The Theory of Relationship Relativity

It wasn’t all that long ago (in fact, almost exactly 3 years now) that I wrote about the years spent with my first husband versus the time I had spent up to that point with my now-husband:

I received the text just months shy of our tenth anniversary. The divorce process being what it is, the marriage persisted after the ten year mark. The wedding was never the year we marked, however. We always added six to go back to when we started dating. So, by the time it was over, we had been together for sixteen years. That was half of my life.

It felt like my life odometer had been abruptly and violently forced back to 000000. It was painful, but it was also frustrating. It felt like those were miles wasted on a pointless journey that was aborted before its intended destination. The consistent rolling of the numbers indicating the length of the relationship felt purposeful. They spoke to where we had been and where we were going to go.

When my boyfriend and I reached the six month mark (an important period that frequently delineates casual dating from more serious partnerships), he commented on how long we had been together. I remember scoffing internally. Six months was nothing. I had been with my ex thirty two times that! I didn’t get it yet.

Then, one year came, again commented upon by my boyfriend. I still didn’t get it. I can be a slow learner at times.

It was strange to come across that post again. I haven’t compared the years together in well, years. Because it’s clear that it’s not simply a matter of comparing years to years.

It’s all relative.

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the measurement of space and time varies according to the relative position of the observer.

And it turns out that the theory is not only applicable to particles approaching the speed of light.

It also reveals some truths about relationships moving at the rate of Earth’s revolutions.

Because the further away you are, the more the time spent in a former relationship dilates.

It’s hard to imagine now that I once worried that the 16 years spent with my ex were wasted since they ended. Because now not only can I look back on those years with a smile, I am also so grateful for where I have gone and who I have become since it ended. And besides, those 16 years are starting to feel like simply a brief chapter in a full life. (Okay, it does help that it’s no longer half my life. Aging happens regardless of relativity!)

Because the further away the observer, the more the time shinks. Making the recent years feel bigger and the distant ones more diminutive.

Especially because I have so intentionally packed life into those more recent years.

And now I’m celebrating two years married to my wonderful husband later this week. :)))))

In my post from three years ago, I concluded that my relationship math had some errors:

It wasn’t until two years when I finally understood. First, due to the magic of ratios, it was now only 1/8 of the time that I spent with my ex. But, more importantly, I viewed my entire life odometer differently. I had been viewing it as the primary and permanent wheel in the center of my console, quietly ticking away through the journeys of my life. I saw the divorce as an assault on the dial, overriding the system.

Then I realized that life is rarely that linear. Our lives are perhaps better marked with trip odometers that are reset to mark the beginning of a new journey. These parallel journeys should not be quantified; the distance is not what adds to the quality. Rather, each trip should be accepted for what it is with the understanding that the odometer can be reset if needed.

I now don’t worry about sixteen years. I don’t compare times together, creating ever-improving ratios. Now, I just roll down the windows and enjoy the ride 🙂

Sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll take my advice:)

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5 thoughts on “The Theory of Relationship Relativity

  1. Some pretty cool life truths in here about how we view the worst thing that ever happened to us years later versus at the time when we thought we might die.

    Even without a new relationship for which to feel grateful, I’ve been able to experience much of that, too.

    Cool post.

    Happy anniversary, Lisa. To many, many, many more.

    Cheers,
    Matt

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