Sunday, 10 June 2012

Years and tears

Are broken relation-ships harder to cope with as you get older? Are we less resilient, less optimistic, less forgiving? Do we have more invested in them, so that failure comes as more of a blow?

Personally, I couldn't say, as my present relationship is of very long standing. I can only look at what happened when I was young, when I did in fact get over doomed relationships quite easily.

Of course that wasn't just a question of age. It was also because the relationships had been short, or half-hearted to begin with, or I had my eye on someone else anyway.

The older you are, the longer your relationships are likely to have lasted, so they're harder to end for that reason rather than age in itself. Although I think it's also true that as you age you become more dependent on relationships and feel more bereft and beleaguered if they fold. You have less confidence that you can simply bounce back and carry on.

It also comes as more of a shock if someone you've felt totally secure with for many years suddenly announces that they don't feel the same and their affections have moved elsewhere.

I think it's true too that as you get older, relationships seem more important than they did when you were young, and break-ups seem more disastrous. All around you there are happy couples and close friends enriching each others' lives in a hundred ways, and anything that depletes that precious store looks like a tragic waste.

Or can younger people be just as traumatised and shattered by broken relationships as those who're older, especially if they idealise their partners more and expect a perfect emotional harmony that's unattainable?

All I know is that I'm very blessed to have a relationship that's endured for so long, when many people are battered by one disappointment after another, forever asking themselves what went wrong and why others seem to have the magic touch.

36 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

I have a good friend whose marriage has broken up after many years. He says it is worse than a bereavement, and infinitely worse than when previous relationships broke up when he was younger. He made many of the points that you do.

Nick said...

Jenny - I'm sorry to hear that. But interested that he made many similar points. Of course I have known older couples who've broken up and the distress can be awful.

kylie said...

a few years ago i became friends with a man i adored, only neither of us were available and when he realised the way i felt he was mortified. he didnt end the friendship but i did in my total humiliation.
it has been the greatest loss of my life and it probably would have been the same if i was younger but those days i might not have been quite so aware of just what a rare gem i had just lost

Roses said...

Hmm...an interesting and a very pertinent post for me. I'm 6 months into a loving, stable relationship, one that I've been looking forward to having for a long, long time. And my best friend is currently dealing with the after effects of the breakdown of her marriage of 30 years.

I'd be reluctant to say age makes a difference in resilience, because I found that when I put relationships into a different mental space: something that would be good to have, for all the right reasons; the break-ups I had were the least traumatic I've ever endured. And that also includes someone I had considered my soul-mate.

I don't look at the ending of a relationship as a failure anymore, if it's not working, there's absolutely no point flogging a dead horse.

But that has come after a long time of hard personal work.

My mentor told me that all relationships end in tears. That being the case, I'm determined mine will not be those of regret.

nursemyra said...

The end of a relationship can be devastating at any age. My youngest son is taking a long while to recover from his four year relationship ending. I was more resilient when my 20 year marriage ended. But when Stephen (my lover of 8 years)died I was inconsolable for a very very long time. I still have bad days when I miss him terribly.

Nick said...

Kylie - Oh, that's sad. Especially that you felt so embarrassed you had to end the friendship altogether.

Roses - It's great that your new relationship is working out so well. But not so great about your friend's failed marriage. You're right though, there's no point in flogging a dead horse. No good pretending a relationship might suddenly spring to life despite all the signs to the contrary.

Nick said...

Myra - Sudden death is another thing again, incredibly traumatic for anyone. It doesn't surprise me that you can still feel it badly after 8 years.

kylie said...

well nick, i regret that but i also found it painful to be so near yet so far :)

Grannymar said...

I have no experience of a broken relationship or divorce. Losing a soul mate through illness means part of you dies with them, but you do have closure with no chance of unexpected meetings on a street or in a restaurant. In my case I can honestly say he loved me to the end.

Nick said...

Kylie - I can well understand that.

Grannymar - I hadn't thought about the fact that there would be no unexpected and awkward meetings. Even worse of course if you see your ex parading around with their new partner.

Bijoux said...

I can't comment on a romantic breakup since my marriage of 25 years is intact. However, I remember a number of breakups when I was in my late teens, early 20's where I thought it was the end of the world. One in particular, I made myself physically sick over and it took me almost a year to fully recover.

Other relationships, such as friendships and relatives, I feel as though the older I've gotten, the less it bothers me when the relationship turns sour/ends. Why have people in your life that only bring you down? I've found these easier to move past than I did when I was younger.

Nick said...

Bijoux - Wow, that was quite a devastating young-love break-up. You must have been really smitten.

I do agree that if someone brings you down, you should get shot of them ASAP. There's no point in maintaining a friendship that's just an emotional drain.

Cheerful Monk said...

My main relationships are with my husband and daughter. My husband and I have been married for over 47 years now and don't think about our relationship. It works just fine. It's bond to end when one of us dies and I sometimes wonder how I would handle it if he goes first. But mostly I just appreciate the fact that he's still here.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've had my fair share of broken hearts and given a few in my time. I haven't been "looking" for anyone special in quite a while.
I find the men in my life fulfil me quite a bit as do the women.
I am very much a gregarious loner and would find a live-in perma-partner quite a strain. I have in the past.
I'm probably too selfish Nick, I like my own hours and being creative and deciding only for myself what social obligations I keep, etc.
I feel so sad for my friends who endure the death of a longterm relationship. It is never easy and nearly always unexpected.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Monk - Me too, I wonder how I would handle it if Jenny died first. Best not to think about it at all, it's too scary.

www - If you're used to living your own life and not having to compromise with someone else, it can be very hard to live with another person. I didn't find that myself though, despite having lived alone for some years. I must have been very keen on Jenny!

Megan said...

I was in a relationship once.

Rummuser said...

Synchronicity? I have just posted about a strange relationship and what it did to emotions of the people involved.

I was lucky too in a strong relationship of forty years and continue to have other strong relationships with my siblings relatives and friends. Without those to sustain me, one stormy relationship would have given me a heart attack!

John Gray said...

I think the older you get, the more precious relationships ( love and friends) become...
could it be a product of realising mortality or is it just a product of being "more grown up"?
who knows
nice post !

Nick said...

Ramana - I'll be along to visit very shortly! Friends are certainly important when you're going through a stormy relationship.

John - I think it's being grown-up rather than mortality. You just realise more clearly how much support and inspiration you get from friends, and you don't want to lose them in a hurry.

bill lisleman said...

We are always trying to figure out relationships. Since we are social to varying levels they are important to us. One of the problems is the importance level not matching on either side. I've been through a divorce around 30 and it was awful. Relationships are as unique as the two people involved but that doesn't stop the analysis of them.
Good post.

Eryl said...

I'm not sure if age is a particular factor; I've known the very young to be devastated by the end of relationships. I suspect character has much more to do with it. However I can't speak from experience because I have never been the dumpee, though, as you know, my husband of 28 years indulged in affairs. And this became much less destabilising as I got older, though probably because I just got used to it.

Nick said...

Bill - Yes, it adds to the pain if the relationship was clearly more important to you than your partner. You keep trying to fathom out why the other person wasn't as committed as you were.

Eryl - I guess personal character is also a factor. Some people are more phlegmatic about break-ups than others. But that's a bit insidious, isn't it, that you got used to your husband's philandering?

Suburbia said...

I'm not sure it's an age thing. I think it's worse when a first love leaves.

Nick said...

Suburbia - I suppose it might be. I wouldn't know, my first love didn't last all that long so the split wasn't too awful.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think it has less to do with someone's age and more to do with individual personalities and particular circumstances of the break-up. Weirdly, I found my divorce, after being togetehr for 20 years, to be less-heart wrenching than the breakup with the most serious boyfriend I had after that (until now). Maybe it was because the divorce was amicable and we remained friendly and committed to parenting together. Or maybe because the boyfriend was insane. I don't know, but they were within a few years, so it obviously wasn't about my age.

Nick said...

Agent - Yes, the particular circumstances must make a difference. And anyone who turns out to be mentally disturbed is going to be very traumatic to deal with.

Eryl said...

I imagine one can get used to anything, and I guess I developed strategies to deal with his many infidelities. And, in the end, I just stopped loving him. Which, rather to my astonishment, really upset him.

Nick said...

Eryl - So sad that you had to "deal with his many infidelities". So what did he expect? Did he seriously expect you to put up with his constant roaming for ever without at some point being alienated by it?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think breakups were more difficult for me when I was younger, but since Flip and I have been together for more than 20 years, I can't really compare. Watching him disappear into his dementia is far worse, I think, because it was completely unexpected, especially at such a young age, and because he isn't leaving me on purpose. There is no one to blame, but I am still alone.

Nick said...

Heart - Your current situation is obviously a lot worse than anything that could have happened to you when you were young. As you say, Flip's leaving you although neither of you want that to happen.

blackwatertown said...

Serious stuff here. Sad for the heartbreak.

Nick said...

Paul - There's an awful lot of hidden heartbreak we don't know about, concealed behind polite everyday faces.

Eryl said...

Gawd knows, Nick, gawd knows!

Nick said...

Eryl - Very sensible. In the end it probably all depends on the particular person and how good they are at coping with emotional trauma.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Good post ... it's a universal truth, I think, that the young believe that the old can't possibly love, or suffer, as deeply as they do, and the old believe the same of the young. We, as 'oldies' tend to believe that the young don't have enough experience to really suffer the loss of a friend or lover. They, in their turn, believe that we are dried up, sexless beings whose lives revolve around gardening and shopping and clubs etc.

As an 'oldie' I can hardly remember the depth of my emotions as a teenager, although I do know I spent a lot of time in tears in my room, very miserable. On the other hand, I spent a lot of time as high as a kite (without the benefit of illegal substances). I suppose we only remember the high spots.

But the emotions I feel NOW, are the important ones, and that will be true also of the young - who can't even imagine getting old!

Nick said...

Jay - I think that's probably true, that neither the young or the old can really believe the other age group genuinely suffers - for the reasons you give. It may be true that the young have less experience, but on the other hand they are more innocent and expect a lot more, so disappointment can be very painful.