Relationships are often built on common interests, with activities that are done together in pursuit of these common interests.
Like eating Wheaties together.
If I like eating Wheaties and you like eating Wheaties, then eating Wheaties is something we have in common.
So we get together and we eat Wheaties together all the time. This ritual of eating Wheaties together becomes an expression of love and affection, because it’s a solid, reliable connection point. Maybe for a while we even eat Wheaties exclusively with each other.
Sometimes, it gets harder to incorporate this ritual as often as we used to and as often as we like. Work becomes more demanding. Schedules change. Health interferes. Children demand more of our attention.
Sometimes, it loses its shine. Eating Wheaties now becomes the time that you share your frustrations about your day. Or it ends up feeling like an obligation. Or one of us loses the passion for Wheaties and wants to occasionally incorporate Fruit Loops into the mix (which is a hard no for the other) or maybe just want to give up cereal entirely.
You mourn the loss of eating Wheaties together but know that eating Wheaties together isn’t the only expression of love the two of you share. Maybe you take time to appreciate what was. Maybe you don’t necessarily even feel the loss of it because there are so many other good things in your relationship. Maybe you even feel silly for having placed so much emphasis on a simple shared act. In any case, you put it on a shelf, preserving the feelings it evoked for you so that you can visit it later if you’re feeling nostalgic.
You come to find that your partner has started eating Wheaties with someone new. Intellectually, there is nothing wrong with this. You both loved Wheaties independently before you met and the love for Wheaties hasn’t changed, just your relationship with Wheaties together has changed.
But feelings are not always rational. You had mourned the loss of eating Wheaties together. You did some mental gymnastics to find acceptance for this change in your relationship. There was pain involved in losing this ritual of love.
You start being unkind to yourself. Did we stop eating Wheaties together because of the way I slurp the milk? Was I boring to eat Wheaties with? If I’ve lost Wheaties eating together, what will I lose next?
Now eating Wheaties – a thing you’ve loved and lost, but still look back on fondly – is a source of pain instead of a source of comfort. And suddenly, you have to mourn it twice. Move past it twice. And maybe this time, you just throw it out, so its absence no longer hurts you.