An Ode to My Failed Love Stories

An ode to my failed love stories
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

Love, for me, has always been complicated. As a youngster, I always thought my first love would be for keeps. That the first kiss meant the deal was sealed forever, and the relationship was locked in for life. But real life is not a movie. It is definitely not a fairy tale. Different plans were charted out by forces beyond my control. Plans that would, at times, suck the soul out of me.

I have had the privilege of experiencing intense, passionate, illogical romance. The type that makes you forget the world around you and causes you to stutter and act foolish in your partner’s presence. It nudges you to write cheesy poems and bestow embarrassing gifts. You go to great lengths for the person to ensure they understand the value you bring to their life. The type of love where the self merges with the other and all boundaries and individualities diminish. On the flip side, the sort of young, inexperienced affection that cajoles you into tolerating mistreatment or disrespect and threatens you to compromise on your values just so you would stay confined to that perpetual dark zone. Your mind conveniently wants you to romanticize your forgiveness. “These things happen in love,” it protests, and you continue to give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

These love stories of mine never (thankfully) lasted.

An ex once told me it’s better to be in a relationship with someone who loves you more than you love them. It acts as an effective self-preservation mechanism. When you are neck-deep in love, you kind of understand this theory. Minor disagreements tend to hurt, even if your partner is not at fault. Too much love can suffocate you. What else would explain us becoming overwhelmed by our own emotions to the point of no return? But how much is too much love? That’s subjective.

Deep love can often hurt because the level of emotional involvement is more. To step back and think logically is implausible, especially when all you want to do is cling to the person for dear life and unabashedly consume any space that exists between the two of you. It may be why many of us hang on to toxic love because, in a way, we are addicted to the person. Our love-struck system cannot tolerate being apart from the one we adore, even if we know the person is detrimental to our health. We longingly look out for our next “dose.”

Experience teaches you that some level of detachment is required to preserve your self-respect. You cannot merge yourself with your partner so fully that you lose your common sense along the way. “Follow your heart, but take your brain with you” is the new mantra. If you ignore this life hack, you lose.

Love has the power to keep you in a chokehold. All the chemicals in your body work harmoniously to prevent you from escaping this sea of love that, at times, is more adamant about drowning you than keeping you afloat. “You need them,” your mind justifies. “You won’t be able to survive without them.” Sometimes, you wonder why your own system is working against you. Why can’t it produce fewer chemicals and give your brain a chance to defog at least twice a day so you get some leeway to make rational decisions?

Often, some intensity imbalance is required to balance a relationship. Ironical, isn’t it? It’s never 50-50. Fighting for that 50-50 is when the balance goes haywire. Your whole focus is on whether equality is being maintained. A 40-60 is good enough, where each partner is mature enough to take the lower percentage of the deal, depending on the situation. But maturity is scarce, often leading to one partner compromising more than the other, accumulating bitterness in the long run.

I am in a proper healthy relationship at the moment, which feels different. Does he love me more than I love him? I am not sure. It feels equal. But less intense than any of the previous ones. It feels more mature, where things are discussed rationally, and no disrespect or insults are thrown generously into the air. We talk like proper adults with our negative emotions in check. For someone so used to an overflow of feelings, war of words, and flurry of insults, this silent, peaceful lull feels refreshing.

I can’t help but wonder if age and experience have a role to play in how he and I feel. He confided in me that he used to have no control over his words or emotions in his 20s. He used to be an angry young man, possessive, and naive. This contrasts with his current version, a wise man humbled by his own life experiences. It may be why “first love” is unique. Our emotions are intense in our formative years, and age has a way of watering them down. It is not that the love we experience later in life isn’t true. It becomes more guarded because you subconsciously filter your emotions through the lenses of your previous relationships. You learn your lessons, and you get better. But some of the dreamy rawness gets lost in the process.

If you are happily married to your first love, you might not relate to this post. But those who have had some failed passionate relationships would understand this feeling of being “in love” but also knowing the person isn’t right for you. The agony ends up changing you and even your future relationships because nothing molds you more intricately than experience. We are a sum of all the experiences we have been through, and each of us has a different journey that we have carved out on our own. It is understandable, then, why the concept of the “ideal relationship” may vary from person to person and may evolve over time. What I feel about love now is drastically different from my 20s. Earlier, I used to prioritize PDA and gifts. Nowadays, I prefer the subdued kind.

Do I miss the passion and cheesiness of my earlier relationships? Sure. But they have also taught me to step back and feel gratitude for the security and peace that comes with a healthy, respectful one.

An Ode to Nonviolent Communication

Holding Hands - Nonviolent Communication

Happy to announce I am now 100% nonviolent after reading Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.

I am also 100% lying.

Because, like all good things in life, NVC takes effort. And practice. Having just finished the book, I only have an idea of what to say but no practical experience.

Conflict resolution is an interesting topic to me since we have to deal with conflicts in every aspect of our lives. How can we be stern and kind at the same time? How can we get the best out of any situation? Being able to communicate effectively is an art in itself.

I have always taken away something, if not everything, from every book I’ve read – a new kind of awareness. What I took away from this one was to take a moment to step back and focus on needs instead of the more apparent negatives during an argument. It helps with forgiveness. It keeps you calm. So it’s a win-win overall.

What is NVC?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a practice that must be consciously ingrained in our daily interactions to see results. It includes letting go of your judgments and interacting with the other person to focus on each other’s needs instead of playing the blame game. We attribute violence to physical and mental abuse. But here, the author talks about negative communication as violence too. Things like incessant blaming, judging, silent treatment, and mocking all form a part of violent communication.

So here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

Focusing on needs

The four components of NVC include: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we would like to request to enrich our lives. To summarize, the two parts of NVC are 1) expressing honestly 2) receiving empathically.

Connect your feeling with your need: “I feel.. because I need..”

Something you need to keep repeating to yourself whenever you are agitated. What is it that you need? Focus on each other’s primary emotion (need) instead of lashing out at each other.

Avoiding blame and judgment

Why would people want to tell the truth, knowing they will be judged and punished for doing so?

The more people hear blame and judgment, the more defensive and aggressive they become and the less they will care about our needs in the future. So even if our present need is met in the sense that people do what we want, we will pay for it later.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why would someone tell you the truth if they knew they would be misunderstood or shouted at? I feel the more we make someone feel uncomfortable and “dirty” for telling us the truth, the more they will hide it the next time.

Being empathic even with people who hurt you

Blaming is easy. People are used to hearing blame; sometimes they agree with it and hate themselves – which doesn’t stop them from behaving the same way – and sometimes they hate us for calling them names – which also doesn’t stop their behavior. If we sense blame entering their mind, we may need to slow down, go back, and hear their pain for a while more.

NVC stresses hearing the other person a while longer and understanding their feelings before we put forward our requests. Such a method lets the other person relax and be in a proper frame of mind to receive and reciprocate.

Conflict Resolution

The more experience I have gained in mediating conflicts over the years and the more I’ve seen what leads families to argue and nations to go to war, the more convinced I am that most schoolchildren could solve these conflicts. If we could just say, “Here are the needs of both sides. Here are the resources. What can be done to meet these needs?,” conflicts would be easily resolved. But instead, our thinking is focused on dehumanizing one another with labels and judgments until even the simplest of conflicts becomes very difficult to solve. NVC helps us avoid that trap, thereby enhancing the chances of reaching a satisfying resolution.

Why can’t warring countries adopt this methodology, sit together, and discuss resolutions in a non-confrontational way? The world would be a more peaceful place to live in.

An Ode to the Kind Stranger at the Café

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels

A bitter argument,

A door slam,

An empty apartment. A heavy heart.

Tears. Surplus tears.

Misery spanning the entire morning and half of afternoon,

No breakfast, no lunch; hunger killed by words as sharp as a knife,

Hunger killed by heart-numbing brashness.

Soul crushing, sky falling, world burning,

It feels like death – this beginning of the end.

Death of a person still very much alive,

Death of a marriage,

Death of love.

I push myself up, wiping away tears,

I head outdoors,

I walk aimlessly, like a lost soul,

And I spot a small café.

Self-care beckons,

I should eat something.

An order placed with gloom. Face full of despair.

Eyes down. Gaze lowered. No strength to face anyone,

No strength to smile.

A cup of coffee and a sandwich.

The order arrives,

I lift my gaze, and I smile,

The coffee has a heart on top.

A beautiful little heart.

Intrigued, I look at other cups around me,

No, this one is just for me.

In a sea of pain, it felt like a wave of comfort,

A compassionate message,

A comforting hug.

I look around for the waiter,

I spot him in a corner,

Working but eyes fixed on me.

He smiles compassionately,

I smile back,


A sign that the world is not so bad after all,

A sign that I’ll be okay – even if it’s the beginning of the end.

Context: The magic of kindness. A stranger I’ve never met before provided me hope on the most hopeless of days. I never met him after that. The incident happened years ago, but I still think of it fondly. I feel a cocktail of emotions whenever I remember that moment in the café. It still makes me smile.

An Ode to Staying Unmarried Forever

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

I am in my late 30s, and I might never get married.

Initially, I wanted to. I terribly did. When I was in my teens, I never pictured myself as an unmarried woman with no children. In my dreams, I had a dashing husband, the cutest of kids, and all the usual, regular mush coated with a sugary sweetness that had the full potential to make anyone diabetic.

Then life happened.

Life happens for everyone of course, but for me, my journey took a complete U-turn from what I expected.

I did not get a dreamy husband.

I was not a dreamy wife.

I did not get any dreamy children.

My fairy tale turned out to be a horror story in disguise.. and I got divorced.

I thought my life was going to end. How is a woman in her late 20s going to live without a husband? It used to hurt initially. The thought that life would be so unfair, blessing others with the good things in life while I was left with nothing but despair, was too much for me to fathom. A desolate soul in search of a deeper meaning in the form of marital status – that was me.

In hindsight, I never enjoyed my marital life – if you take away the husband part of it as well. The regular chores, and the responsibilities, made me think, “Is this what I am going to do the rest of my life?” I had no time for hobbies, things that mattered to me, my work, or anything that kept me alive, active, and fulfilled. Marital life is indeed a busy world, and you should not step into it unless you are ready to take on the responsibilities, compromises, and adjustments that come with cohabitation.

I was never ready for it.

Within a few years of my divorced life, I realized how much I was adjusting and compromising in my married life. When I left the relationship, it was as if a chain was broken, and I finally attained wings to fly. This freedom felt like finally finding water in a desert. My thirst, however, did not get quenched. Instead, I found it ever-increasing. The thirst to enjoy the things I want, the thirst to not be answerable to anyone for the first time in my life, the thirst to just be. It was liberating, it was extraordinary, and it felt like love. I never knew love in the form of freedom. I thought love could only be found in people. It took a break from one kind of love for me to discover another. The type of love that I had never experienced before because all through my life I was told: “marriage is important.”

I never realized a woman could live without getting married. I have seen others living a content life without tying the knot, but I used to look at them with compassion. The thought that marriage is mandatory and the only thing that can make a woman happy was so ingrained and indoctrinated in me that any other way of living was callously dismissed.

Why did it take a divorce for me to find freedom? The answer might be that the people in my vicinity finally stopped pressurizing me to get into something I was not comfortable with i.e., marriage.

Note the usage of the word “unmarried” instead of “single.” A good relationship is like a cherry on the cake. It is a bonus—a plus. But I feel if a relationship is what makes you feel “complete,” then it would mean that you are lacking otherwise. This is far from the truth. We should celebrate individuality as much as coupledom, if not more. In the end, it all boils down to choice. There is never really one single right path. But you should have the complete freedom to choose the path you desire.

My dream is no longer marriage. It feels like I have seen the other side, and now I choose the other side – the path less taken. My dream is now to selfishly enjoy my freedom till the end of life. To those wondering how the path is – it is not easy. It is definitely not easy. You always have this big FOMO because everyone around you is following a path entirely different from yours – they find someone they love, they marry, and they live happily(?) ever after.

What happens when you don’t marry? For a reclusive person like me, it is a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and fulfillment. For another, it might be that of melancholy. It truly is subjective. But it is a life that is definitely worthy, liveable, and sustainable.

To end this with the ever-famous lines by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.