Relationships: When It’s Over, Is It Really Over?
500 Days of Bummer
When exactly is a relationship over?
Is it during the official break-up conversation? When he finally flips his Facebook status back to “single”? During the sorrowful return of his old sweatshirt in exchange for your overnight toothbrush?
Or – if you’re brave enough to be honest with yourself – does it really end long before all that?
The other night I watched the new film 500 Days of Summer. As the deep-voiced narrator ominously announces in the opening frames – it’s a story about a boy and a girl. But definitely not a love story.
Instead of beginning with a meet-cute, 500 days starts with an end-sad. We hopscotch through time – watching and re-watching those subtle moments when a relationship begins to unravel. A downward glance, a retracted hand, a hesitating sigh.
It reminded me of a lyric from an old John Prine country song, “Far From Me”:
“Why we used to laugh together. And we’d dance to any old song. Well ya know, she still laughs with me. But she waits just a second too long.”
Whoa, boy. Who hasn’t been on the losing end of that long second?
Back to the film. It has its fair share of funny and a hefty serving of romance. It also features one of the most uplifting musical dance breaks in memory, set to Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams.” But on an existential level, it’s pretty depressing. (Of course on an existential level, what isn’t depressing?) The film’s message seems to be that relationships turn us into fools, blind to the moment when love slides from unrelenting to unrequited.
After the movie, I felt unsettled. More accurately, I felt like I wanted to barf.
Should I be more watchful for signs that things aren’t working in a relationship? Should I seek out those hidden red flags like an explosives specialist hunting for IEDs?
It took me many days – and one romantic lunch – to decide I should start searching. But not for signs of trouble. For signs of good.
All too often we fail to acknowledge those subtle moments of caring. Maybe he sent you a sweet text. Maybe he unloaded the dishwasher when it wasn’t even his night. Maybe he overlooked the fact that you were a hormonal nightmare last night and gave you a fresh start in the morning, no questions asked.
It’s not that I think we should enter love blindly or ignore red flags. But neither should we go looking for trouble when it isn’t there.
If you’re in a relationship with someone great, it doesn’t matter how day 500 turns out. What really matters is that you pour your heart and soul into days 1 to 499.
Read Carrie’s last blog post: Finding an Old Love on Facebook: Part 2