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love will tear us apart - ben brown

It's weird telling people that I'm getting a divorce. It doesn't make sense to people. "Didn't you just get married?" they say. "Yeah," I say, "but it didn't work out, and that's OK." That's what blows people away. "What do you mean, that's OK? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?"

I think that when you fall in love with someone, or rather, when I fall in love with someone – because what I've recently learned is that there is no universal love thing that people feel, but instead everyone feels their own, painfully personalized version – when I fall in love with someone, I create a mental image of the person and myself in my head. I imagine what we will be like together now, together tomorrow, together in 10 years. I'm not talking about schoolgirl fantasies of two kids, one dog, and a goldfish. That sort of fantasy seems scary and concrete, and I imagine a lot of men would absolutely freak out on hearing their girlfriend's 10-year forecast. But nobody ever looks back on their 10-year relationship and says, "Dammit, we don't have the goldfish, I'm walking," so this is a pretty ridiculous thing to get worked up about. But I'm getting off topic.

My fantasies deal with the day-to-day stuff. I fantasize about how we'll go grocery shopping together. I fantasize about how we'll sit next to each other and read silently for hours. I fantasize about how we'll support each other's artistic endeavors. Imaginary me and imaginary girl live a sort of sci-fi life together where we intuitively know when we need to be together, when we need to be apart, and when we need to have sex the third, fourth, and fifth time that day – a nice routine that nobody ever gets tired of because both parties are – get ready – in love with each other.

I think for some people, love is an easy thing. I'm not sure how it works, but for some people, it's like that. They wake up, they do their thing, they're together some and apart some, and at the end of the day, they happily sink into bed and snuggle for a while, and then they go to sleep. For me, love is a war.

The little me in my head, he's like Dr. Jekyll. And the real me, he's like Mr. Hyde. They're the same me, but they want to go in different directions. One wants to have the peaceful fantasy partnership. The other wants to tear everything apart at the first appearance of a fracture. "Oh," says the real me. "You don't want to go to the grocery store with me? THIS ISN'T LOVE! THIS IS A SHAM!"

Love works for me in some circumstances. I can be desperately head-over-heels in love with someone who lives on the other side of the country, no problem. I can be in love with someone who I see regularly at the coffee shop as long as I never speak to them. As long as fantasy-Ben is left in control, everything's great. I'm a pro at being in love. Relationships are my weak point. The ambition. The resentment. The compromises. Oh, the compromises! If there was one thing that I could change about myself, it'd be compromising about the anti-compromising stance.

I loved my wife. I still love her. I'm not talking platonic friendly love. I love the girl. I think she's amazing. But because of the differences between our real-life relationship and the artificial, ideal relationship I imagined when we first got together, we just couldn't function as a couple. So, because we loved each other, we decided to put some distance between ourselves. There aren't too many men who'll tell you that he divorced a woman because he loved her. But I did.

What have you done for love?