We were walking through Target one afternoon when I told him matter of factly I’m not happy. I don’t know why I chose that particular day, that particular store. It wasn’t the right time, I know. Shopping for cheap flatware isn’t exactly the best time or place to confess your feelings, but those days it seemed like it was never the right time. The words had been on my mind for weeks, months maybe.
I’m not happy. It was the continual lump in my throat.
“With these plates? We could get different ones.”
No. Not the plates. Us. I’m not happy in this relationship.
I can’t remember exactly what he said. Maybe he said nothing. Either way, he brushed it off and pretended like the words I said had never happened at all.
That was during year three, two years before the breakup would actually happen. These moments would come and go – me expressing my feelings about the state of our relationship, him pretending like everything was fine, us attempting to forget about it all and finding temporary happiness in small moments.
But in that moment, in the store, was the day the erosion began. Slowly, gradually, things were beginning to fade into something unrecognizable.
There’s always something about the emergence of a new season that I can feel within my bones. It’s a breeze that hits on a sunny day in August that reminds me autumn is on its way or the way the air changes its smell in late March just before the leaves start budding. Like the inevitable changing of the seasons, I could sense the relationship had also come full circle. Instead of growing and evolving over time together, we had instead become a collection of recycled words and emotions that seemed to happen on autopilot.
We were best friends. We did everything together. We were honest, loyal to each other. But what was it about him, about us, that wasn’t working?
Was it that I thought he drank too much? Or how uncomfortable I felt when he turned into another person when the right amount of alcohol had been pushed through his veins? Was it the way we said things that left a bitter taste on my tongue in the late nights during an hour when we’d find our greatest disagreements? Was I not loving enough, giving enough? What was I doing wrong?
Whatever it was, I wasn’t sure because the problems we had seemed small within themselves, as if no particular thing was worth ending the relationship over, and because of this I stayed. I thought we had something that was worth saving, and maybe it’s stupid to say that now when I knew things weren’t working, but the safe space we had created within our relationship throughout the years brought a security I was afraid of losing. I wanted, needed more from him and I guess I thought if I just held on a little bit longer, maybe someday he would finally hear me.
Is it selfish to stay in a relationship when you know it’s not the right relationship for you? Yeah, probably. But there is also selfishness in knowing your relationship is going through a rough time and not actively working on it.
What do you do when you put yourself out there basically saying I know we’re not perfect. we won’t ever be perfect. but please, for me, for us, let’s figure this out together. you and me – we can do this. I promise. but we have to try. we both have to try really, really hard because there are too many things in life working against us
and feeling as though the other person just doesn’t give a shit?
What do you do when the other person knows you’re not happy and the relationship isn’t working but also refuses to believe anything is wrong or acknowledge a breakup is inevitable?
When we talk about relationships and dating we often say things like “oh, I wish I wouldn’t have wasted my time with them.” It’s true that you deserve to use your short time on Earth to do the things you want to do with the people you want to do them with, but it’s also true that leaving can be really fucking hard.
There’s nothing easy about realizing your relationship has failed. There’s nothing easy about being able to see the worst parts of a person and the best parts of a person and loving both parts equally, regardless of the cost that comes to your personal well being.
I am guilty of loving people for too long, for remaining in situations I know with my mind are likely going nowhere, but with my heart wanting to believe in the best in them anyway. Hope for the future and nostalgia for the past can be my worst enemies.
The last time I saw him was on a cool September evening over drinks at the European bar we used to hide in during college when the Midwestern winters became too much. I looked at him, this man I had spent so much of my life with, and realized we were completely different people now. He told me about his new life, his girlfriend, the things he was working on in his spare time. We knew each other so well but at the same time, we didn’t know each other at all. At least not anymore.
I think the universe fights for two souls to be together but unfortunately, the human experience is flawed. We aren’t given instruction manuals on how to live life or how to love people or the sure path to successful relationships or careers or raising children or asking for help, or any of the things that can only be learned with time and many, many mistakes made inbetween the good parts.
Love, like life, is an imperfect experience we are constantly experimenting with.