It’s hard to watch two people you care very much about break up. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of that. You never like to see people you love suffering — and especially not multiple at the same time.
Some people expect you to pick after a breakup. They only let you be friends with one half of the former relationship or the other. Never both.
Thankfully, this time neither party is taking that route. But that’s really the only merciful part.
When you’ve been together for decades — as they had — even a mutual breakup, a friendly one, rarely escapes the kind of emotional and logistical violence that comes from splitting countless formerly shared objects and systems into two parts.
If you’re lucky, the violence is more surgical. Targeted. Consented to. Deliberate.
But just like surgery, it still hurts afterward. There’s a recovery process.
And only then can the new normal begin.
It Was Like Watching Them Wake Up From a Bad Dream
Two people I care very much about who had been together not just for years but for decades just broke up. And a curious thing happened: Their individual personalities emerged in a way that I had never seen them.
I had never considered them to be a single unit before. Their relationship seemed perfectly healthy. But now that they’re broken up, and I’ve watched them transform, I can see how they twisted themselves into painful shapes to please the other. How that instead of meeting as individuals, they collectively melted into something that was profoundly other, different than either of them — and stayed there.
It was watching them wake up from a bad dream.
I know it’s going to be painful moving forward. The road to complete separation is long and fraught with all sorts of strange emotional ambushes that accompanying settling logistics (I myself had a complete meltdown over discussing who would gain possession of an object I didn’t actually care about when I was divorcing once upon a time).
But I’m happy for them. “It was like being a conspiracy theorist, but it was just the two of us,” one of them says. “I thought it was love, but I realized that’s not what love really is. Not what it should be at least.”
And I get it. I want a love that lets me stay clear eyed. One that lets me hold onto my identity. And stay grounded to the truth.
They deserve that, too.