Forever…

Forever.. it sounds nice, doesn’t it?  It’s the kind of promise we want to make to the ones we love.  It’s the kind of promise we make with shining eyes and optimistic hearts.

Forever is a beautiful idea, a wonderful goal, but it’s not a magic spell.  Simply saying the word doesn’t make the relationship or the happiness last until the end of time.  Forever is like an exotic plant, it can put up with some neglect, but not for too long.  Forever won’t wait around forever.

I know about the challenge of Forever first-hand.  A lot of years ago, I promised forever to someone and I believed it.  She believed it.  We both were very sincere and sure of our love.  Unfortunately we had no idea how to make forever happen.  We were young and full of optimism and had no idea what life had in store for us.   By the end of our relationship, 10 years later, not only was the Forever we’d promised each other a mere shadow of itself, we’d forgotten most of the reasons we fell in love in the first place.  I hardly recognized myself anymore and she seemed to be someone else as well.  I really had believed in Forever — my parents married young and are still happily married.  I let that belief guide me into being a shadow of myself.  I gave up most of me in order to keep that relationship going, to keep her happy, to keep up appearances.  Most of our friends believed we were the super couple, maybe she believed it as well, but I knew we were rotten on the inside, hollow and empty of meaning.

After that spectacular failure, I was really anti-relationship, suspicious of any kind of absolute — not just ‘forever’, but ‘everything’, ‘always’, ‘never’.  That feeling held sway into the beginning of my next relationship, the one I’m still 16 years later.  My wife and I made the decision to become exclusive partners, to concentrate our energy on our relationship and on achieving our shared goals.  We loved each other deeply but our relationship histories weighed heavily on our minds and we agreed that Forever wasn’t something we could rationally promise.  To this day, we don’t promise forever, we promise to keep working at our relationship, to not give up on each other.   And for us, that’s what works.  There have been a few times throughout the last 16 years when that promise was put to the test, but every time we came back together and did the work necessary to stay together.  And not just together, but happy and successful as a couple.

With all that preamble, the astute reader may now have a furrowed brow.. haven’t I been using that word around here lately?  Have I not liberally sprinkled that into comments and twitter conversations with regard to Roxy?  Have I suddenly been sprinkled with optimistic fairy dust?   Have I forgotten the lessons of broken relationships past?  No, I haven’t forgotten, instead I’ve learned a lot and I think I understand a lot more about Forever now.

We can’t utter ‘Forever’ and have that be the end of it.  We can’t even stand in front of witnesses and utter a lot of words meaning Forever like some magic spell that will seal our pact to the end of our lives, and have that promise hold through the strength of those words alone.  Forever takes care and feeding.  Forever needs attention and hard work every year, every month, every day.  Forever will forgive some shortcomings but take it for granted for too long and it will abandon you like a good-time friend once the money runs out.

I have no problem promising forever to my wife at this point, I have faith in our ability to work through our difficulties and maintain the quality of relationship we’ve enjoyed over the years. Likewise, when I promise forever to Roxy, I’m promising to work with her on this relationship as long as it has meaning for us.  I understand that Forever doesn’t come on a silver platter, fully prepared and ready to enjoy.   When I think of Forever now, I understand that my wife and I had it right.. we shouldn’t be making promises about goal, rather we should be making promises about the journey.   We can promise each other a journey until we no longer want to walk the same path together.  We can promise to help each other during the steep, rocky portions of the path and celebrate together when we reached the easy, pleasant sections.

I’ve come to understand that Forever doesn’t just happen, it has to be earned.  And not only that, I don’t have an unlimited supply of Forever because nurturing and tending serious relationships takes time and energy and I have a limited supply of both.  That realization has been very humbling.  I have a huge capacity to love multiple people, but a very finite ability to tend multiple committed relationships.

So, yes, I’ve come to a new understanding with Forever.  I believe it is possible to make lifelong commitments but saying the words, making the promise, is not nearly enough.  It takes hard work, patience, communication and dedication, and more than a little optimism and hope.  But I don’t mind taking those steps every day, because I believe the journey is worth the effort.

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39 Responses to Forever…

  1. Coyote Too says:

    That is a post I am going to have to come back and read several times, but one piece in particular rings so true, and so close to the conflict inside of me, that I have to call it out.

    “I have a huge capacity to love multiple people, but a very finite ability to tend multiple committed relationships.”

    I know that pain.

    Thank you.

  2. Beautiful and moving and thought provoking as well. Having been married for 28 years now, I understand the amount of work involved in creating that “forever”. I think I will send a few people I know to read this. Thanks.

    http://thepinkpoppet.wordpress.com

  3. Susan says:

    This really makes a lot of sense, and marriage is something no matter how much love there is, it takes work to maintain. I really admire your point of view, it’s really touching to read. Great post, Kyle :) I am married, and kind of chuckle when people say it’s easy.

  4. Dragon Mage says:

    Luvbunny and I married young and promised forever (as is typical). We have learned in our 15 years of marriage that, as you say, forever takes a lot of work.
    We do believe that the journey (and the destination) is worth every bit of it.
    Excellent post.

  5. With age, comes wisdom. There is a purity in the fire that feeds the flame of youthful desire and love, but often it’s accompanied by naive expectations that everything will remain just as it is, and the love will continue forever without accommodating life’s inevitable shifts.

    The only constant in life is change. Once that insight is not only gained, but life is shaped around it, a much richer and mature love is possible. Bravo to you, Mrs. Kyle and Roxy for doing everything you can to keep the flame alive. Even for those of us who live “mono” instead of “poly,” your insights and wisdom on this subject are valuable. Thanks for posting it.

  6. Forever is a mighty long time. I always wanted the forever. Now, at least, the fact that I have never gotten it and I’m standing over 45 (waiting for her to strike hard) means that I’ve increased the odds that if I do promise forever, it might actually last!

  7. Coyote Too says:

    A second comment, when I’m more awake.

    I was married twenty years. We started off on the assumption that marriage would fix the issues that had begun to cause problems in our dating. She thought responsibility would make me straighten out my disorganization. I thought security would let her open up emotionally. Lesson learned. Lesson #1. Your partner is what they are. They will probably change, but don’t count on it, and *certainly* don’t count on it being in a way you expected or even wanted. Lesson #2 came at the very end, when a therapist asked a question about how much time we thought we should spend working on our relationship. I know I spent far too much time obsessing on it, to the detriment of the rest of my life, and probably the relationship itself, but my wife’s reaction shocked me. “I don’t think relationships should require work. They should just happen.” Relationships do require work, and more than that, they require flexibility; the ability to adapt to change in life and in each other.

    With all that, I still find it hard not to think about Forever. If I’m not thinking about Forever, then I tend to look at a relationship the same way I look at a startup company, “What’s the exit strategy?” That’s certainly not a healthy way to start a relationship! I try and look back to when I was young and single. I know I didn’t dive into relationships thinking “Forever”, I dove into them thinking, “I like this, you like this, let’s see where it goes.” The odd thing is that now that I’m older, I find it easier to get involved in relationships, and yet harder to just accept them for what they are right now. Before, I didn’t question myself, and so sometimes people got burned (sadly, usually my partner, not myself.) Now, I question myself too much.

    Like everything in my life I examine right now (including the fact that I’m writing this reply when I’m supposed to be working!), it comes down to finding a balance. I’ve watched you over the past year, re-connecting with your old love, over-committing, discovering Roxy. You’ve been searching for Balance as well. In your case, I think one of the things that has made it easier for you to come to this place, is that you have a solid base on which to stand. You have a loving wife, and relationship there that you know will stand by you. That’s amazingly valuable, and I envy that just as much as I envy your passion with Roxy. For me, I am relying on good friends, and on the journeys of others to help me.

    Thank you again for the post.

  8. Susanne says:

    I’m standing at the beginning of a new relationship and after 2 months of dating it looks hopeful for a future…with work. We jokingly talk about the future and getting married…I’ve told her I’d marry her in 10 years or when NC legalizes gay marriage (shit I’ll settle for recognizing domestic partnership)… FOREVER is such a big concept. Thank you for a glimpse into someone else’s forever.

  9. Ashley says:

    One of my wisest friends told me that she never promises forever, just “today” (and they’re married now, in the 7th or 8th year of their relationship…). When I heard that, it was the opening of a window that I never knew existed – that I wasn’t trapped in a horrible, awful and abusive partnership just because I had promised forever. If today isn’t working and one has no desire to make it better, then what’s forever? Trappings to keep us small, scared and towing the line. Thank you for this thought provoking post.

  10. Amy says:

    Very beautifully written, and I agree whole-heartedly. My experience with relationships is short, but even I, a naive young girl know now that Forever has to be worked on, and you summed it up really well :)

    xxxx

  11. Laurel says:

    Truly insightful and nicely written. Thanks for sharing this and making me think.

  12. This is one of the most astute and provocative pieces I have read in ages. I don’t have any words to add and certainly nothing to dispute. You’re so wonderfully confident and safe in yourself and your journey. You’re so grounded and you seem as though even when you’re afraid, or maybe especially when you’re afraid–you have an innate ability to bite the bullet and keep on walking. Good on you, I feel honoured to have been privileged to step in here today…

  13. Forever definitely takes work. Thank you for this post.

  14. This is basically the rant I give people all the time, only far more articulate. Love this post.

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  37. Julia says:

    I’m confused. In paragraph 4 you say that to this day you don’t promise forever, but a few paragraphs later you say you now have no problem promising forever to your wife and Roxy Which is it?

    Good question. I’m doing a couple of things here. I’m talking about an evolution in how I feel about the word and the concept ‘Forever’. Forever as a flat promise is impractical, it’s not something you can just decide, it has to be earned. So Forever as a goal to be worked on, daily, is worthy. And if you promise to work toward Forever, that promise should be revisited occasionally to make sure it’s still a valid and worthwhile goal for those involved.

    So the promise I make to my wife and Roxy is the promise to work with them toward the goal of Forever, as long as it’s a mutual goal. Does that clear it up at all?

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