I had a therapist who told me "all relationships end." This was big news for me at the time. I truly felt that I could force or control the way I connected with people. I had this idea that modulating my personality or by sheer force of will I could convince someone to stick around. This was especially true of the girls I dated. It never occurred to me that I wasn't eminently lovable. Who wouldn't want to spend all their time with me? Not that I was arrogant about it. I considered it my life's work to be as charming as I could possibly be in order to keep that unbroken string. Break up with me? Impossible.
All relationships end. As confounding as it felt to me, I learned that other people can change the course of a relationship. This realization took me a decade to fully comprehend. It meant that I had to figure out a new way to view the rest of the people I encountered along the way. This was going to be a challenge. I would still need to be as witty and charming as I always had been, but it still wasn't ultimately up to me alone. This was what I tried to explain to my son as he and his first girlfriend teetered on the brink of the abyss.
All my fatherly wisdom wasn't enough to sway him. He was convinced that he needed to be nicer, call more often, be a better boyfriend. What was he doing wrong? I could not explain it to him how there was this two-way street, and how he could want nothing more than to live happily ever after, but there were no guarantees. Weeks went by, and this girl would not return his calls. She avoided him. I could not believe that anyone could ignore him. I wanted to make it easier for him. I couldn't. He suffered. For the record, he held up much better than his old man, but he suffered.
Until one day when he got what was, essentially the final word. Here is what he said to me when found out that he and his first girlfriend had broken up: "Either it happened a while ago, or it hasn't happened yet." Suddenly he was at peace with the whole situation. He is seventeen. He found a way to understand this thing like his father never did. Like a Tralfamadorian.