I make my long story short when I'm confronted with inquiries about how long my longest relationship was. "Four years." That's my answer.
It's only when people begin to express sympathy (aren't people strange!) about my loss of college sexytime that I have to further qualify.
And this is where the story gets a bit more detailed and extensive.
I wasn't with someone for four straight years. I was with him for 2.5 straight years. Followed by a 3.5 month break (a semester). Followed by 6 months together. Followed by another 3.5/4 month break. Followed by another 6 or so months together. And now we're broken up, as of March or so.
So, I can say with some pride and some shame: I am an expert when it comes to on-and-offs. I've worked at an on-and-off relationship for the same amount of time that it took me to get a bachelor's degree. For a shorter time than I've ever worked at any job. For a tiny bit less than a fifth of my life.
The question that has haunted me every time I crossed the line from "off" to "on" was why exactly I was crossing the line at all. Was it love behind my action? Or was I just lonely, and desperate for the special attention of an SO in my life?
I know a lot of people struggle with this question, especially if they're working with an on-and-off, but also when they start seeing someone new who they're not sure how they feel about, and in a variety of other situations as well.
It's a troubling thought. We're so paranoid about wasting our time and others' time that this is a legitimate concern. And, I suppose, there's nothing worse than breaking up in many of our minds - we want to avoid that disaster if we can. Also - no one wants to feel like she or he used someone else, no matter what your general moral level may be.
Whatever the reason for our wanting the distinction, this is my attempt to make it - strictly speaking in the getting-back-together context. The difference between loneliness and love as a motivator for being with someone can be distinguished as follows: LOVE:
You love the person if your strongest feelings of loneliness during the time when you were apart occurred when you tried to be WITH other people. You miss the other person more when you try to date another person, in other words, than you do when you are simply makin' it on your own. A very strong indicator of this is if you simply cannot figure out what it is that you don't like about your dates, even though you may have waited a while since the end of your last relationship.LONELINESS:
You are getting back together with them because time on your own was unbearable. You couldn't seem to hitch anyone worth your time, although they were nice distractions from the sad feelings you get when you're on your own. A big indicator of this is when you find yourself being overly clingy and a bit too obsessed with people with whom you are in an early dating stage with.
The difference isn't even always clear when you get back together with someone - it's often a disappointing surprise to me when problems I initially had in the relationship are still there when I get back into it.
Nonetheless, you know when love is your driving decision-making mechanism. I'm trying to articulate it as best I can with this post, but ultimately it's a knowledge the heart - moreso than the mind - possesses.
Jeez. How cheesy is THAT.What do you think the difference is between loneliness and love in the decision to get back with an old beau? How can you tell?