“We’ll have to come here next year,” he said to me, looking up from our brunch with a smile. “Once we’re back in school.”
I just smiled, but suddenly my sandwich held less appeal, and the charming décor of the restaurant seemed a bit more contrived.
This was just the latest in troublesome comments from my boyfriend, who, despite my attempts to warn him, has failed to see the warning signs: a break-up is eminent. I have been slowly falling out of love with him, slowly regaining eyes for other people, slowly lost the attraction to him I have always felt. The problems I’d put aside—my discomfort with his old, homophobic friends; my confusion at why he has settled for yet another horrible summer job without trying for something better; frustration at our mismatched ambitions—have come back to trouble me as I sleep beside him at night.
“Jack’s just never had to think about those issues,” he told me earlier this week, defensive as I asked him how he could stand to spend time with a few of his high-school friends. “Those issues” was his shorthand for not only more “complex” issues such as same-sex marriage, but also simpler issues like whether it’s acceptable to refer to gay men as “fags” or whether lesbianism is “acceptable” outside of porn.
“I have never had the luxury of ignoring ‘those issues,’” I responded, my tone so harsh he immediately began to backpedal.
I asked him a few weeks ago to take a break, citing my problematic depression and my feeling that we were growing apart. Perhaps I should have been clearer with him, perhaps I should have told him that I was worried I wished to break up but couldn’t bring myself to break his heart just yet. Maybe I should have confessed that I felt like a horrible person because my main issues with our relationship were that I am petty enough to want a person with decent high-school friends, an ambitious person, a person who challenges me to be better (although not skinnier, that’s a drag) and aim for everything I am capable of, academically and socially. Sure, it’s great that my boyfriend is cool with me playing Skyrim 24/7 on his Xbox, but at the same time, that’s not I want from my life.
Is there ever a good reason to break somebody’s heart? For love me he does, I can see it in his eyes, I can hear it in his voice, can see it in the way he’ll do anything for me. Each day I spend with him is an implicit promise, one I cannot make in good faith.
I am the figurative bad-guy here, the ice-cold heartbreaker. I always was the one who loved him less, the girlfriend who waited a full three months of intense dating before finally committing, not because I was worried about my ability to be monogamous, but because I was worried such an unequal relationship would end poorly. But then I fell in love, and lost my head.
“I didn’t like [our college] before I met you,” he confessed to me a few months ago. That confession echoes in my ears and turns my stomach into an iron-clad pit of guilt. He has never done me a wrong, he is incredibly patient, kind, and earnest. How can you justify hurting someone who would follow you into hell without as much as a second thought?
I am not strong enough to carry this out, and hate myself for thinking that. I’d rather be in my situation than his, a thousand times over, but I don’t know how I’ll deal with seeing him broken, knowing that each time I post a picture on Facebook, I’ll be hurting somebody I still love so much.
I can’t imagine life here, at my college, without him. I fell too hard; lost a sense of myself, and now this is coming back to hurt both of us. I spent all day, each day with him, spent each night in his bed, and allowed myself to be consumed. Now I realize this was a mistake.
See, while I am mostly breaking his heart, I am also breaking my own. I no more deserve him than he deserves to be hurt, but that doesn’t make this any easier. I was thoughtless in agreeing to date him, but never cruel.
And so, although I know I need to be a heartbreaker, I can’t bring myself to do it.
More’s the (self) pity.