The Happy/Heartache Balance


The Happy/Heartache BalanceHaving returned from Atlanta just over a week ago, I have found myself in various states of overwhelmed emotion. There has been tearfulness and laughter, joy and pain, contemplation and kink. I have felt more loved than ever before, and been more grateful for the friends I have in my life than I could ever imagine. In my life right now, I truly do have the best people I have ever known.

But for all this joy and love and celebration and friendship, there has been difficulty as well. It makes sense that a week of heightened emotion will take its toll in some way or another, and sure enough, as one relationship bloomed, another suffered. It’s hard for me to explain exactly what happened, but at some point he and I just stopped speaking to the same level. Not fatal, thankfully, but certainly harmful.

This strange juxtaposition put me in a somewhat uncomfortable situation. On the one hand, I wanted to celebrate the happiness and friendship I have in my life; and on the other my shoulders were heavy with the weight of two days’ heartbreaking conversation. Conversely I wanted to come across as neither callous nor ungrateful.

There really is nothing like being happily ensconced in someone’s arms; and there really is nothing like the agony of heartache.

But being non-monogamous, I now live in a way where the two can and do situate themselves side by side. This also takes me into philosophical ground: for some people perhaps this balance merges to culminate in a sense of mediocrity, perhaps the middle ground where things are fine but no better is their happy medium. Others might dart from one extreme to the other: pure happiness to absolute anguish in the space of an hour, which seems much less pleasant, but then at least you can fully enjoy the delight when it’s present.

Although I rather hope people experience something closer to what I felt: despite moments of true heartbreak, I found that for the most part, the happiness won out. My head hurt and my eyes were swollen, and I had the weight of a hundred leather-bound books on my shoulders, but still… the knowledge of the good things in my life, including the growing potential for good to come out of this particularly difficult situation, kept me afloat.

As for the difficulty itself, well it seems that my partner and I will live to see another day. Things are inevitably going to change, and perhaps our dynamic will transform with that, but so far we’re still standing.

A part of me wonders if this ability to remain upright doesn’t actually owe quite a lot to the happiness that tempered the pain. Without a space in which to appreciate the good, I may well have ruined the difficult beyond repair, whereas now, we have a space to find our footing again. In fact, not only did I manage to keep my head above water, but having some security in one regard enabled me to loosen my sometime obsessive need for definition. My need for parameters and guidelines could easily crush the life out of an ailing relationship, but with something strong already in place, I found myself less concerned with the rules and regulations, and more able to consider what might work as opposed to what I wanted to work.

I’m not sure how this story goes, and I’m definitely still running along a steep learning curve. But I do know that at this moment, the happiness most definitely has the winning hand.


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

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