On Accepting Rejection

A little over a year ago, I was broken up with.

From my point of view it was a mistake. I believe the breakup stemmed from difficult and temporary circumstances rather than fundamental issues. It was a difficult time, not a broken relationship.

From my point of view.

To say that I was in love would be an understatement. Now, a year on, my love has not dissipated or changed. I consider my ex my family. The connection I still feel to her is the deepest I have ever felt to another human being.

I am not a part of her life and we have virtually no communication.

I am in love with my ex, I miss her as much today as I did a year ago, and I have not once attempted to win her back or insert myself in to her life uninvited. I have not once looked at her social media.

Some of you may ask why. I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. The amount of pressure on me over the last year to do something, either to change her mind or at least to talk to her, has been crushing. In fact, it has only been balanced by the amount of pressure demanding that I stop loving her and move on. The vast majority of people see these two options as my only choices.

I see them as a false dichotomy.

Don’t get me wrong — things happen. In personal life and on the news, things happen. Things that make me yearn to contact her, to let her know I care, that I’m thinking of her, that I’m here, always.

That yearning is how I feel. What she feels is that she does not want me to love her anymore.

As such, if I volunteer expressions of love or care, I am doing so against her explicit wishes.

We all have the right to self-expression, but that’s not the same thing as directly communicating your feelings to another individual who has asked you not to do so. Love means listening to the other person and hearing what they want and need, and in this case she wants my love to stop being a part of her life.

The fact that the rejection hurts me does not entitle me to ignore her wishes.

As for the other pressure, that of no longer loving her — I disagree with the premise that our emotions are within our control. We cannot control how we feel, we can only control how we respond to those feelings.

My ex has not done anything to change my opinion of her. She is the same woman I fell in love with. I did not fall in love with her because she loved me. My love is unrelated to how she made me feel, because love is not selfish. Love is about the other person. I fell in love with her because of who she is, which exists independently from whether or not she loves me back.

It is possible that over time, I will stop loving her. I acknowledge that. No one can know the future, therefore it would be intellectually dishonest to insist that this will never change. That said, I see no reason to assume it will.

There is a quote from Sam Keen that goes “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but in learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”

I do not have some rose-tinted view where she is a perfect person, but over our time together I came to understand her more perfectly than anyone else I have ever encountered.

From that understanding my love and respect for her grew and deepened. I understand why she felt she needed to leave. I do not see her as wanting to hurt me, I do not see her as having malicious intent or betraying me or not caring. I don’t think her leaving undermines what we shared up until that point. Although I disagree, I understand her decision and I respect it.

Which means I can’t help but still love her.

In my heart of hearts, of course I want her to come back. Of course I yearn for reconciliation. I do not expect it, nor do I believe I am entitled to it. I simply want it.

So I move through life — and my life is a good one, I have been very fortunate — caught between an inability to communicate with the woman I love, and the ongoing fact of my love for her.

This makes people deeply uncomfortable, and is very difficult for them to accept.

Partly, I think it has to do with the fact that for many of those who struggle after a relationship, the struggle is born out of need. There is something in themselves that they fear or wish to change, and a relationship is the way for them to cover that part up: it is a coping mechanism. For them, the struggle is temporary because one coping mechanism can easily be replaced by another. It is not the individual that matters, but the fact of being in a relationship.

I believe that this is true for many, many more people than would be comfortable admitting it. The perfect long-term relationship is deeply ingrained in our culture as the ultimate goal of self-realisation; so deeply that being single is seen at best as a temporary state of affairs, and at worst as the tragic sign of some defect.

This is an incredibly damaging lie.

It is often healthier to spend time deliberately unattached, developing one’s own self-care, than to be in a relationship as a solution to one’s problems, real or imagined.

Perhaps strangely, I am perfectly comfortable being single. I have been for years, since long before my ex and I started dating. I’m sure much of that is due to the freedom I enjoy as a man. Although I’m still supposed to find true love, society is far more forgiving of a single man than a single woman.

My being comfortable with being single, and as such willing to accept the fact that I am in love with someone who does not love me back, is deeply challenging to people who see the relationship status as the important factor rather than the individual.

It forces the question of whether they have ever truly been in love with their partners, and it is far more comfortable to view me as pining or obsessive then to ask that question of themselves honestly, whatever the answer.

Another possible reason for my making people uncomfortable is that there are those who are also in love with their ex-partners, but have squashed such emotions in accordance with society’s expectations.

My refusal to be emotionally dishonest, with myself or with others, forces a difficult question for this group as well. “What if I’m still in love with my ex too? What if I’ve been lying to myself this whole time?”

Again, it is far easier to dismiss my experience as temporary than to genuinely ask oneself that question.

Finally, my refusal to cajole, threaten, bribe, or otherwise peacock my way in to “winning her back” is perhaps the most uncomfortable thing of all. I have been called everything from a coward to a saint, and none of it is true.

I simply don’t feel entitled to her, and I don’t believe that somehow convincing her to be in a relationship with me is a strong foundation for anything. Love is freely given, not a transaction based on showmanship. If it’s not there on her side then no amount of tantrums on mine, however pretty or creative, are going to change that.

That said, I have made art, to the best of my ability, that expresses how I feel. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to ensure it was for my emotional processing and creative growth rather than a grandiose gesture designed to manipulate or win her back. I don’t know how successful I have been in walking that line, but I have sincerely tried.

This is because I believe I have every right to use my experience for creativity, but that I have no right to do so with the intention of sending my work to her or winning her back.

I’m looking at you, Mr. Bristol Pianoman Stalker.

My behaviour holds up a mirror to those who see the people who broke up with them as evil; those who pulled out all the stops to convince someone to change their mind; those who have done everything they can to get someone to see the error of their ways and take them back.

That mirror is not flattering and, again, it is easier to see me as broken or cowardly than it is to ask what it says about oneself as an individual and society at large that my conduct is rare.

I felt compelled to write this piece because recently I have had to fight with everything I have not to reach out to her. A devastating and large-scale trauma has taken place where she lives, and all I can think about is how much I want her to know how relieved I am that she is okay and that I’m here for anything she needs. I want her to know I care. I want her to know I think about her all the time. I want her to know…

I want.

Love isn’t about what I want.

Love can be quiet.

Love can be giving space.

Love can be taking no for an answer.

Love can never be selfish.

Selfishness isn’t love.

Love is love.

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About Sid Phoenix 7 Articles

“The question ‘Where are you from?’ has no meaning to me. I was born in London, but am not a British citizen, my father is French, my mother American. For the first three years of my life I did not stay in the same geographical location for longer than six weeks, rotating mainly between Kenya, Uganda, and London, but also Australia, Japan, The Bahamas, and more. By the time I was 15 I had attended seventeen different educational establishments. All of which has led to a unique worldview – one where I cannot help but see the social constructs of every culture I encounter; constructs that the people within those cultures have often ingrained so deeply that they cannot distinguish where they differ from universal human truths. Having never been in the same culture for long enough to have its assumptions ingrained, I am cast as a perpetual outsider wherever I go. Although often a frustrating and isolating experience, it does afford me the ability to call people out on things very few others can see, and to understand when disagreements are a product of miscommunication between life experiences and upbringings rather than genuine. I look at the everyday and see within it the scope of human culture.

Basically I think about things probably a lot more than is healthy and then write about them. I also know that the answer is 42, you get in to the kitchen by tickling the pear, there is no try, and one does not simply walk in to places.”

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