Humans are not built to 'unlove.' We don't get to choose who we love, when we love them and when we switch it off.
And it's on that basis and understanding that I was very sympathetic to the tears shed publicly by Chloe's ex at a wedding we went to today. Chloe's ex is a woman, a very bright and ambitious woman, kind, funny and sweet. She saw our little family, our son, tiny daughter and the ever growing bump that will be our 3rd child and she broke down into tears.
They've had their share of nasty exchanges over the last year, Chloe and Kirsty. Kirsty accuses Chloe of 'selling out to a boring straight lifestyle' and breaking her heart in the process. Chloe accuses Kirsty of turning some of their mutual friends against Chloe.
The truth is that Chloe and Kirsty split up. Some time later, Chloe and I fell in love and that seemed to mark with no degree of uncertainty that there would be no reunion for Kirsty and Chloe. And Kirsty hated me for the longest time. I understand it. I would have felt the same in her situation.
But tonight, when she broke down in tears at the wedding reception of a mutual friend, I felt her pain acutely. Chloe walked away to take the children away from that situation. I would ordinarily have followed, not keen to get into an argument in public. But I felt the need to talk to Kirsty and so I signalled to Chloe that I'd catch her up.
"Can I get you a drink?" I asked her. "Maybe it's time you and I had a chat that is made up of more than a series of expletives."
"I'm not getting you a red wine though. It has to be something clear in case you throw it over my shirt shortly..."
She managed a laugh.
We sat in a quiet corner of an otherwise bustling afternoon wedding reception full of happy adults, excited children and proud family-of-the-newly-weds. We said nothing for a few minutes. She was sobbing and I immediately felt this sense of compassion - not just because I am now married to the woman she cried for, but because I have felt what she is feeling. And I understand with such precision how helpless and full of unending sorrow she feels right now.
"Look," I said. "I think you and I have more in common than you like to think."
"Adam," she said, "With all due respect I don't think we have a single thing in common."
"We both know what heartbreak feels like," I ventured. "And we both know what true love feels like. And we both think Chloe is the most wonderful human being on Earth."
She cried more and I felt like I'd said the wrong thing, so decided to stop talking.
She eventually piped up.
"You're right. We have that in common. But I hate you for taking her from me."
"I didn't take her, Kirsty. You were already broken up. I fell in love with her. There's no crime in that. She fell for me and there's nothing we could have done about it. You know we can't control those things, cos if we could you'd have turned off how you feel about her right now. You'd have just stopped."
"Maybe. But maybe this intense pain is the only thing keeping me connected to her."
We talked some more. We developed an understanding. She will never like me, but she knows now that I understand her. And that I am not the reason that she and Chloe didn't work out.
She decided not long after that she was going to leave. She wasn't feeling up for it. She approached Chloe as she was going to leave, pulled her in for a (somewhat reluctant) hug and said,
"Your family is perfect. And you're made for one another. Good luck."
That was a beautiful gesture. And one I won't forget for a long time.
Because the truth is that as humans, we are not meant to unlove. We're not built to turn off emotions when they're inconvenient. We're simply not ever able to learn to not love someone. It either happens or it doesn't. And for me, love is something that lasts a lifetime. I've learnt that about myself. I don't fall out of love.
But sometimes love transitions and changes slightly. And we all learn to move on eventually.
I hope Kirsty gets there soon.