When my boyfriend and I decided we were breaking up, we exchanged no cutting words. We didn’t scream. We didn’t throw a fit. It was done with kindness, love, and understanding that we just weren’t going to work out. I was really sad, he was really sad, we felt disappointment, but what we had become wasn’t what either of us wanted anymore, so we ended it.
I helped him find an apartment. He slept on the couch the week or so leading to his move-out date. We divided up things we shared. He borrowed my car to transport his belongings. And though saying goodbye to my best friend was incredibly tough, he was still the man with whom I fell in love a year and a half before. He was still one of the most caring, honest, generous men I knew. There was no screaming, no name calling. Only respect.
For months after breaking up, we shared custody of his dog whom I absolutely adored. Having assumed we would marry, I emotionally adopted her as my own; his dog became my daughter. And so, wanting to lessen the loss of the relationship, he’d willingly give her to me for a couple days each week. We’d coordinate pickup and drop-off as if she was a kid. For months, things continued like this until I got my own dog, Monkey. And then, we’d get the two together to play.
My friends assumed every time we met up we were hooking up. Not at all. We stuck to a clear boundary (even though a few times we flirted with the idea of crawling into one another’s bed for comfort).
This isn’t to say it was emotionally easy. I still missed him and us as a unit. He’d sometimes only crack his front door just wide enough to hand his pup over because seeing my face was too hard.
But again, we were kind to one another.
So, over the past two and a half years, whenever things have ended with others, I’ve compared. I think about my ex and his kindness toward me, and I often wish many others would exude that too. Like the guy who ended things because he “didn’t want a relationship, didn’t want the responsibility.” At first he was awkwardly cordial but quickly he became cold. “Hello, Sabrina,” he’d say when we’d cross paths, in a tone he’d reserve for his father’s colleagues.
I wanted to blurt out, “Dude, I’ve had your dick in my mouth! No need for formalities.”
But I held it in, I’d glance away, not wanting him to see my hurt. I tried “playing it cool” and acting nonchalant as if I wasn’t thinking about him every other second of the day. But when his coldness turned into rudeness, rolling his eyes when he’d see me, scuffing a bit, annoyed by my presence, I couldn’t hide my hurt anymore.
I approached him to ask that we just be kind to one another. He informed me, coldly, “You should know I’m dating someone, Sabrina.” The man who, a month before, repeatedly asserted he didn’t want to date anyone. He delivered his words with the intention to sting.
“Okay, well hope that works out, but again, it’s about how you say hello. All I ask is you be kind.”
I held back my sobs until I was a block from him.
How can a person be so sweet one day and then the next think nothing of you? The transition from everything to nothing has always confused me.
I see this often between exes, where the guy says, “She’s crazy!” and the girl says, “He’s an asshole!” I used to wonder, “How can you think so little of someone with whom you spent so much time and were so intimate?”
That was never the dynamic between me and my exes.
But then it happened to me.
I overlooked his quiet irritation like when he hopped out of bed at 11pm to wash dishes to indirectly tell me to leave. He wasn’t the nice guy I was certain he was.
But I didn’t just miss the signs; I ignored them. I made excuses for his behavior.
My sister committed suicide because her husband’s abuse broke her. I promised myself 9 years ago I would NEVER allow a man to disrespect and mistreat me. And so here I am, as I assume many others have done before, recommitting to this promise.
Let us all be more aware how others treat us, how they speak of their ex’s, how they treat those they don’t like or want.
In some ways, we learn more about others and ourselves from how they/we treat each other after things end than while dating.
I challenge you to be more kind and sensitive.