In March, a YouTuber I follow announced on her blog that she and her husband were separated. I was devastated.
I’ll be honest: my reaction surprised even me.
I’ve followed Louise’s blog and YouTube channel for over 5 years. When I first found her videos, they were 10 minute unedited sprawling streams of consciousness. She was a new mom with a complicated past and a passion for both lipstick and stationary in equal measure. Compared to most of the beauty vloggers I had in my queue, each poised and posed and prepared, Louise was a mess. But she was real. She loved her little family, and she loved making videos, regardless of how blurry her closeups were. Her unapologetic rawness drew me in, and I knew that if I met her someday, we’d be good friends.
But what particularly warmed me was Louise and her husband’s love story. It was the sort of narrative I’ve dreamed for myself a thousand times - they met at university and were friends for a while, until one day, in the middle of writing an exam, she decided enough was enough. She left campus, her exam unfinished, and made a beeline to tell him that she wanted to be his girlfriend - stopping just long enough to buy herself a pair of earrings. Fast forward 5 years, and they’ve had a wedding, a house, and a baby: all the makings of the perfect love story.
Her post about their separation was beautiful. It was thoughtful and sad and kind. It was obvious that ending their marriage was the best decision for their family, and that she and her now ex-husband still cared about each other and their daughter very deeply. I admired her bravery and honesty.
But I was so sad. How can she be so calm about this?! I thought. It’s the end!! Finished! Her love story is over!!
I’ve posted before about how I’m not very good at endings. I wear a necklace that reads “we part to meet again,” because I can’t bear to believe that some people leave your life and never come back into it. I am in a perpetual state of To Be Continued. Because somehow along the way, even though it defies all logic and all my sensibilities, I believe you get one grand love story, that begins at “I do” and ends with a eulogy.
I was talking to a woman at work about a month ago, and she said she was in Canada visiting her children before returning home to England. She was a charming woman in a big hat and brightly painted lips, and we got to chatting. She told me she had moved to Canada several decades ago because the man she was in love with didn’t want to commit. So she packed her bags and moved across the Commonwealth, where she met the man who would become her husband and the father of her four children. After thirty years and resettling in several provinces, her marriage ended; she moved back home to England, where, wouldn’t you know it, she’d made a new life for herself with the same man she’d loved and left all those years before.
And maybe it was her gentle voice, or her generous openness, or maybe it was just the perfect timing, but that story touched me profoundly. It was hers that made me realise that we each get more than one love story.
I’ve often felt that I’ve spent most of my life waiting for my love story. I’m sitting in a parking lot, eating popcorn and waiting desperately for a redhead to stroll over in a jean jacket. He’ll be sporting a feminist sensibility, an iPhone in his pocket, a K1S postal code, and a strong moral compass. He’ll offer me a slice of McCain Deep ’n’ Delicious cake, and I’ll offer him some David’s Tea. We’ll be married and quoting from Harry Potter on our way to Happily Ever After within the week.
But when I thought about it, I realized that while nothing even resembling that scenario has (or probably ever will) happen, I’ve lived through a few love stories of my own. Some were relationships of great misunderstanding; some were grandiose dream worlds I’d tried to transplant from my imagination into reality; some were wonderful glimpses of human magic that were over before they even really began. But each were their own little worlds, people and relationships that mattered greatly then, that made me, at times, so simultaneously happy and nervous that I felt like throwing up. All ended: in explosions of violent words; in the quiet whisper of “okay, bye” on the phone; in waves of tears that left me immobile. All ended, and for good reason.
And it would be unfair to future me to say that a relationship that ends in a marriage is the only love story that I get to tell. Because marriages are not the periods that end a person’s narrative. They are maybe an exclamation point, or a question mark, or a series of semi-colons - never a full stop. And I take great comfort in this: that we are beings designed to love, over and over again.
So while some love stories may indeed begin in diapers and end with engravings on a headstone, may we also learn to call those romances that have shorter shelf lives “great.” And when grand love stories end - and oh how many of them do - may we be so brave to pick up our pens and create new adventures with someone else.