March 20, 2021

What we can Learn from “Almost” & “What-If” Relationships.

There’s something to be said for fleeting experiences.

The best moments of my life were on my solo backpacking adventures around Central Europe. Every experience then was fleeting, short-lived. I made deep friendships in Barcelona that lasted only a few days, fell in love with a local for a sunny afternoon in Munich, gave my heart to Vienna listening to an outdoor concert under the starlight.

These moments were precious because I knew they were ending. I was able to fully immerse myself in them because they were only temporary.

I think about this in relationships, too.

I had an experience where I met someone and the timing and circumstance weren’t right for something serious. He was leaving to travel, and I was in a transition period as well. It would have been easier to choose to not spend time together at all. It would have been easier to say that this wasn’t something I wanted to put myself through. We often underestimate how difficult saying goodbye can be.

But by the end, this person had shown me a lot in our short time together: what I want in a partner, traits that I admire and find attractive, and that it is possible for me to feel something again.

It’s hard to say goodbye when there was never really a beginning or an end. It was a on the verge of something. An almost. A what-if. But maybe that’s better—to let the experience live in your mind as it was and be grateful for it.

When I was traveling, it was easy to move from place to place because I was constantly stimulated with new experiences each time I left a city. And all of us backpackers were there with the same intention.

Some connections did last, thanks to social media, and some are stored in my memory bank; no purpose necessarily other than remembering what it was like to appreciate the present moment. But with fleeting romantic relationships, it can be harder. Especially if we’re not the ones leaving, we’re sitting in the soft, silent ending of it, wondering what could have been.

Though you knew what it was going to be from the beginning, it doesn’t mean you still don’t feel a sharp twinge in your stomach at the thought of never seeing them again. It doesn’t mean you don’t wonder what could have transpired had you met at a different point in your lives.

But then, would it have been the same had it not been temporary? Maybe, like travel, it was special for that exact reason—you could wholly show up, knowing the time was limited.

If we cling to them, try and squeeze more out of them than they could give us, we’ll end up ruining the beauty of what it was.

And at the end of the day, aren’t all relationships temporary?

Doesn’t everything come to an end at one point or another? Maybe we should take a little note from “what-if” relationships and breathe some of that who knows what could happen energy into our longer-term connections.

Not everything is meant to last. But almost everything teaches us a lesson that stays.


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