Dear Men From My Past

There is no need to address each and every one of you individually because you are all the same person. This is a collective address to a collective “you,” all of whom once held the lofty title of boyfriend or lover. I can only distinguish amongst you based on vague memories from vague time periods. Was it the summer before college? High school? Winter break of sophomore year? If I think hard, I can remember when each of you arrived unceremoniously into my life, but mostly I remember when each of you left. 

One would assume that the “why” of your departures would be variant. Aren’t all relationships different in that way? He was too clingy, he was too nice, I wasn’t in love with that one. Well, that isn’t the case here. You all left, in fact, for the very same reason — that reason being, you could never be who I needed you to be.
Of course, each of you expressed this realization of failure differently, which is what made the relationships interesting. One converted his shortcoming into anger, and during our time together he was known to smash car windshields and punch holes in walls. Another was, in secret, a crier, which I never knew how to handle. Others had panic attacks. Whatever the symptom, it ultimately stemmed from the looming sensation that you could never — except with great self-sacrifice and inner turmoil — be the man of my dreams. 

It’s funny how you all seemed to realize this before I did. I gave you each a chance. I looked into your souls and fished around for something redeeming — a glimmer of light, a sparkle of purity, a flash of courage. I searched for anything that would tell me I was making the right decision in giving you my heart. Rarely did I find what I was looking for.

So I punished you. I started fights with no purpose, cheated with no regret, and nitpicked until you hated to be around me. In turn, you lashed out or cried or panicked. And I took it. And you took it. And deep inside, we both hurt. Ultimately, the pain and suffering would reach a crescendo until the only options seemed to be permanent separation or death. For some of you, the choices felt indistinguishable. For me, it was more about filling a void. Like a greedy landlord, I didn’t care who moved into the space, I just needed someone to rent. If I felt like I was about to get a 30-day notice, I was already on the hunt for the next tenant. 

Time is another funny thing, especially the way it distorts memories. At some point, perhaps recently, you contacted me post-break up, out of the blue, to present a romanticized version of our union. It’s all “remember this” and “remember that,” and the only things you seem to remember are the moments we sugarcoated and gift-wrapped in order to make our relationship seem rational. Sure, I remember that night under the moon when we saw the shooting star. I also remember being jealous of the star because, although it seemed like it was created for our eyes at that moment, it had already died long ago. 

Because of this, I know time has made you ignorant and me wise. You see the nights under the stars, and I see you now for what you are. I see with eyes both compassionate and pragmatic. These eyes can now distinguish between actions made out of inadequacy and those made out of true love. I see where the anger came from, and it makes me sad to know I caused it. I see where the inadequacy came from, and it makes me sadder to know I could have prevented it. In my heart, I know you are not all the same collective “you.” As individuals, you each have a unique, formidable goodness inside of you, and a million redeeming qualities. The problem is that this goodness cannot possibly express itself in my company. 

So, with this knowledge, I’m asking you to go find someone who can see your goodness through untainted eyes. Find someone with similar goals, lifestyles, and personalities. Find someone who validates your existence while simultaneously enriching it. Find this person, and never let them go. Stop looking for it in me, and I’ll stop looking for it in you. And then, perhaps, we can forget the pain and forgive the suffering, both inflicted and endured. Perhaps we can break the cycle and, for once, love someone that we completely and without question deserve. This is about all I can hope for you, because it’s about all I can hope for myself. 

So this is goodbye. This is my 30-day notice. I’m moving out and moving on. I’m no longer using you as a point of comparison for future boyfriends or dwelling on the nuances of our failed relationship. When I find the person who is perfect for me, he won’t feel inadequate in my presence. He will see my light, talents, intelligence, and charisma and use it to brighten his own life. He will embrace my flaws and help me build bridges where there were once dams. He will love without condition; he will love even when he’s sad and angry. He will inspire me, we will inspire each other, and this will be love, finally. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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