There’s a popular photo that’s made its rounds on Facebook and never ceases to make its way back into my feed on occasion. It’s a photo of an elderly couple with a quote overlaying them.
This image and accompanying quote are so popular that all I had to do was Google “old people love,” and there it was, on the first page, the happy couple embracing underneath the text:
You’re going to think I’m bitter when I say this, but here goes:
Fuck that quote into oblivion.
I scroll down even further after closing out of the original image and see different elderly couples with the same text. Some of these photos look like stock photos of two 80-something strangers mashed together for the sake of the photograph.
“Look like you’ve experienced the kind of love that’s lasted through the terms of at least 8 different presidents, but convey with your eyes that the Reagan years were trying times for the both of you…”
At this point, I have no idea who the original couple is. Whoever they are, if they’re still around, I’m sure they’re still happily in love. I mean that! I love love, I really do.
I’m 26 and divorced, so my issue with this photo is personal. There’s no denying that. I feel bad for picking apart a harmless quote from two souls – with way more years on this Earth than I have – who just happened to believe in love. I promise I’m not going at this like a 4 year-old who can’t wait to smash open the piñata that contains everyone’s hopes and dreams.
It’s not the quote itself I have a problem with, but what the quote has come to represent after being shared until it became nothing more than a reflection of the insecurities of everyone who regurgitates it into social media again.
And, since this is personal: Whenever I see it, everything I’m supposed to feel about having left my marriage after 9 months stares back at me, and all I can do is shrug and laugh.
I’m supposed to regret not “sticking it out,” I’m supposed to feel like I have “commitment issues” for not staying in a relationship where I woke up every day thinking I was being drawn and quartered by my own desires, and I’m supposed to think I’m heartless for not really giving a fuck that the person I spent six years with is no longer a part of my life in any capacity. And yet, after leaving my marriage and deciding to move halfway across the country in the span of a month, I barely feel a thing other than relief.
But the reason that quote makes me cringe isn’t just about me.
I see the same reductive “fix it, don’t throw it away!!” philosophy applied to all sorts of toxic relationships everywhere. Unhappy people desperate to “make it work” apply Neosporin to gaping wounds each day in vain, with the hope that some quote about perseverance will make their suffering worthwhile.
It won’t. All the effort in the world isn’t going to make a fully grown narcissist grow the ability to treat you like you matter. All the echoes of “I can change” aren’t going to erase memories of years of abuse. All the energy you put into someone who’s never done the same for you isn’t worth waiting around to see if that person will reciprocate.
Your future is worth too much to waste years of your life trying to fix a totaled car because you’ve chosen to romanticize the “good old days” where leaving an unhealthy relationship was taboo, and women especially were taught that asking for more from their partners – even when “more” was to treat them like people – was “too much.”
If this doesn’t apply to you, and you’re in a happy romantic relationship, good for you. I hope you don’t feel like this was an assault on your feelings and the feelings of cute octogenarian couples everywhere.
This is for all of you who feel in your bones that you are on a sinking ship but haven’t quite found the nerve to get on a raft. Your reasons are your own, but know that I was just on that ship a year ago, and that getting on that raft is always the better option, even if that raft ends up in Antarctica.
My raft took me to Austin, Texas, where I currently live, love, eat, and seek adventures with some of my best friends, and for the first time since I fucked off to Russia for a semester in college, I feel like I’m exactly where I should be. My debilitating stomachaches are gone. My constant self-doubt has been replaced by cautious optimism.
And even though I’m single now, I no longer experience the kind of suffocating loneliness I felt while I was trying to make a relationship that was well past its expiration date “work” just because I felt obligated to do so. Come to think of it, I seldom feel lonely at all.