He doesn’t reveal that he’s a jerk after a couple dates. He doesn’t just stop calling and try the gradual fade away, he can’t go into the memory bank with the other faceless, nameless guys you casually dated and barely remembered after a few months. He waits until your birthday when he truly breaks your heart.
He waits until you’ve travelled together, until you’ve attended weddings together, after you’ve celebrated his birthday and Thanksgiving and exchanged sweet Christmas presents and “I love you’s” and kissed in a crowd of people as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. After nine months, you sincerely believe he loves you, so you exhale that breath you’ve been holding and do the things you never do.
You make that relationship public on Facebook, you actually take that picture of the two of you being adorable and put it in a physical frame, you finally fully deactivate the match.com subscription you set up so many years ago. You learn and master his favorite meals, you begin paring down your furniture for cohabitation, your mother and your friends begin referring to your collective future and asking if you will have children. You sleep soundly at night, secure in your love for one another.
It’s only then that he breaks up with you, totally out of the blue. He chooses two days before your birthday, that one day a year you’re allowed to be selfish and expect to feel loved and celebrated by the people in your life. Perhaps in some ways that is a kindness because you will receive other expressions of love that day, but with every text message, every Facebook notification, every email from others, you just notice the one that is missing, the one that seemed guaranteed until two days ago.
It is difficult to break up at any point, but it is just cruel to do it now. He has waited until your pain will be public. So many people know you as a couple now and will innocently ask how he is, so over and over you will have to tell people that you don’t know because you two are over. He has waited until your public pain will be compounded by your wounded pride.
Now you have to change that Facebook status, and put away that framed picture, and dispose of his Christmas present. There are entire playlists you must delete from your Spotify. How could you have been some stupid and optimistic and wrong? He has waited until you trusted him and just as you felt a sense of safety in using the words “we” and “us,” just as you felt the permanence to begin planning a future, he yanked it all away.
You don’t want to ruin your own birthday. So you tell no one. You do not tell a soul: “That asshole broke up with me two days before my birthday.” Maybe you don’t tell because you’d rather live the day in denial, but it’s almost worse to have to pretend all is fine, to dodge the questions about where he is on your special day, to smile and laugh and look great out at dinner with your friends when all you want to do is cry and mourn alone in your pajamas from your bed. But on today of all days, you don’t want to receive anything other than positive energy and love; you most certainly do not want to receive pity. So you tell no one.
This has happened to you before, a similar timeline. So you know heartbreak is survivable, and that next year will bring another birthday and the next. But the ghost of this heartbreak will always lurk around this time of year. Your birthday means that there will be an anniversary of this pain.