My mother loved my ex. Even when the relationship was clearly in its final throes — and for what I interpreted as good reason — she held out hope that we would get married. “He’s so nice,” she would tell me, “He’s respectful and so polite… that’s so rare these days.” From her limited perspective of our relationship, I’m sure that’s all that really counted in the grand scheme of things. He was nice, but nice to the point that that is how you would refer to him in conversation. He was nice, but not much else. He was respectful, but he didn’t turn me on. There was no passion.
After nearly two years, we broke up, and my mom was more devastated than I was. “You really missed out on someone wonderful. You’ll realize why he was so good when it’s too late.” A huge part of me resented her at the time for saying these things to me when the wound of having finally broke it off was still fresh. It took a lot of working myself up, especially when he hadn’t particularly done anything wrong. Even though there wasn’t much love there at the time, I still felt a sense of compassion and loyalty towards him. We had shared a lot, and hurting him was the last thing I wanted to do. Where I already felt cruel, my mother made me feel like a monster.
To be honest, a lot of my breakups have been this way. I am, admittedly, the kind of person who demands a lot of passion in a relationship. I like when things are up and down and constantly changing, and I get bored with things very quickly. It’s a flaw, I know, but it’s the kind of flaw that has thus far led me to having a very interesting life. Breaking up has often been my job, with the exception of the guys who are too interesting and passionate and inevitably ruin me through constantly chasing after their love.
But that’s a story for another time.
The point is, I have often been the kind of girl who burns the candles at both ends and can’t find the happy medium between the safe-but-boring choices who love me unconditionally and the horrible-yet-alluring choices who leave me feeling like a desperate child. And even for the boys that my mother didn’t so vocally adore, I always felt when I left them that there was a part of me which simply didn’t deserve their kindness. And in moments like these, when I am alone, it is all the more simple to see what it is about them that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time.
The ex my mother so loved recently got married. It was a few years after our breakup — not nearly close enough in potential overlap to sting or make me pose uncomfortable questions — and I was looking through their photos. The ceremony was lovely and the bride seemed wonderful. It seemed like a life that I could have lived through, a wedding that I could have been a part of, a dress that I could have been wearing. I wondered if I would have been as happy in those pictures, if that life is something that I could have filled in like a game of Mad Libs. I almost felt nostalgic for it, even though I knew it wasn’t meant for me.
Maybe I will get married one day, maybe I won’t. And maybe I was right to leave him, and leave every other man whose niceness was something like a blanket on a night that was too hot to have anything more than a sheet. Maybe there is something out there for me which ends better than any ending with them could have been. But maybe when I am waiting for that call from the guy I met whose every move seems calculated to make me feel at once incredibly excited and incredibly disappointed, I am getting what I deserve. Maybe when I am ready to admit that love doesn’t have to be complicated to be real, I will finally be somewhere that doesn’t always feel like the prelude to an exit.