Friday, February 27, 2015

How NOT to Break Up with Someone: A True Story

I originally wrote this back in September, but I was waiting for the right time to post it.  Since I decided to focus a little more on posts falling under the "Love and Relationships" category during the month of February, I figured I may as well share it now.

I was always horrible when it came to dealing with breakups.  Whether I was being overly dramatic when the guy ended things or a complete chickenshit when I did, breakups were not my thing.

I remember envying couples who could break up and remain friends back in high school and college.  I'm not talking about the ones who eventually got past all the pain and bitterness and learned to like each other as people once again ... I can successfully do that.  I'm talking about the couples who broke up and somehow avoided all of the emotional anguish ... The ones who could spend time together (or even just have a normal conversation!) right after their romantic relationship ended.  That I could never do.

I usually avoided my ex-boyfriends after a breakup because I never knew what to say or how to act.  (Or, in one case, I did the complete opposite and just kept sleeping with him and spending all of my free time with him.  That's really not any better than completely avoiding the guy ... In fact, it's probably much worse.)  I hated conflict (I still do), and it was usually just easier to hide from these guys than deal with the aftermath.

With that in mind, I'm now going to share the story of how my first serious, long term relationship ended.  I'll preface this story by saying that it in no way makes me look good.  In fact, I'd say it makes me look like a huge asshole.  And, if I'm being totally honest, I was a huge asshole at the time.  Thankfully I eventually recognized this, made the necessary heartfelt apologies, and now maintain a friendship with the person I'm writing about.  At the time, though, things got really ugly.


The relationship began the summer before my junior year of high school and ended about a month and a half into my junior year of college.  As I said before, this was my first really serious relationship (any other relationship I'd had before wasn't with someone I could actually picture spending the rest of my life with), and I was in love with him.

"B" (I'll keep his full name out of the blog out of respect for his privacy) and I were mostly happy together, but there were a few issues that we just couldn't seem to work through.  Some of them were legitimate (like the fact that he wanted a big family and I wasn't sure I ever wanted kids), while others were probably somewhat legitimate but mostly selfish (like my fear that since we started dating at such a young age, I'd probably always wonder if there was something better out there).

But that's not why I'll come off as an asshole in this story (though that probably doesn't help).  No, the reason I'll look like an asshole is because of the way I ended things with him.

We went to colleges about 4 hours apart.  He drove to visit me one weekend (our last weekend together), and things were really awkward.  We'd fairly recently taken a "break" (à la Ross and Rachel), but decided to try to work through our issues.

Well ... At least neither of us slept with some random person during that time.

Unfortunately, I couldn't let some of my issues go.  And, to further complicate things, I was attracted to another guy I'd become friends with at school.  In addition, I found out through mutual friends that he was also interested in me.  He even hung out with "B" and me a few times over the course of that weekend (awkward!) because we had plans with a group of my friends and he was invited/included in that group.

I knew by the end of the weekend that I couldn't be in the relationship any longer.  I still cared about "B" and even loved him ... But I wasn't in love with him anymore.  We had too many problems to ever really work, and though it broke my heart to do it, I knew I needed to end things.

I should have broken up with him at the end of that weekend.  I remember sitting with him in his car right before he left, talking.  I should have been telling him how I felt and given him all the reasons why I didn't think we should stay together.  I don't even remember what we were talking about ... But it wasn't that.  I just couldn't bring myself to say those words.  And so I kissed him goodbye and watched him drive off, knowing deep down that I would probably never see him again.  (I haven't.  Though we've managed to move past all of this and kept in touch as friends, we've never made an effort to see one another.  All of this happened in September 2004, so it's now been over 10 years since I've seen him.)

Since I failed to say something to him in person, you'd think I would at least have the decency to break up with him over the phone.  I didn't.  (I think we all know where this is headed.)

No, chickenshit asshole me decided to break up with him via email.  Email!  I still cringe when I think about it.  I mean, we'd literally given each other years of our young lives.  We'd been through a lot together.  He was my best friend, the one person I felt I could share anything with.  He was my first real love.  And I broke up with him in a fucking email.

At least I said more than that and didn't break up with him using a Post-It, right?  RIGHT?!?!  (Okay, no ... My way was still super shitty.)

I still feel like a worthless sack of shit when I think back to that time.  I can't believe I could treat someone I cared about so much with such callousness.  I mean, ending a long distance relationship is obviously not the same as ending a relationship when you live in the same city, but I could have handled it better.  I could have given him an opportunity to tell me how he felt, encouraged a discussion between the two of us.

But I didn't because I was scared.  I was scared to hear what he had to say.  And, more than that, I was scared I'd be talked out of making that decision.  Even though I knew, without a doubt, that "B" and I had grown apart and were no longer truly happy, I knew he could remind me of the good times and I'd be willing to give it another try.  And I was determined not to be talked out of ending things with him.

But still ... I should have handled things much differently back then.

Moral of the story: Don't be an asshole.  Don't end a long term relationship via email.

1 comment:

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