The longest relationship I’ve ever been in celebrated eight years last month. We have not had a titled dynamic that entire time, in fact we don’t now, although I often use the word “partnership” to describe it. But we lack an official label, we just use a variety of descriptive ones as necessary or relevant to the conversation at hand. I have actually had longer dynamics as well, though I don’t count them as the longest because while for example I’ve known one of my loves for about twelve years now, we’ve varied in closeness over that time and been out of touch for periods. With Kelev, who I’ve been with for eight years, we’ve been a pretty integrated part of each others daily lives for that time. Of course I am not trying to devalue relationships that are comet shaped, that is to say where the person passes in and out of orbits of closeness in your life without an expectation of constancy or continuity. I recognize the value and validity of those dynamics as well, and the ones in my life are very important to me. I just don’t count the years in the same way I would in a partnership with a secure state of constancy.
My thoughts this morning converged on this idea of counting the years and on how we as a society measure the success of a relationship by the longevity of it. This train of thought really began yesterday when I was spending time in the company of dear friends, and they were working on character creation for a D&D campaign using my old 3.5 books. One of them handed me a paper they had found from one of those books, and I saw the handwriting and realized it belonged to Cat, a prior partner. I was with Cat for only about two years, we didn’t celebrate anniversaries that I recall, so I’m not actually sure exactly how long the relationship lasted. I was a garbage fire of a partner, I was just descending into alcoholism, we were dabbling into kink to an extent neither of us was ready for, and I have adult onset bi-polar which decided to make it’s home in my brain right around the time we were starting to get close. A lot of factors converged and I can say looking back that I was an abusive toxic mess, but we had a whirlwind romance where for a lot of the time we were hopelessly and completely devoted to each other, the center of each others worlds. That relationship imploded, as toxic relationships often do, and I have never mourned the loss of a partnership as much as I have with Cat. In fact I still do, I miss him every moment of every day, which is something I cannot say of any other partnerships that ended.
It is seven years later. My relationship with my ex-fiance, which began before I met Cat and didn’t end until later, that lasted six years, has now been over for a few years. I was in another intense dynamic that lasted somewhere in the range of three or four years, and have another partner who I am still with and we will be celebrating six years this year. And there’s Kelev, who I have grown closer to than I ever imagined I could, who I met while I was still with Cat, and who actually was involved with us both during that brief time of overlap. If I just looked at it from the perspective of my longest lasting relationship, the dynamic I have with Kelev is both the longest running, and the most impactful. If I broaden the view though, the relationship that effected me the most in my entire life, second to my dynamic with Kelev, was my short lived furious romance with Cat, that went down in flames. The relationship wasn’t successful by the measure of longevity, nor by many other measures, since to be blunt, we fucked each other up real good. If we are measuring by impact and growth though, that was the second most successful relationship of my life.
I have never stopped learning and growing as a person from looking back, seeing all my mistakes, seeing the beautiful passionate parts in between, and recognizing the worst of me that came out in that. My sobriety is because of Kelev and Cat, Kelev for his constant support and encouragement, and Cat for being with me at the very beginning and showing me what I could lose when I let alcohol control me. That horrible toxic relationship, the one that most broke me when I lost it, I count it as one of the most successful because I measure success through what I learned and who I became. And seeing his handwriting again, all the memories coming back so vividly, reminded me of how much who I am and how I grow every day can be traced back to one of my shortest and most chaotic relationships. He will be a part of me that I carry with me every day, through the intensity he made me feel that has not yet been matched, and through the growth he inspired and continues to inspire even years after we ended. That relationship was my biggest failure personally, in how I behaved and who I became in it. But it is also one of the greatest successes of my life in all it taught me going forward and how much the memory of him continues to spur positive change in my life every day. You can never truly measure the exact impact of a relationship, but if you do, don’t look to longevity to do so, look at who you were at the start, who you were at the finish, who you are now from the effects of it, and who you continue to become because of it all.
2 thoughts on “It was short lived, it was toxic, it was still a success”
Of all the fabulous things you’ve written, this is the one that’s impacted me the most so far. I remember the relationships I very nearly didn’t survive, and how I walked into them a mess and out a mess with a determination never to suffer in those ways again. The four years of finding myself. The two years of relearning romance and healthy intimacy. And where I am now, more fulfilled in my life as a whole and my relationships in particular than I thought was possible.
For me those abusive relationships blur into one giant pit of broken rather than separate moments of learning, but in a weird way they also resulted in me healing from more trauma than just brought by them, and catapulted me out of the closet. As much as I wouldn’t want to repeat those years, I am grateful for that part.
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I find it beautiful that you overcome things like this so positively.