An Open Letter To My Almost Boyfriend

You know who you are, so I won’t even write you by name. I know this may never find you, but please know that I mean every word I am about to say, both good and bad.

I don’t know where it all went wrong, or if it ever really went right, now that I look back on it all. This might come as a surprise, but I want to thank you. By doing me the service of exiting my life in the coldest way possible, you have helped me to realize not only what I don’t want to happen in my next relationship (if we can even call it that), but also how to open up, how to be vulnerable, and how to move on from things not meant for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but you did me innumerable favors by both simply existing in my life and vanishing from it.

I heard things about you before we even began; the warning signs could have been there, and I’m sure they were, but I chose to ignore and avoid them just enough to let you in and find out for myself. I didn’t even want to go on that date to the movies or on a date with you at all, to be honest. I figured you would stop trying if I stood you up more than once. You didn’t; I needed to know I was worth pursuing, and you made me feel desired.

You were my first something. I didn’t think I wanted any of this, but it all happened beyond what I could control. You met my parents, I grew to know your family and befriend your sister, you took a weekend trip to visit me at college, and I came home only to see you. We spent countless nights cuddling and giggling on the close quarters of your living room couch, and kissing goodbye five-hundred times in front of my car when we realized it was 2 AM and you had work at 5; When we weren’t able to be together, FaceTime was our routine goodnight and heart-decorated emojis graced the screen of my phone every morning and throughout the day.

As every story goes, something changed in what felt like an instant: I still don’t know why you did it, but your FaceTimes became less frequent, your job suddenly became too busy for a texting conversation, and emojis were too much effort. I still wonder sometimes what I could have done to stop it from spiraling downhill but, the truth is, it had nothing to do with me.

By refusing to label our relationship, you were free to do as you pleased, and I wouldn’t be justified in getting angry or hurt by any of it. I didn’t even care, though, because I became addicted to your company. You weren’t worried about me; you knew I wasn’t going anywhere. The label, or lack thereof, also made you think it was okay to cut off all communication with me for days when you decided this wasn’t what you wanted anymore, as if that constituted a break-up in our situation. Well let me tell you something: it didn’t. I deserved better, and we both know that.

I cared, a lot. I listened and supported you whenever you had a problem with your friends or family, I always made sure I was doing everything I could to make you feel wanted and appreciated, I didn’t make you pay for every meal, and I was even okay with letting you be the little spoon sometimes. I put so much effort into what I thought was a future. It was more than enough, but it wasn’t what you wanted. I was so invested in you and all you could say (via text) was that “us being together just isn’t going to work.”

Contrary to your belief, you were not my everything. You were the first to really break my heart, though, and that’s a feeling I will always remember. The thought of your kiss won’t always give me butterflies, but I’m sure I’ll be reminded of you when I pass the places we’ve been or smell your cologne or hear a voice that sounds like yours; it certainly won’t be the same, though. I won’t read our old messages anymore. I threw out the golf ball you left in my room that I promised I’d give back to you, and the pencil that I kept from our first date. I deleted every picture and washed every fabric that smelled like you. I can’t erase the emotions or the memories themselves, but I can recognize that they probably weren’t even close to as great as I thought they were. I hope I can look back on them one day and accept them for what they were, and maybe even smile a little, because I’ll remember the first time I shared my heart with someone.

Thank you for being so emotionally unattached. As I look back, I don’t know if you ever really cared. Towards the end, especially, it was a constant battle to win your affection and attention. But, because of this, you taught me how to care about a person selflessly, without needing unwavering reciprocation, and how to rely on the happiness I cultivate myself. Though you were an important addition to my life, this isn’t about you. I really could have loved you, but you are not what matters now. I realized that it was possible for me to feel things I always hid from. As much as I want to hate you now, and as faded as my romantic feelings have become, I am still thankful that you existed long enough to help me recognize parts of myself that I didn’t know existed.

Now, if somewhere down the road you come up in casual conversation, you’ll just be “some guy I knew.” You will never be the ex-boyfriend, and maybe that’s a good thing. They won’t know how much I felt in those months, or how much it hurt to let go, and maybe that will help me to accept it for what it truly was. What they will see is the person I have become since you; I now know the kind of man who is worth my time and affection, and we both know you were not him. You didn’t deserve that title, anyways. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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