We were riding the escalator at the airport, on our way home from a week’s vacation in Florida, when my partner Zane broke our companionable silence:
“Do you think we were meant to be?”
I turned to him with a bemused smile, wondering what had prompted such a question. His expression, teasing yet enigmatic, revealed nothing, as he insisted only that I answer while we made our way to security. And I did, without hesitation, watching as my “yes” tipped the corners of his mouth into a broad grin, set a glow to his eyes.
On the flight home, we held hands and snuggled against each other, sneaking in a kiss or whisper of affection whenever we looked up from our books. It had been much the same on the way to Florida — I remember thinking we must have looked like honeymooners to the other passengers — and the days we spent in Sanibel and Sarasota unspooled with a kind of pristine joy and ease that carried us back to Philadelphia and the celebration of our five-year anniversary.
A week later, our world came crashing down around us — the one we’d tended with such pride and wonder, bearing our love like a torch and trumpet song, wheeling its light with the stars. We had struggled before, clashed over triggered wounds and sneaky patterns and surprising bumps in the road. But always, we emerged with a deeper connection and renewed commitment to our relationship. This time around, however, the way out of a familiar but suddenly unbearable conflict has led to a chasm.
In the space we’ve since taken to do some necessary introspection, I often think back to Zane’s question at the airport. I was being honest when I said yes, and I know he feels the same way. The bond we share is unlike any either of us has known, and every good and generous thing I’ve ever written about Zane in this space is true. He is a loving and devoted partner, and a spectacular human being, and I could go on endlessly about the qualities I appreciate in him.
But none of them take away from the crushing impact his depression has on our relationship, the way it can upend months of contentment with such lightning force.
And yet I can’t shake the sense that, yes, we are meant to be — though I’m beginning to realize I could say that about every relationship in my past, every union, no matter how ill-fated and catastrophic, that has brought me to today.
For there has been no road traveled, no match made, that wasn’t in some way a teacher, a healer, or even a blessing cloaked in the darkest disguise.
I think of my first love and how the sweet innocence of our connection was just the initiation a sheltered 20-year-old needed into the tender mysteries of the heart. Though we wouldn’t last beyond college, losing him was also the first time I learned how to pick myself up after the fall. I learned heartbreak and forgiveness aren’t exclusive, that even in the midst of our pain, we can reach for something softer, hold onto what was good and eventually make of it a bridge.
With him, I did what I thought would be impossible — rearranged the broken pieces to form a friendship that allowed me to rejoice in the news of his marriage two years ago, and he to share his memory of my father as a jovial figure who lit up a room when he heard of his passing.
I haven’t maintained friendships with all my exes, but in those cases, it’s been for the better. Sometimes, the sundering came to teach me to stand up for myself, to set a boundary and put more heft to a word I’ve always had trouble saying: a small but powerful “no.” In the most devastating instances, the collapse ushered in necessary changes I may never have made were it not for the bitter sting of betrayal, the blistering scrape of my heart.
All of those experiences have made me who I am today — stronger, wiser and more spiritually and emotionally aware. They have also taught me much about what I want, and do not want, in a relationship. At some point, while these partnerships still burned with bright promise, I may have imagined blissful endings and dreams of forever. But being denied that outcome doesn’t mean they weren’t meant to be.
For that glimmer in time and space, they were, until it was time to move on.
It could be that Zane and I are destined for more, that the love heaped in our hearts is here to endure beyond the trials that have stretched us to this near-breaking point.
But we could also have come together for this: to love each other so deeply and transparently it would rattle us to the core — and stir up everything that’s kept us from becoming the best version of ourselves.
The challenges we’ve had may all be part of our evolutionary path, demanding a greater courage and truthfulness in pursuing a life that fulfills. Whether we have been broken open to embrace a richer, more authentic intimacy, forged from these fires, or are being asked to release each other to the unknowable, there is a divine unfolding to it all.
We were and are still meant to be, like the key that fits in the lock, opening the heart to heal and to grow, to deepen its knowledge of love.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times