When my first long term boyfriend, James, broke up with me I was devastated. I had just spent an entire week with him at his college in Connecticut, and on my way home he texted me to tell me that it was over. He told me he’d been seeing someone else and had fallen in love with her, so it was time to end things with me. Let me tell you, I was FURIOUS. I couldn’t see straight driving back home to New Jersey. I was already mentally scrolling through a list of ex hookups I could call once I got home. I thought about how awful I could make him feel by posting pictures of myself looking great while out with friends. I prayed that this new girl would dump him, or cheat on him, or give him some awful STD. In that moment, I knew I was no longer in love with him. In fact, I hated him, and that made moving on from him so much easier.
But this time was different. There was no break up text, no other girl, no anger. Robert sat down with me in my bedroom that we often shared and asked where I saw myself in five years, then told me where he saw himself. The differences were humbling. I told him I wanted to move in together, to get engaged, married, have a couple kids. These things were important to me. We were both in our mid-twenties and had been happily dating for two years; these just seemed like the logical next steps. However, his priorities lied elsewhere. He was content in the apartment he shared with his brother; he didn’t believe in marriage, he knew he never wanted kids. And so we painfully parted ways. He collected his things from my apartment, took my key off his key ring, told me he loved me, and then hugged me goodbye with tears in his eyes. Watching his car pull out of my driveway for the last time I wondered, how do you get over a relationship when you both still love each other?
The weeks that followed were awful. After James I went out every night, I signed up for tinder, I made out with random guys during last call at the bar. None of that appealed to me now. I wanted to come home and cook us dinner, I wanted to lay on the couch and binge watch our favorite shows, I wanted to fall asleep curled up next to him. And I knew he wanted these things too. Instead, we were alone, falling asleep in separate beds, and that killed me. My friends suggested I go out with them, hit the bars, try to meet someone. But the thought of being with anyone other than Robert didn’t just terrify me, it disgusted me. I felt like I was cheating. Why would I want to be with anyone other than the person that loves me the most? On the few nights I did go out with my friends, I avoided social media entirely. I didn’t want him to see me having fun. I felt guilty that I was able to enjoy myself when my entire world was shattered just a few weeks ago. I didn’t want him to think I was happy without him.
I couldn’t wait to run into James after we broke up. I rehearsed exactly what I would say, how I would look, who I would be with. I wanted him seething with jealously. With Robert, the thought petrified me. I avoided bars I knew he went to, I shopped at a different supermarket, I switched over from Dunkin to Starbucks knowing his coffee shop preference. I couldn’t bear to see the heartbreak in his eyes. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold back tears. The temptation to go running back to him would be much too strong. Because I couldn’t go back to him. Every logical bone in body knew that.
Perhaps though, the strangest thing about this breakup compared to my last, is that I want him to be happy. I want him to get up every morning with a smile on his face. I want him to go to work and love his job. I want him to go out drinking with his friends and enjoy his night to the fullest. I even want him to find someone new. I want him to meet someone that can give him all of the things I never could. A girl whose future plans match his. He deserves that. And I know he wants the same for me. I know he wants me to be just as happy. When I look back on our relationship, I don’t regret it in the slightest. We were young and in love, but we weren’t right for each other, and as hard at that is to accept I know we’re better off apart. It may be easier to get over an ex you hate, to focus on every lie he told you, every night he left you crying, so eager to find someone new. But to be able to look back on a relationship with someone you have nothing but love for, and know you’re eventually going to find someone who loves you even more?
That’s something I can look forward to.