I have never left a partner for someone else.
I don’t now if this is unusual or not, but despite a good mix of long-term, short-term and half hour-long encounters, I have never ended one relationship to start another – no overlaps, no angst-ridden dilemmas, never even anyone else waiting quietly in the wings.
I’d like to say this is because I’ve always been smart enough to end a relationship when I knew it wasn’t working, before it fell apart enough for me to fall for someone else, but anyone who knows me will be snorting derisively at that idea, so that isn’t it. What can I say? I’m not good at endings.
I’d like to believe that most of the time when one partner leaves another it is because of some underlying problem in the relationship, that looking for love elsewhere is a symptom rather than a cause of a relationship breakdown, but what about if you don’t go looking? Can you be perfectly happy in one relationship and yet fall in love with someone else?
In some relationships of course, the cause of the disharmony is something more fundamental. Dear John, I Love Jane, is a collection of fascinating stories from women who have left their husbands and partners, not just for other people, but specifically for other women.
If you’re thinking ‘but I know I’m straight, that would never happen to me,’ then don’t be so sure. Although many of the women write about having understood their sexuality all along, never really being happy in their heterosexual relationships, for others, falling in love with a woman comes seemingly out of the blue.
Erin really wasn’t looking elsewhere when she fell in love with a woman at 39. It takes her completely by surprise, and yet she is powerless to control it. “I was shocked,” she writes, “and I was immediately absolute. I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life…what was happening was so unexpected, so crazy, so senseless, so selfish, that I didn’t even know how to articulate it. “I just love her,” I said.”
Crystal too fell in love with another woman while seemingly perfectly happy in her marriage. “I was a stable, married, 29-year-old mother when I fell in love with a female co-worker,” Crystal writes. “I loved my husband dearly…we were best friends who could share everything. I believed I had chosen the right companion, and would never have married if I thought otherwise. So I lived out my perfect suburban life with my husband, while I fell in love with Zoe in silence.”
If we take Crystal and Erin’s experiences as examples, you can see why in previous posts I might have seemed a tad scared and possibly a little cynical about the idea of everlasting love. What stories like these demonstrate for me is that love can’t make any promises. Love is out of our hands. We might like to think we’re in charge, but we’re not.
This post is part of a blog tour exploring the themes and issues raised by ‘Dear John, I Love Jane’, edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre (pictured).
Tomorrow, you can read more thoughts on the book from Joan Price, American writer and author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty.