Over the course of long-term relationships, we have the unique human opportunity to not only learn a great deal about the other person but also many things about ourselves through the relational lens that person employs when interacting with us.
Unlike an acquaintance or even a friend, when one shares decades of his/her life’s experience with another, there is a potential for a deep, profound, almost co-experience. With this enmeshment, there is the chance to be truly seen and understood. Conversely, with this entanglement, there is the risk of being truly betrayed and hurt.
Luckily when egregious behavior happens within the confines of these sorts of hyper-vulnerable relationships, the potential for forgiveness is greater thanks to the retrospective long-term investments of both time and intimacy. Since life is short, it’s simply harder to walk away knowing that the “breakup” would be–in financial terms–a forfeiture resulting in bankruptcy.
So we stay and look for ways to mitigate the matter; we may even try to reapportion the blame by telling ourselves that relationships are “two-way streets.” If the original wrongdoer can convincingly persuade the hurt party “never again,” then all the better.
And aren’t we humans creatures of habit?
While some considered it conventional wisdom that “old habits die hard,” I don’t think old habits ever really die at all. Instead, they live a ghostly existence and wait for the chance to visit. So as much as any one of us might act surprised and say, “Oh, you scared me. I didn’t expect you,” we are foolish to think that the ghost of betrayal wouldn’t come back.
In fact, if one looks closely, I bet the ghost which visits you is the same one over and over again.. I only make that wager because I am haunted by the same collection of my own ghosts.
Think of someone you have known for at least ten years. It has to be someone you know with depth and emotional intimacy. It has to be someone you’ve been honest with, that you’ve been raw with–someone you trust.
Now think of what comes between you. I’m going to bet that it is a ghost of a past imperfect relationship. That ghost takes up the space between yourself and the sympatico you were just thinking of. Sadly, no matter how “close” you are to this sympatico, the ghost remains, year after year.
And while you may try to analyze the ghost and make rules around how that ghost must behave (Side note: you can’t kill it off; it’s a ghost), you are stuck with the same immutable ghost over and over again.
Years may pass between sightings, but do not think that this apparition will ever go away completely. In fact, you may just be better off not fighting against its future appearance and instead be willing to greet it with a familiar, though annoyed smile.