As my Dad lay dying in a hospital bed, you were messaging another girl. The same girl you’d told only weeks before you were unhappy and wished for a life somewhere else without me.
When I found those messages I’d taken to my usual position on such things, tried to help, tried to “fix” what was broken. I’d asked what I could do to help, if you were depressed, perhaps unhappy with your current place in the world to which you’d swiftly replied “Yes, that’s it” and you didn’t know why you’d told this other girl it was me making you unhappy. Your reasoning was that you were just trying to figure out the problem and mentioned our relationship in the heat of the moment. “I love you Emma,” you’d promised.
Looking back, this is the exact point in time that I should have left you. Should have packed up my heart and taken it with me, kept it safe until someone worthy of it came along and nurtured it like they would their own.
And so it came as no huge surprise to me when you ended things so abruptly one evening. Or when days later you were out at breakfast with the younger girl from our gym. “She’s just a friend,” you argued. “I’m lonely this side of the world without my family and I need someone to talk to.”
Yet still I continued to blame myself. Blame myself for asking you to move across the world with me so we could be closer to my family. Blame myself for the arguments we’d been having the first time you slept with another girl on a work trip. Blame myself for not having the sort of self-respect I encourage my girlfriends to have as we share a bottle of wine and they cry over their broken heart as we attempt to put the pieces back together.
Why is it so hard to take our own advice when it truly matters?
When my gut instinct was confirmed and you’d moved onto another relationship with the gym girl, I felt pure relief. Relief to finally know that I wasn’t crazy, relief that my suspicions were confirmed and relief that I could once again rest easy with the knowledge that my gut instinct had done its job in trying to warn me about you. My intuition still worked. I just hadn’t listened.
But ex boyfriend, I don’t hate you. I forgive you. I forgive you because neither of us is perfect and whilst you struggled on a daily basis to keep it in your pants, I behaved like a shadow of the girl I know I am. In my quest to try and “help” you, to inspire you to want to be greater or in all my efforts to try and wrongly change you, all I did was take every ounce of energy I had and give it unwillingly to you. Leaving myself an empty, hollow shell with very little zest for a life spent with someone who couldn’t even put on a suit and tie for my Father’s funeral or tell me I looked beautiful on the day I needed to hear it the most.
And I thank you because through all of the tears and self-reflection, the carb binging and wine fueled gym sessions you gave me the most wonderful gift – awareness. Awareness of the role I have come to play when it comes to relationships; the savior bound by an unwritten code whose job it is to save everyone she falls in love with, even if that means putting herself last. You showed me exactly what I don’t want in a relationship and that love isn’t just something we dish out to others – it’s what we must pour into ourselves first and foremost. Only then can we hope to meet our true equal.
But perhaps most importantly of all, you gave me, me back. Piece by piece, a bit at a time, previously hidden behind a shattered bravado created only to appear as though everything was great on the outside because the inside was too painful to face.
Dear ex boyfriend, I thank you for the times you were unfaithful and I wish you well in life. Truly.
Some day you’ll go far. And I really hope you stay there.