1. The more serious we got, the more he shut me out.
Our first date lasted 6 hours. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play Taylor Swift’s “Enchanted” on repeat for days after our first encounter. The fondness I had for him enthralled me immediately. He was perfect. It had been so long since I had truly been blown away, and this one had outdone every guy I had ever known. He was my exception to every rule and belief, most importantly the “we’re exclusive, but not technically in a relationship” decree. Together, we were fast and heavy. A month into it I was convinced he could be it. I never told him that, of course, but my mind tends to wander and be much too hopeful. He was everything. But that first month of perfection slowly went by as I basked so deeply in the glory that was us. Then the next month began. And those little things that start to add up in a relationship that need to be discussed? Those were piling up. Rapidly. As we watched these piles of baggage grow, he started to shut me out. When I did finally muster up the courage to bring up an issue, “he didn’t know what I wanted him to say.” (How original.) These walls he had, which he so casually mentioned from the beginning, became very prevalent. The harder I tried to knock them down, the taller they grew, and the taller they grew, the more desperate I became to bring them tumbling down. But there was nothing I, or anyone, could ever say or do to bring those walls to the ground. Try as you might, you cannot break what someone doesn’t want broken. The walls are theirs to have, and theirs to keep.
2. He didn’t believe in love.
This little fact wasn’t discovered until after we broke up. (Do non-couples break up?) However, I still clung to the fact that somehow, someway we would come back to each other. Our interactions post break-up were sporadic, but very much present. I specifically remember the wave of despair and sadness that came over me when I read the text that so casually said, “Well, I don’t believe in love.” What? What does that even mean? IT’S LOVE. Not a death sentence. It’s magic. It’s that feeling. That security. Those emotions that welled up inside of me whenever I saw him and thought of him, didn’t he feel that too? What is so twisted about it all is that for a second I thought that I could prove him wrong. I could be the one that changes it all for him. We would come back together and it would just hit him. He would just know. I know now that is insane and completely irrational. But for a second (okay, a day, possibly two — or a week….) I believed it, believed that we would end up together, happy, and in love. Eventually I shook myself out of such disillusionment because to put it simply, you can’t make someone fall in love with you, and you certainly can’t be the one to convince them to believe in it.
3. His words spoke louder than his actions.
I’m such a sucker for a sweet talker. (I mean, who isn’t?) And boy, this one would make me swoon with a simple “good morning” text. It’s those words he said. So delicate yet full of passion, those are the ones that kept me hanging on. Every compliment, directed toward me individually or us as a couple, won me over more and more. It became evident that what we had wasn’t just filler until he moved away. He cared. He cared a lot. And I know he meant every word he ever said to me as he so eloquently whispered them. Everything he said was so meaningful and wonderful and enchanting. But his feelings changed. Mine grew deeper, his slowly faded. Our perfection and passion and adoration he spoke so often of were not enough for him to sacrifice his fear of distance to try to make our relationship work. It’s those words he spoke and the look in his eyes when he said them to me, could all of that just disappear? Was it so easy for him to say these things that meant so much and then erase them from his memory? Would that help him erase me? We seemed so strong and secure then, we weren’t. Those things he said, they still haven’t left me. I have spent so many days and nights hearing his words, replaying them in my head, and finally, as I cried alone in bed late one night, it finally hit me: there is nothing more exhausting and upsetting than wondering why he said those things. It won’t bring him back. Nothing will.
4. He struggled with “thank you.”
When I’m dating someone, I’m all in. I will buy you dinner, bring you your favorite beer because I saw it at the store and thought of you, watch the stupid TV shows you insist are “life changing,” give you that morning BJ. (Don’t pretend you’re above it, you’re not). It’s the little things. I love the little things. It’s those little moments that you don’t plan; those are what you end up remembering and reminiscing on most. The surprises. They’re what add up to make your relationship strong and exciting and happy. And while I do these things without being asked, and expect very little in return, (and because keeping score is detrimental) I would at least appreciate a thank you. I didn’t get them. And quite frankly, that’s just bad etiquette. I did those things to show I cared. I know deep down he was more than grateful, but I never heard the words. You should never, ever, ever have to wait for a little dose of appreciation. Ever.
5. We had great sex, but we did not have a great relationship.
He was the first person I was actually dating that I slept with, and only the second person I had ever been with. When I was with him it just made sense. We were both so comfortable with one another. So trusting. The passion was there, very much there. Sex was our greatest strength and weakest link all at the same time. It made the connection I had to him immeasurable, but it was ultimately our downfall. We ignored issues, only half discussed certain matters, and would put the big ones on pause until we were ready to discuss them later, although neither of us ever knew when “later” actually was. Rather than really working through things and talking them out, we used sex to reconnect when we both sensed we were starting to struggle. At the time it was amazing. Somehow putting off the heavy talks and getting naked seemed like an ideal problem solver because it made us feel better. We felt like us again in those moments when we were together. We had each other and that’s what mattered, not the disagreements or our undecided future, just us, connected, satisfied, and happy. But it didn’t solve anything. I wanted it to. We both wanted it to. Sex doesn’t fix what’s broken, even if it feels like it does.
6. He didn’t want to try.
It’s taken me 23 years, countless years of low self-esteem, zero long term relationships, and the best friends a girl could ask for to make me realize how absolutely wonderful I am. I’m great. I’m intelligent, funny, sarcastic, caring, compassionate, independent, and quite frankly, I’m doing really well for myself as a semi functioning adult. I was willing to do anything for him. And at the end of the day, it just didn’t matter. He cared for me in many ways, I know he did, and a large part of me thinks he still does. But those phone calls he didn’t answer, and the texts he chose not to respond to, well, that leads me to believe otherwise. He didn’t want to try, he didn’t want to fight for me, and as difficult as it is to admit at times, he still doesn’t. While I have clung to every word he ever said to me and replayed every memory in my head so flawlessly, how I’ve wondered every single day why and how we got to this place where we no longer exist as a pair, I have accepted that those wonderful memories of what we once were, that’s what I have left. It all seemed so perfect in those moments together, but that’s just it: Just because you seemed perfect together doesn’t mean you were perfect together.
I always wondered if I loved you. My best friends asked me that actually, if I loved you. I gawked in awe thinking how absurd it was for them to even suggest such an obscure idea. But I thought about, I spent a lot of late nights held in your arms as you slept so peacefully, thinking about it. I laid there wondering if this was it, if this could be love. I was safe and secure and each time I saw you my heart raced and my stomach was in knots and I couldn’t help but feel this euphoria by simply being in your presence. I adored you, every flaw, every annoyance, every disagreement, everything. Isn’t that love? I thought so, at least for a moment. But as I sit here now, looking back on our time together, I realize something: despite my endless adoration for you, I never wanted my first love to be so difficult and daunting, so heart wrenching, something that caused me to shed so many tears so many times. I finally know that this wasn’t love. It was you who so boldly believed people come and go from your life for a reason, even if it’s not immediately clear. It’s clear to me now. Thank you, for being the boy that came into my life to teach me what I hope to eventually find in love.