At this point, the Urban Dater has been around long enough to see many a relationship come and go. Our many contributors have covered the ins and outs of breaking up from nearly every angle. And now, it’s time for me to throw my breakup on top of the pile.
Last time I was here, I shared some stream of consciousness drivel (I AM NOT LINKING YOU BECAUSE I AM TOO EMBARRASSED); that seems to be my jam these days (hell, if you want a taste, go check out the Tumblr I’ve been word-vomiting all over). Although I’m typically loath to discuss intimate details of my personal life and relationships, particularly those that are painful, it doesn’t seem right to constantly watch brave, dear Alex bare his soul and not bare a little of mine, too.
No matter how different the breakup, the rhythm of recovery always feels the same. In the end, most psychic pain is a form of grief. For anyone who has said goodbye enough times, moving through the five stages becomes almost tedious. It’s emotional processing by rote. It becomes a muscle memory.
What stands out about how this particular relationship ended is that there was no one to blame. Neither of us screwed up. Neither of us betrayed each other. It didn’t end because either of us did something bad. A former version of myself would never have believed it, but this is infinitely more difficult than a turbulent, heart-wrenching spilt. No matter who is at fault, when someone is at fault, it all makes sense.
Wrapping my head around the loss seems so much more complicated when it all should have worked, but didn’t. On paper, my ex and I make perfect sense. Interpersonally, even more so. Everyone in our respective lives loves the both of us; our families and friends thought we were perfect for one another. Since the beginning, the friendship we developed alongside our romance has been fantastically deep and enduring, filled with boundless affection, compassion, and humor. We share similar values and ultimately want many of the same things. Everything about this should work.
And yet, here we are. It doesn’t work. During our breakup, I kept going back to this old Dear Sugar column, reading it over and over again, using it as a salve for my doubt in the wake of the end.
But there was in me an awful thing, from almost the very beginning: a tiny clear voice that would not, not matter what I did, stop saying go.
Go, even though you love him.
Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you.
Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.
Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.
Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.
Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.
Go, even though you once said you would stay.
Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.
Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.
Go, even though there is nowhere to go.
Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.
Go, because you want to.
Because wanting to leave is enough
One night, in a post-breakup wine-stained haze, I took a sharpie and wrote the last two lines above on my right thigh.
Being that I’m part of the Urban Dater, I read a lot of writing on dating, relationships, and sex. There’s a ton of advice out there on how we should play it right, deal with dating and relationships pitfalls, and how to cultivate successful relationships. One of the major selling points of online dating is each site’s matching algorithm; sharing a high match percentage can make the heart of any overeager single flutter.
People are not numbers. Interpersonal interaction cannot be quantified. Chemistry is ineffable. In the end, even a relationship that is done The Right Way by both parties can still be ill-fitting. Maybe all this hand-wringing we do over how to get what we want is silly business. Like with anything, success has a lot to do with luck, and as much as we can make ourselves ready for the opportunity should it present itself, we cannot force it.
Leaving a very comfortable but ultimately unfulfilling relationship was terrifying. Hell, it still is terrifying. Knowing what I want for the future while also knowing that there are no guarantees, and that hey, I may look back on this in ten years and ask myself if it really needed to end…holding these thoughts is not easy. The best I can do is make decisions based on the information I have at the time, and move forward to make my life as wonderful as it should be. If I find someone who decides to come along for the long ride, I’ll consider myself lucky. Good fortune is the main factor I could never control but will always be grateful to receive.
There’s no expert on this. There’s no advice that will solve the problem, or make the right relationship magically happen. There is no Right Way, even though for the longest time I convinced myself that there had to be. For the analytical fools, for those of us who intellectualize our every waking moment, it's a hard lesson to learn: There's no formula, and that's okay. We will be okay. I will be okay.