I do not always find happiness in commitment or until death do us part — I leave when my heart is beckoned elsewhere. The need to grow and find new adventures is sometimes greater than my will to stay. Although I have given pieces of myself to others throughout my journey, my heart beats loudly against my chest — yearning for faraway places and strangers I have yet to meet.
I no longer hold on tightly with both hands — clinging with white knuckles and calloused hands to whomever or whatever sets my soul on fire — I learned that to love is to let go.
Having once confused permanence, attachment, and the fear of loss with love and passion, I learned the beauty of the ephemeral and the fleeting. To stay in a moment and revel at what is before you, without dwelling on the past or anticipating the future, is an act of beauty that is taken for granted.
There is an unhealthy tendency among the romantics to fall in love with forever — to romanticize what is to come and develop an attachment to the future. Some rush the relationship by hurrying toward the next milestone rather than savoring each day. Prior to any talk of engagement, the eager lover has planned the entire wedding on Pinterest and handpicked items for the registry at Crate and Barrel.
If the lovers part ways, the romantic is left to grieve the loss of the relationship as well as the end of forever.
Both living and loving in the future can create anxiety and unhealthy, fearful attachments that make leaving feel unbearable. In abandoning the F-word, I learned to walk away from what no longer serves me without guilt or fear. I now give myself permission to live for myself, and live freely without being responsible for the happiness of others despite future plans.
Most importantly, I found there is a way to love another while letting them go.
Love is not defined by forever or holding another hostage. Love is not unwavering devotion to a lost cause or going down with a sinking ship — love is finding someone who evokes passion in the core of your being even if for just a moment. Love is choosing to be with someone because they add purpose to an already meaningful life.
Attachment, however, is needing to be with someone because they are the only source of purpose in an otherwise unfulfilling life. The identity and future goals of one partner can become enmeshed with the other’s, causing separation to feel earth-shattering. While losing someone whom you love is challenging, losing someone whom you have an unhealthy attachment to is devastating.
One must remember that love does not always mean staying. Sometimes, love is leaving.
Throughout my journey, I have learned that the key to a healthy relationship is not eternal love, but rather learning to let go of forever. The dark-haired, blue-eyed Prince Charming who was supposed to get down on bended knee, but instead galloped away with the gorgeous, blonde Yoga teacher, decided to take a different path. Rather than chasing what could have been, appreciate what was and keep walking.
A change in direction gives one an opportunity for exploration and adventure.
In the past, I had to make the difficult decision to leave another in order to pursue happiness. I had found my Prince Charming, moved into a beautiful home, bought lavish decorations, and gave cooking a solid effort before failing miserably — but I was not happy. We spent endless hours discussing wedding plans and future vacations as we walked along a path toward marriage with our hands entwined.
Although I was content, my heart was sometimes heavy, and I exhaled in exasperation and defeat. But why?
I was living the fairy tale that I had dreamt of as a little girl: a house, a car, a career, and a man who was convinced that I was a deity when in reality, I was a deserter. And so I made the difficult decision to leave love and security for freedom. I began untangling my hand from his, and retreating from the path we paved together toward one I would walk alone.
I took a deep breath of courage, and laid to rest the white picket fence and the ring, the white dress and the family game nights. I buried the future plans alongside the guilt and regret that I felt after destroying another with promises I could not keep. I mourned what could have been and made amends to forever — and I left.
My iron heart pulled me in the direction of the unknown, and I followed without hesitation. There is a storm inside that resents comfort and stability, a chaos that must go without question when my soul calls for it. I am a wanderer, and sometimes I must travel alone.
Others whom I meet along the way are welcome to walk beside me, but only if they are able to keep pace. I have learned that I must not shorten my stride to accommodate others. I place one foot in front of the other toward happiness and peace. Others may walk along the same path for a short while, but then come to find that they have a different destination and so our journey together ends.
There is no shame in parting ways with others in your personal pursuit of happiness. I have experienced heartbreaking goodbyes and soul-shaking hellos with lovers and strangers alike. Do not commit to a path to simply follow another’s, pave your own. There is nothing romantic about sacrificing your growth or staying with the wrong person out of comfort or promises of forever.
Moreover, if your partner decides to leave in order to pursue a different path, wish them a safe journey.
To love someone does not mean to hold on in spite of unhappiness. Love is not attachment or possession, it is not a place to cloak your insecurity in the acceptance and affection of another. Most importantly, love — in and of itself — is simply not enough to live happily ever after. Sometimes, the most loving act for both yourself and others is to leave.
Monica Torres is a recovering cynic and world traveler, scouring the earth for meaning, purpose, and fine wines. You could contact her via her website, Facebook or Instagram.