If he broke up with me, I would have to kill myself, I thought. It flickered through my mind from time to time. I didn’t know then that it was a sign of an extremely dependent relationship.
But overall, I wasn’t worried much. He couldn’t break up with me. There wasn’t any reality where that would be possible. We were made to be together. We were together for eleven years. More than a quarter of my life. An eternity.
And now I was sitting alone in my room, reading those words: “I want to break up.”
I screamed from the bottom of my soul before I had even time to begin feeling anything. Curious, how when bad news comes, there is always that short Gap when you are still processing, a few seconds when you feel I’m okay… but before you have much time to marvel at that strange fact, the feelings hit you with the full force.
In between curling in the fetal position on the floor, sobs tearing through me and my brain repeating the words This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, I somehow dug up my phone and sent the scream on Facebook. He has left me.
In times like these, the help always comes from an unexpected direction. It isn’t your best friend, but someone you haven’t seen for years, who has the compassion and the will to go out of their way. In my case, it was a friend who I haven’t seen since before she had kids.
“I read that,” she said, “and I thought that I would like to help. And then I realized I had a free afternoon and could come.”
She arrived at my home, where she had never visited before, and spent all afternoon with me. And the whole next morning on Skype. I don’t know how I would have managed otherwise.
In the following days, I felt like somebody ripped my heart straight from my chest. Only one thing was keeping my head above water: He suggested that after a year passes, we meet again and go on a date, to see how we had changed. If we fit together again. Because it wasn’t a lack of love that tore us apart. It was the dysfunctional relationship.
It felt like the biggest bet in my life. If I can get rid of my biggest flaws in a year…
Of course, I blamed myself. Of course, it didn’t even occur to me until later that he did a lot of things wrong too.
He was codependent. I was dependent. He tried to take care of EVERYTHING for me, even if I didn’t want to.
Things became worse when I went through an autistic burnout (that I didn’t know at the time was an autistic burnout, as I didn’t know yet I was autistic). My already diagnosed anxiety and social phobia spiraled out of control. I became pretty much unable to care for myself for years. He became that much more caring. And I thought, how nice that I have such a gentle, supportive partner!
I didn’t see how he was slowly taking all my power from me. I thought I was happy. I finally had a family that wasn’t abusive. I belonged. I would never be alone and on my own again. I had him.
One thing was ruining the “perfect relationship” for me, though, and it was the fact that after the first few years he never had time for me. It was always his work that came first. We spent time together, me looking over his shoulder at the computer screen when I wanted to be at least near him.
He said it was temporary. Until this crisis passes. And that one. In two months. In three months. Maybe in half a year.
Several years later, I stopped believing it. But I refused to admit to myself that he would simply never have the time. So I lived in a permanently temporary situation.
And then he burned out too. Covid came, and it did a number on our mental health. His father had a serious spine injury and even if he miraculously got most of his mobility back, those were stressful times. And my boyfriend has finally reached his limits, finally started to create some borders — but because he was doing it for the first time in my life, he went to the other extreme. He refused to answer a question he knew an answer to “because he didn’t feel like it”. He closed himself, he constantly pushed me away. We started fighting.
Finally, he said he wants a pause. And then he left me without a word. Weeks passed. And now I was reading the words that didn’t make sense to me. “I want to break up”.
“I would rather go and hug you right now,” he wrote. “But I need to break up. I need to live where I want, to work when I want, and not have to adapt to anyone else.”
Several emails later: “Even if you aren’t my partner anymore, you are still ‘my person.”
And several months later: “I feel like you haven’t really accepted that we broke up. I was just trying to be a gentleman. I want to end this communication and cancel the future date.”
It was like a second breakup.
I wasn’t just devastated this time, I was angry too. I felt like I was led on, like he kept me around to be able to separate himself from me at his own pace. To have me around when he didn’t want to lose me yet. And, finally, when he was done with being attached, to discard me.
I talked about this to several women, and they have all said the exact same thing, one word that came up like a chorus: “A coward”. Despite his many good qualities, he wasn’t brave enough to end the relationship cleanly. He didn’t want to feel like the person that made somebody else suffer… so instead he ensured that I suffered twice.
I still love this coward. This man that is too nice to hurt anyone. I miss him like I haven’t missed anything else in my life. But I’m beginning to understand that he isn’t for me. Not now and maybe ever. I want someone who will want to spend time with me, instead of waiting for the moments stolen from his work. I want to be in a healthy, independent relationship. It may take me some time to figure out how that works, but I believe I will get there.
One of my friends kept telling me: “Now the worst is already behind you.” And that much is true. Even if I suffer, every day is slightly better than the previous one. Every day the worst is already behind me.
So, that’s it. After 11 years with him, I’m suddenly without him — and learning to live that way. One day I will be strong enough to bear that weight. One day I will be able to find someone else, and start over.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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