Since breaking up with my boyfriend of two years, I’ve gone through several phases, some painful, some freeing, but all very enlightening.
Pre-Breakup: For several months prior to the breakup I thought about “our” future, and started to realize that “our” future wasn’t going to exist. Not if we continued doing what we were doing. I can’t speak for him, but I felt smothered – I had given so much to this relationship, I didn’t know who I was. And I needed, at least, a break from it all to figure myself out. Mentally, I had accepted the fact that we were going to take a break (or break up) soon. Emotionally, well, not so much.
1st Day A.B. (After Breakup): After realizing that I no longer had a boyfriend, I commenced to bawl like a baby and turn my eyes into gigantic swollen baseballs. Our breakup conversation didn’t consist of much – mainly, we agreed it was for the best, and that was that. My body and brain were still in shock, even though I had been preparing myself for this day.
3rd Day A.B.: I was frustrated and confused. I knew my reasons for breaking up, and I knew some of his, but I felt there was more he wasn’t telling me. And I’m a person that needs to know all the facts in order to make or validate a decision. So I went over and asked him to tell me, point by point, what things bothered him about me, both big and small. I can’t begin to explain how glad I am that I did that. Simply put, there were many problems. Most of which I had been unaware of or perhaps purposely ignorant. Yes, it hurt to hear them, but it just solidified my belief that we were absolutely not right for each other.
1st Week A.B.: I coped. I tried very hard to change my habits. I tried to stop hanging out at his place so often. I tried to stop calling him every day. In part, I missed “us”, and partly, well, this had been my life for the past two years. It’s hard to change habits so suddenly.
1st Month A.B.: I progressed. I stopped seeing him as often, stopped talking to him as often, and most importantly, I didn’t miss it as much. I would occasionally burst into tears at home if I thought about things too much, but that’s to be expected.
2nd Month A.B.: During all this time, my family had supported me and my decision. Maybe because they never liked him to start with – he didn’t fit into their stereotype of what a perfect boyfriend was, and also, they all had suffered from bad relationships and they didn’t want me to go down that road. As much as I appreciated their support, it was difficult to hear them continually tell me what a “monster” he was, how he never appreciated me, how he was so wrong for me, etc. I know it was meant to make me feel better, but it doesn’t help to be told that the person you loved for the past two years was a bad person and didn’t care about you. I sincerely believe that he did love me, even though our relationship was hardly perfect. On the other hand, as time has passed, I’ve become less protective of the memories, and I’ve started to really analyze what went wrong in our relationship, and why. I’ve learned a couple of things – things that may be hard to accept, but important to know:
1) I’ve realized that in the end, I was the one responsible for how my relationship turned out. That’s not to say that I’m excusing his wrong behavior, but at the end of the day, I was the one that decided to keep my mouth shut, accept that behavior, and stay in the relationship. He didn’t force me to – I chose to.
2) For the sake of everyone’s sanity, telling the other exactly what you want in clear, unambiguous terms is essential to a functioning relationship – in both little things (like what you want to eat) and big things (like what you can compromise, and what you cannot). I think this was a major stumbling block for both of us – we would be unclear, and then get frustrated with the other person for not guessing what we really wanted. I would do it often for little things: I’d tell him to pick a restaurant, and he would (often somewhere I didn’t want to eat) – what I really wanted him to do was tell me, “Well, honey, what do YOU want to eat?” I haven’t even bothered trying to understand the reasons for why I acted that way (screwed up parents, no previous relationship experience, I wanted him to take the initiative, whatever). The point is, it was wrong, and honestly, just silly. You want something, you say it. He would do the same, but usually for bigger things: for example, he’d mope over the fact that I didn’t like sports or politics. Instead, he could have told me, and taken steps to make sports and politics interesting for me. It is difficult for a person to suddenly become enthusiastic about a subject she never cared for her entire life – I believe some effort on his part to interest me would have been useful. For his sake, I would have compromised and tried to get involved, especially if he took the time to make it interesting for me. But he never told me, and so I never knew, and his frustration just built up.
3) Material things are no substitute for time. At the beginning of our relationship, he never had a problem spending time with me. He’d sacrifice his Saturdays and Sundays, his beloved football and soccer games, to spend time with me. By the end of our relationship, the weekends were practically off limits to me – I was lucky to get a lunch with him, and that’s only if there wasn’t a game on he wanted to see. He didn’t visit me as often anymore – if he did come, it was because he wanted to do his laundry, and it was easier to do it at my place than his. He was rarely at my place just because he wanted to spend time with me, no strings attached. Sure, he bought me things and paid for my dinner, but he treated his friends the same way. Time with him became scarcer and scarcer, unless I got up and went to see him (although those last months I was rarely invited over). I don’t want to give a reason for his behavior, because I honestly don’t know. I’m not him, and he hasn’t given me an explanation, so I won’t be unfair and judge him. The only thing I can say is that for me, time is by far the best way to show you love and appreciate someone. And if I don’t have that, everything else is meaningless.
4) A relationship cannot survive without respect. By the end of our relationship, he just didn’t have much respect for me anymore. He hasn’t admitted to it, but respect is shown through actions, and his actions conveyed that fact. When we first started dating, I was his smart, pretty girlfriend. And I was complimented and taken care of and spent time with. But with time, my image changed into his immature, lazy, needy girlfriend. And I was no longer taken care of, or complimented, or spent time with. And I will be the first to admit that it was my fault. To earn respect, you have to treat yourself with respect. Even little things change a person’s opinion of you. I’ve always had the delusion that your partner should love you and accept you exactly the way you are, and should be understanding of your past, your emotional baggage, your quirks. But I’ve been wrong. Many people have told me not to share my problems or my family’s problems with my special other, because that will weaken his respect for me. I always thought that was bullshit – he should understand and still accept me, right? Wrong. In a relationship, each person has been put up on a pedestal, and they’re regarded as great, fantastic, wonderful, etc. And that’s healthy – you need to have this great regard for your special other, especially when you have problems. Because that’s when you remember that, hey, they’re really great otherwise. But by sharing all my problems, all my family’s problems, all the little things I think are wrong with me, I’m practically bombing that pedestal into little pieces. I’m not saying its wrong to be honest about things, but when you overwhelm your special other with things that are “wrong with you”, you can’t help but make them think, “Hey, maybe there IS something wrong with her. Maybe she’s not as great as I thought.” That’s only human. In my case, I would talk about how lazy I was (jokingly, most of the time), what a bad student I was, how depressed I was, how f’ed up my family was, how I disliked my figure, how I couldn’t make friends, how I’m a bad person, blah blah blah. Even a saint would eventually start to agree with me. A lot of those things were said jokingly (but repeated so many times they were taken seriously), some were said out of frustration and exaggerated. The product in the end was the same. I had shown so much weakness, that my boyfriend struggled to find things to respect me for, to keep me up on that pedestal. And I’m not a bad person – I’m certainly not as bad or f’ed up as I made it seem. Maybe I said things because I wanted to be comforted, maybe because I hoped he would understand – regardless, it was wrong, and the effects were disastrous. Actions are also a big part of respect, and I also had issues there that affected our relationship. If you want him to think you’re clean, well, you’d better BE clean. If your place looks like a dump, you can be mad at him if he thinks you’re a slob. If you want him to think you are elegant, well, comb your hair and wear nice clothes. If you walk around the house in torn sweatpants and dirty hair, as much as he wants to believe you’re an elegant lady, you’re not supporting that theory.
5) Compromise, compromise, compromise. If you can't compromise, your relationship will die. It's absolutely guaranteed. And part of compromise is being willing to discuss problems, in order to find a solution. In this, I mainly blame my ex (yes, the breakup wasn't ALL my fault). He is the type of person that doesn't like to talk about problems - he prefers to keep quiet and deal with them on his own (and if he can't, well, he keeps it bottled up and gets frustrated). I, on the other hand, like to talk about my problems - perhaps too much. But I try to get my point across, because I'm the type of person that needs to know the entire situation before I can make a decision. And if I don't share my side of the story, how is he going to be able to make an informed decision? Well, that's my way of thinking. But he's not like that - even if he has a problem with me, it'll take him ages to discuss it, and only when he's near breaking point. So many many many of our issues went from something relatively fixable (if I had early warning) to a big explosive issue that just didn't seem fixable anymore (especially in his mind). For example, he hates dogs. But he's never bluntly, CLEARLY told me he hates dogs (it's always been a joke for him). So I bought my pugs. So what does he do? He starts avoiding my house because I have dogs. WTF, people? Honestly, if I had known he had such hatred of dogs, I wouldn't have bought one (or I would have waited until a more convenient circumstance). But he NEVER told me - and so a fixable problem turned into something unfixable (I'm certainly not getting rid of them now for his sake). Another example: I don't drink, I don't party, I don't smoke. And I will not willingly put myself in a situation like that. And I was clear with my Ex from the start - that's who I am, I'm not going to change. But my Ex and all his friends are like that - at first, he said it was okay that I didn't go out with them, but as time progressed, it got worse and worse until he said he felt like he was living "two lives" (it took him 2 years to tell me this). I tried getting involved with his friends in different circumstances - going out to dinner, watching a movie, etc. But that did not satisfy him. I think I should have been told about his feelings earlier - this is something I absolutely cannot compromise, and it would have saved us a lot of heartache if I had known about this from the beginning, and hadn't bothered trying to continue a relationship that was clearly hopeless.So that brings us to the present. I hope I haven’t made my ex out to sound like a monster – I blame myself equally for the failure of this relationship, and I really tried to be honest with myself, and look at things without tainting them with hurt feelings. I have learned a lot from my relationship, and I’m glad I went through it. I know we had problems, and in the end, it didn’t work out. There was lots of pain and frustration on both sides. But I don’t regret anything – I KNOW we loved each other, even though we unwittingly sabotaged the relationship. I didn’t know any better at the time, and maybe he didn’t either. But now I know better. And I'm not going to sit here and whine and pout and think about how he COULD have been better to me, or he COULD have done this or that. That's a total waste of time. If he did do something wrong, well, it happened. It's in the past. Now it's time to move on and not let myself get caught up in something I can't change. This relationship has taught me things about myself I couldn’t imagine. And it has made me stronger, and more aware of who I am, and what I want and need from life, and from a partner. And I can’t excuse my behavior anymore. So now I continue, with a clearer understanding and absolutely no excuses. Cheers to enlightenment!