was, in fact, the most important way we could honor love. It was an acknowledgment that we didn’t love each other well. It was the gift of New Life.
Reframed this way, it isn’t a failure at all. Unknowingly, we were allowing our love to die so it could go back into the earth and purge all of the toxins and replenish the nutrients to create the rich soil from which new love could grow.
For me, the first sign of new growth came from the unconditional love I received from my friends and family, especially from my parents. They became my teachers of what true love looks like, and I will always be grateful for the beautiful picture they all painted for me.
The second sign was the lessons of self-love that this new season brought into my life. Developing self-compassion and the capacity to be kind to myself has become the foundation from which all of the other love in my life can grow.
I’m still learning to embrace love and to embrace the risks as well. Because when it comes to relational love, regardless of whether that love is annual or perennial, it will always give us new life. If we let it.