They still love each other but are headed down different paths. They’re making a hard decision for a greater purpose. Have you ever broken up even though you were still in love?
My sweetheart and I just broke up, except we don’t like that term for us. It doesn’t seem right that two people who love each other, who discuss rather than argue, and who share romance, fun and tenderness can “break up.” We need a better expression for what we did, what we’re doing.
In the previous month or so, we analyzed, discussed and agreed that our goals are mutually exclusive, so we can only be on separate paths. As I shared in a previous article, John is content with his low-stress lifestyle and wants for nothing much more than what he already has. His priorities are well placed close to home, in being a single father raising his younger two sons. I am an empty-nester eagerly and energetically climbing to reach my goals. The combination makes for a certain level of incompatibility not conducive to what either of us has in mind as a true partnership.
My choosing an incompatible life partner is nothing new and is at least partially due to my unresolved father issues. Between the notable exceptions of my ex-husband, and now John, I used to pick men who had my father’s qualities more often than not. Sadly, my father was not exactly a good man. He could more accurately be described as a “bad boy” and trouble-finder.
Through some intense personal growth work, I gained an awareness of my unhealthy relationship patterns. I discovered that–in the years since my divorce–I made every attempt to subconsciously reconcile with my father in my brief relationships with men. I had involved myself with men who were active alcoholics and had character traits similar to my father. Alan’s laugh was so much like my father’s that hearing it in a dream startled me awake, both literally and consciously. When Alex walked away without breaking up, I realized that I had once again selected my father instead of a worthy mate.
I began reading The Good Men Project sporadically last year. The more I’d read, the more I would check men–all men–against the title “Good Man.” I would practice awareness that required me to be honest with myself about the qualities of a man that I found attractive as well as our potential compatibility. Were the qualities attractive to me because they were familiar, either reminding me of my father or a previous not-so-good relationship? Once I got honest with myself, I started noticing and connecting with good men in all areas of my life: one teacher, one new friend and client, a couple other good friends… and John.
John and I met at work eight months ago when I noticed he was reserved, kind, helpful, and soft-spoken. He seemed to be paying close attention to me, not in a creepy way, but clearly demonstrating that he was ascertaining my character, our compatibility and whether I was noticing him. I was. He wasn’t my type; I thought, but somehow I kept observing.
At that time, I was in transition, and he was in a holding pattern of a sort, quiet about the details until we agreed to get better acquainted. John was an inventor awarded a U.S. Patent years ago. His intelligence and creativity intrigued me. I’ve long involved myself with entrepreneurial projects, so this side of him was attractive. It seemed John and I had business potential together if we should decide to devote our resources to that path.
He consistently demonstrated good man qualities yet I kept thinking he wasn’t my type, darn it! One day I came to my senses, realizing that the men who were “my type” were those who were familiar, with qualities similar to my father or men from my failed romances.
John and I took the time to get acquainted naturally over three-plus months at work. The more I learned, the more I liked about him. He was a single father for 16 years with custody of two boys, and the third had recently left home. He had longevity at previous jobs if only to provide for his sons. He was kind and demonstrated compassion.
He had good social filters and appropriate behavior in mixed company. He seemed to be an excellent candidate for the instant grandfather to my young grandchildren. My grandchildren–with their healthy intuition for judging character–warmed up to him right away when we finally agreed to be a couple.
John is a good man in every way that is important to me. Breaking up with a good man is more difficult than breaking up with a man like my father. We communicate, we cuddle, we laugh! He keeps his word; he is helpful, he is kind and loving. He is trustworthy and respectable. He loves me, and it seems nothing is wrong.
The last four chaotic months of my transitional life would have been unbearable without John. He was my rock. My helper, my cheerleader, and my solace. John tells me that while we no longer have a commitment to a long-term romantic relationship together, he will be here for me. I believe him.
This path I’m on to improve my life, to step up to my full potential, is one that John supports for me because he knows my credentials and how I have been working persistently and consistently toward my goals. Although he’s not interested in participating in the activities my path requires of me and my partner, he is thoughtful and generous enough not to impede my progress on the path. Instead, John is being a good man, a good person, and mostly a good friend to say, “I support you and encourage you to pursue your career and will do so from the sidelines.”
Instead of “breaking up”, let’s call what we’re doing “being mature, good adults who choose to be best friends.”
Photo: Flickr/ Ed Yourdon