I was like you once: I gave up a perfectly happy relationship without a word. I tell myself I wasn’t ready, but in all honesty the best way to put it is that I was scared shitless. I cared about him immensely but the risks and compromises and potential froze my heart and my courage, and I just stopped. He was still reaching out to me, still calling me babe, while I was shamefully, meaninglessly kissing strangers on the beaches of Thailand. I regretted the way I handled it—and I wonder (half-sad and half-maliciously) if someday our ending will haunt you the same way.
I will admit that we were not perfect, but as far as I can tell, that’s not what our breakup was about. Of course, it is always possible to be wrong when one side of the story is all you have, but unfortunately silence provides no answers or clarification.
Independence, you told me.
I lost myself in you, and you in me, I think. We latched on to each other so quickly, were so quick to merge our lives and schedules and interests together, that we forgot how much we both want and need and value independence. I skipped outings with students, frequented the gym less, shortened weekend work sessions at the expense of better lessons—you left your friends at the bar earlier, stopped writing and taking pictures, spent less time with your family. We both changed our sleep schedules and eating habits. And for a while we were happy together, I think we really were. But we also never actually asked the other one to do any of those things for us—we just made the sacrifices that we thought the other one wanted from us. And that’s when we lost ourselves in secret resentment, frustration, and the struggle of living our lives by someone else’s rules.
I went back recently and read some blog posts from the height of my travels. From days that I spent analyzing couples: mocking some couples’ reliance on one another and admiring others for having a type of loyal monogamy that I’d never had before. I questioned if I could do it—be in a relationship and also have the independence that I craved. I am now realizing just how difficult that balance is to maintain, how this may be the crux of the success of any relationship I’m ever in.
Given more time, more chances, more patience, I’m still not sure if we are actually right for each other. Our relationship will always be one of compromises, because both of our professions ask so much of us. But I think this is also why our lifestyles can complement each other—why it might even be easier to find that balance of independence and monogamy in each other than if we dated someone in our own industry. There is so much time hiding in between our schedules that we can take advantage of if we each allowed the other to add just a little bit of selfishness into our relationship.
I know that forgetting, starting over is easier for you. I never saw the complete pattern before now—that not only do you fall into monogamy quickly, but you also fall out just as fast. This is the opposite of me, and I know myself well enough to know that I will hold on to this for far too long. I tell myself that this is because I know there was something there—some indescribable connection between us that pulled us together in the first place and made us long for each other so deeply during those few months we spent together. I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I’m pretty sure—whatever it was—that is the thing I have always been looking for in a boy. And I wonder if—through the weeks we spent apart and the days we laid in bed, during the weekday date nights and errand-filled weekends—you felt it too.
I also know that we are at different points in our lives. I get that your livelihood hinges on your constant flirting with strangers, while mine hinges on getting a solid 7 hours of sleep every night. And I know that when I was a senior in college, the last thing on my mind was settling down. Even with someone who would help me clean out my garage, read ruminations about my dad, make chocolate chip pancakes on Sundays—someone who might actually be good for me in the long run.
I wonder what will come of this. If despite my best efforts to solve the puzzle, you have already thrown away the pieces. If your stubbornness will continue to rival mine. If this silence will outlast any possibility of reconciliation. If you have already forgotten.
I was at both my best and my worst when I was with you, something that I believe was also true for you. I have also been at both my best and my worst since we broke up, so maybe this has less to do with you than I think.