What if?

What if

Life often takes a different turn than we expected. In Die Frau auf der Treppe (The Woman on the Stairs) by German author Bernhard Schlink, a man seeks out his greatest love after 40 years apart. The woman, Irene, turns out to be incurably ill.

In the few days they still have together, they fantasize about what their lives would have been like if Irene had returned his love years before. I had my own flashback moment a little while back. I received a Facebook message from a guy I once had a holiday romance with in Italy. It made me feel melancholic remembering how lovesick I’d been when it ended. I imagined my life if things had gone differently. We only chatted briefly via Facebook; we are both in relationships now, and we both have children. It was not even that long ago, but the spark that had once existed between us was now completely gone.

When a relationship ends, you say goodbye to your partner in love, but the love doesn’t always disappear. Love is a source in yourself that you associate with another person. Sometimes it is for life, sometimes it is only for a specific and clearly demarcated period of time. That’s why, after divorce, it is always possible to find new love again. “With this specific love, not all love ends,” writes Schmid.

Even when the sadness and struggle in coming to terms with a lost love is enormous, a moment usually comes when you can look back on it in peace and think about it calmly. Notwithstanding all the tears I’ve shed in the past over broken relationships, it’s good that they all ended, because now I have found a man who is right for me. “The day will even come when you run into your old love interest with his or her new partner. And you’ll be able to think: It’s better this way,” says Steenhart. “You’ll think: That person is a better match for you and I wish you all the happiness in the world.”

  • The complete article ‘A broken heart’ can be found in Issue 10.

Text Mariska Jansen Photography Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash.com