Opinion: The One Who Got Away — and Other Myths

Crystal Jackson

Photo byJESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Absence makes the heart grow fonder is an expression that isn't rooted in reality. I think absence can make the heart grow forgetful--especially in terms of past relationships. We can start to view them with rose-colored glasses after a certain amount of time and/or distance. We can allow ourselves to overlook wrongs done in favor of a romanticized truth. This is how the one who got away and other myths are born.

But absence doesn’t, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. I know this because I’m in a long-distance relationship, and I can tell you that the absence isn’t what keeps it going. In fact, as I was sitting on the dirty floor of an airport eating an overpriced burger and impatiently waiting for my flight to be seated, I knew that I wouldn’t do it for anyone other than the one I’m with. Just as I know that he wouldn’t endure hours of traffic jams, canceled flights, and other inconveniences for anyone other than me.

It’s tough, and, at times, unpleasant. It’s staying up all night in an airport because of a last-minute weather delay. It’s sitting in rush hour because we didn’t manage to time the flights just right. It’s driving and flying and standing in lines to get to each other. It’s loving the hellos and hating, with every fiber of our being, the goodbyes that are necessary for a long-distance relationship.

The absence doesn’t keep us going. It doesn’t fuel our relationship. The together parts do that.

It could be argued that the time spent apart intensifies the together parts, but when I refer to our togetherness, I’m not just talking about the real-time spent in each other’s physical presence. We’re there, together, in every phone call or video chat, in every message sent that holds our connection open. The relationship we’re building keeps our love strong, not the distance- and absence- between us.

Relationship myths often exist because we prefer romance over truth.

It’s easier to cling to the idea that our one true love was a result of bad timing than to accept that we haven’t yet met the one for us. We want to have someone to dream about, and a real person is much more enticing than an uncertain reality. And so the myth of the one who got away is born.

It’s not the only myth of romance. The bad-boy-gone-good and the good-girl-gone-bad are also mythology built from this hope that we can change the ones we love to make them become the ones we need. But we know that people don’t change for anyone other than themselves. We can’t make them want to live up to the potential we see.

We give ourselves narratives that make the relationships we want fit, even when we know they don’t.

We treat ourselves to a romantic fantasy rather than a difficult truth. It can feel like comfort, but it doesn’t help us grow. We grow when we’re challenged. We grow by seeing the truth and doing something about it. Telling ourselves a pretty story might help us through a lonely night, but it doesn’t do much else.

So I don’t tell myself a relationship myth when I’m sitting with the ache of loving someone who I can’t just hold whenever I feel like it. I don’t try to spin reality into a false truth. I know better than to think that absence is the thing that keeps us together. If anything, it challenges us to build the relationship stronger to withstand it. I don’t need a pretty narrative to act as the glue that holds us together. We have love for that.

Relationship myths make for pleasant bedtime stories. We can wrap ourselves in romance and angst and settle down for a night of dreaming. But when the sunlight filters in our rooms, it’s harder to avoid the truth:

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. The one who got away was never the one. Bad boys don’t turn good, and good girls don’t go bad — at least, not without their own internal motivation. We don’t need rose-colored glasses, and we don’t need to pull the covers over our heads to hide from the truth.

Love requires that we know who we are so that we can be honest about it. It requires seeing and knowing someone else for who they are and accepting them, flaws and all. It requires communication, honesty, and a refusal to play games just because everyone else in the world has decided that game-playing is a necessary part of a relationship. It’s knowing that the right relationship is always a healthy one, but a healthy relationship isn’t always the right one. It’s being grateful for each other and putting in the effort to overcome any challenges that come up in the relationship.

Sitting on the dirty airport floor eating a substandard burger didn’t convince me that absence does anything good for the heart. But knowing that I’ll do whatever it takes to make the effort to keep this relationship strong isn’t a romantic myth. It’s a truth founded in love, requiring no rose-colored glasses. I don’t tell myself it’s going to be easy because I already know it won’t be. But I also know that it’s worth it.

Love, when it’s real, doesn’t require spin or twists or a happy fairy tale. It just requires us to be who we are, to love another perfectly imperfect human, and to face challenges by acknowledging them, not by creating a different narrative. Myths are born from a need for romance, but love is romantic enough on its own.

Originally published on Medium

Comments / 0

Published by

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA

More from Crystal Jackson

Comments / 0