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2003-01-30 11:10 a.m.

I have been corresponding with a very interesting person in the last few days. She recently opened up some very intimate details of her life to me, and has asked me some difficult questions about her last relationship. It started like this:
Can you imagine waking up tomorrow and not caring for Andie the way you do?  No disagreements or cheating.  Just deciding you no longer care for her?

Is it really possible?  Can a person be excited at the thought of sharing the rest of their life with one person and then wake up the next day thinking, " I don't love him/her anymore" with no reason?

Is it possible?

To this I replied:

Why not?

Because caring does not go away. Romantic love may fade. But, if you truly love someone as a fellow human -- working toward their betterment through love -- then your compassion and love will not ever die. Your love and caring for a person ought not to waver depending on what the form of your relationship is. In other words, just because you live far away, break up, or are brother and sister should not affect your love and caring for any person.

Now, the FORM of your relationship may change. But real love will not change. It can only generate more love.

I realized that I did not have enough information about her specific experience to really fully grasp why she was hurting. I needed more back–story. So, I asked her to share some more details with me.

"Jeff" is in the Army studying to be a Ranger. We met in high school, kept in touch over the years and became what I thought was best friends...then more. It's been a difficult relationship because he's been overseas three of the past six years.  But we made it happen and I thought we were happy.

Last summer "Jeff" proposed. I said yes. He wanted to get married the next month. I asked him to wait so that we could include our families in the event. He was fine with that until he was told he was to be deployed in December. So we decided to get married on 12/26. Just the two of us, no family. He was so excited. More than me! 

But on the 23rd he called me up sounding very odd. Thinking it might be cold feet, I asked if he still wanted to get married right away. He said yes. But I could tell there was a problem. I asked if he loved me. He said no. So I told him what I would tell anyone in that situation, you can't marry someone you don't love. At that point, he got angry and said, "Oh, so now you don't want to get married?!" To this day I can't tell you what the heck was going on that night.

I asked if I did something wrong and he said no. I asked if there was someone else and he said no. I asked if this could just be "deployment stress", no. I asked for some sort of explanation. He told me he just woke up and realized he didn't love me anymore.

That was it. No more calls. No more e-mails. No more letters. Worst, no more friend.

I called him last week to see if he could mail my belongings back to me. He was so indifferent towards me. It's like I never existed to the man. 

As for my friends...just about everyone is shocked. They all thought we would end up together. My male friends say it's the deployment. That he probably thinks this is what's best for me. My female friends say that's not possible, it's just an act, he will come on and so forth. Except for one, who told me to suck it up and get on with it. Which I really wish was as easy as it sounds.

I thought about for a few hours and then wrote her this email:

Dear S.,

Your information gives a lot of insight into you and your character. Clearly, for you this was not the average "I am a young and gullible girl who falls in love with some guy in the military". As we all know, men in the military are often lonely and desperate. They make hasty decisions about love. But, if we were in their shoes we would do the same. Often when they tell a woman they love them, they mean it at that moment. It is sincere right then. Will it last? Often not. But, do they mean it 100% (or more) right at the moment they say it? Yes.

But, I digress.

There are two components of your relationship and its demise.

1) Your side of things.
2) Jeff's side of things.

Your side of things, as far as you have explained to me, seemed solid. Now, there is the issue that because you were not actually around him you were not able to sense the problems that were brewing in his mind. But, that is not your fault. It is just what happens when you are not there to get the sort of nonverbal communication that happens only in person. You were not able to see the warning signs and subtle cues.

The second half is Jeff's.

What was "Jeff" thinking? What was he feeling? Let's be realistic. He probably was having doubts and issues for a long time. This stuff doesn't spring up overnight. But, when you are not around him, things don't come up and out into the open as easily. It is easy to gloss over doubts when you want your long distance phone calls to be happy and fun. And, when he was not faced with anything to compel him to examine and air his feelings, he was able to continue with the status quo -- everything is all right.

But, when faced with the idea that he was about to step into something large (marriage), he saw that he might be betraying his feelings AND hurting you at the same time. These things were surely in the back of his mind on at least a subconscious level for a long time. He may deny it, but you and I know differently.

So why did he do it?

That is the only thing we don't know. In fact, he might not know either. Men are not exactly well–known for being in touch with their emotions. He might never know. But, you can do a little sleuth work and figure it out if you are really bent on knowing.

But, my guess is a simple one. He realized that he was not right for you or you were not right for him at this time in his life. Simple. Easy. And, if you truly love him and care for his well–being, you would want him to only have that which is best for him and what he wants. Even if it is not you.

Sucks, huh? Love is intense. It is more than the weak and empty "romantic love" that people count on as some sort of ultimate experience. TRUE love sees no romance. It sees only unconditional commitment to a person's well–being and constant growth during their life. That means even if the form of the relationship changes, you still love them and want their dreams to come true. This is counter to what the media teaches us about romantic love and how we ought to act.

I think of the analogy, if a train comes to your stop and doesn't stop, IT'S NOT YOUR TRAIN. Would you try to run after it and make it stop? NO. If someone passes you by and doesn't stop, then they don't want to be with you in the way you deserve. Let them go. They aren't your train. When the right person comes along, they will stop for you. Believe me.

So, does any of this make any sense?

I can only hope that someday all people will treat one another with love, compassion, and—most of all—forgiveness. I strive to sculpt a world where we can spend more time laughing and singing and less time negotiating our convoluted and self–imposed mazes of suffering.