We broke up. Happy Valentine’s Day!
No, but seriously.
This post seemed appropriately inappropriate for the week of Valentine’s, especially when we might not all be spending it with that special someone. I wanted to write this post because I have a lot to say about my boyfriend and I breaking up, but none of it involves bashing him or divulging the secrets of our relationship that resulted in our ultimate demise.
The truth is, it was a good breakup.
Secrets: The Silent Suffocating Presence
I’m writing this because I think we too often cloak our breakups in secrecy, as if they are shameful, embarrassing parts of our lives that can never be discussed.
They feel hard, like personal failures, big let downs, and complicated knots that we have to untie one inch at a time. We have to face disappointing people we love, whether mutual friends, your adopted family, or yourself and your future plans.
I don’t think it has to be that way. What if we choose instead to share what we learned so that others may learn as well?
Secrets are toxic. From secrets come assumptions from the outside world, and toxic rumors that result in hurt feelings and dramatics that no one has time for:
I heard she was really crazy.
Wasn’t he was super jealous?
I heard they fought all the time.
Didn’t he cheat?
Not talking about it makes it seem so much bigger especially because we don’t talk about good breakups. We don’t talk about happy endings when two people decide that it’s time to move on.
That seems almost incomprehensible to us when we’ve been brainwashed by movies and books and social media feeds that make us believe that we can all have a perfect relationship if we just tried hard enough.
Society paints this lovely picture of what we should want, especially as women.
We should want that house, those cars, those kids, and the husband. The joint bank accounts, the high net-worth, and a closet full of perfectly put together outfits to wear as we go to our jobs that are great– as long as we keep in mind that our real jobs are back home in the kitchen, raising our children and having dinner ready by the time the hubs comes home.
This belief that this is what happiness looks like, and that we are supposed to have this all figured out by the time we’re thirty so that we can start birthing babies, is not only crazy, but it puts so much pressure on everyone as they creep into their late twenties and still haven’t found that person that they want to build a life with.
Pressure, Relationships and Settling
I see it so often, people settling for unfulfilling relationships because the clock’s ticking and they need to find the “one” who is willing to settle with and for them.
We believe that if we haven’t found that person by the time we hit our peak years of fertility, we’re doomed to die alone, choking on the furballs of our six cats.
But what if you don’t want that? What if your version of a fulfilling life doesn’t involve any of that? Can you even be happy without having a romantic soulmate?
Yes. Yes, you can.
Your Happiness Looks Different from My Happiness
You can choose whatever version of happy knocks your socks off and makes you excited about waking up each day.
I am not saying that you cannot be happy in your late twenties with a house, kids, husband and the whole nine yards.
But I am saying that these generalized ideas of what happiness looks like are damaging because my happiness may look a million times different from yours.
And that’s okay.
Fear Often Keeps Us in Bad Relationships
Fear of not achieving what we think we’re supposed to want can keep us in bad relationships.
We don’t want to be seen as failures.
We’ve been shown over and over again one path to happiness, and when it doesn’t look the same as everyone else’s it can be scary and unsafe.
So we settle, we stay, and we hope things will somehow change.
Sometimes admitting defeat is the scariest thing we can do.
There are things we don’t want to face.
There are truths that we try to hide from.
But accepting and embracing and going after the type of life I want to live, means being alone right now.
It meant breaking up.
I love him.
That hasn’t and probably won’t ever change.
But love isn’t enough, even though we’ve been bred to believe that it is.
There are lots of people in this world that I love but would never date. The truth of the matter is, he and I were never compatible. We both knew it even when diving headfirst into the relationship in 2017.
We originally broke up back in 2010, but we didn’t have the emotional intelligence as the kids we were to recognize that we weren’t compatible. Instead, when we were 19 and 21, we focused on all the wrongs the other had committed on the other.
It was a sloppy, dramatic, mean, and hurtful breakup that lasted years as we tried on and off to keep each other in our lives.
When we first got back together, we loved the idea of this perfect relationship that had just been incubating for seven years, and was now ready for us to move into. It was painless immersing ourselves in the comfort of familiarity and the illusion of stability and safety.
Read more about the illusion of stability in the form of familiarity in “Why I Don’t Date Nice Guys”.
Older and Wiser? Not so much.
This time around, we assumed that with age came better tools and techniques for communicating, dealing with confrontation and working out our issues. While that might be true, our “tools and techniques” were really just band aids for the fact that we were still incompatible.
We kept at it though. In the name of love and not being quitters.
But as I said before, love is not enough.
Love cannot make up for differing core values.
It cannot replace understanding.
Love cannot stand in for shared beliefs, interests, passions, and priorities.
And that’s totally okay.
The Decision to End on a Good Note
If we had wanted it to end badly this time, we could have focused on all the ways we hurt each other in these last months.
But those are just symptoms of the disease.
The truth is, we are just not compatible, and all those micro-offenses were the ways in which the Universe/Source Energy/God/The Head Honcho was trying to show us that this is not the right relationship for us.
I’d rather not focus on the bad stuff.
Not focusing on all that bad stuff and not vilifying each other makes it a whole lot easier to stay friends. Neither of us are bad people, despite doing some pretty shitty things to each other over the last decade. We could choose to hate each other and make it a dramatic, horrible and emotionally draining experience of separating– or!
Or we could chill, and recognize that we were really just trying to put make-up on a pig of a relationship. Still a pig. And while I love pigs and think piglets are adorable, I still don’t want a pig (the relationship being the pig, NOT the ex).
I’m a huge fan of Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast. It’s a podcast that focuses on brutally honest love and sex advice. One of his maxim’s, that he refers to rather often, is the campsite rule:
“Always leave the person in as good of shape or better than you found them.”
I am proud to say that I definitely think we did that.
We won’t spend our time thinking about the last year as “wasted” because the relationship ultimately didn’t work out. Instead, I think we’ll spend our time figuring out what we want now and what to do next.
I can only speak for myself, but to me, it wasn’t a failure because we both grew leaps and bounds. I learned even more about myself than I have in years past, including what it is I want, and what I’m willing and not willing to compromise for a relationship.
I learned I still struggle with temporarily losing myself to make a relationship work. Sometimes I still put myself last. I learned that I don’t want to be a nurturer right now.
It was a year of growth. I will always be thankful for it as he and I finally shut the book on a decade long on and off again romance.
We learned. We loved. We grew. And we decided to move on.
In case you were wondering, I did not write this personal blog post without his consent. In case you were also wondering, we are doing really well as friends and roommates at the moment. I promise we are both in a good place. I am grateful this time around we could be honest with each other. It was good for both of us.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!
Share your experiences with a good breakup in the comments below!