Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
The circumstances under which my last relationship ended were most unfortunate. For different reasons, we were both miserable for the last few months. I was in a place where I could barely articulate what I wanted for dinner, let alone my thoughts on the relationship. And while closure does not require the participation of the other party, it certainly makes it easier to achieve. For months afterwards, I regretted not having the opportunity to say a few things, so here goes:
- When I wanted a conversation, I received one-word answers.
- When I needed a confidante, you became a stranger.
- When I needed compassion, you judged me with silence.
- When I needed reassurance, you dismissed me with logic.
- When I was feeling small, you made me feel even smaller.
- You said that my being sick* had affected every aspect of your life. I’m sorry. It also affected every aspect of mine.
You said that when (not if) it recurred in the future, you could not deal with it if we had children. This was true. You weren’t dealing so well without children.
- Because of this last fact, you saw no point in continuing the relationship.
- You said you were not helping me get better. This was also true.
And with that, we were over. And I entered Phase One.
Phase One: It’s Me, Not You
I was full of blame and regret. Though I had always considered myself to have fairly healthy self-esteem, I became consumed by thoughts of “if only I was X, Y or Z” he would have treated me differently, appreciated me more, things would have worked out. I was not worth waiting for. I was damaged goods. Unsolicited, these thoughts occupied my mind in a loop; I was literally stuck trying to retroactively fix that which was already broken. These thoughts greeted me in the morning and tormented me at night for more weeks than I would care to admit. I built a pedestal and sat him atop of it, untouchable, idealized. As time passed, my thoughts started to shift (although Phase One would continue to make brief unannounced visits for several months) and flow into Phase Two.
Phase Two: It’s You, Not Me
I started to regain a little fire in my belly. It became so important to prove, if only to myself, that no matter what I did/didn’t do, or who I was, it was he who couldn’t be what I needed. He had admitted that he didn’t fulfill my emotional needs. In the diatribes I composed in my head, not only was this true, but it was tantamount to establish that he couldn’t fulfill the emotional needs of most women. Every time a friend would admit that he had seemed nice, if a little “cold,” I marked a point on my side of the mental chalkboard. I felt vindicated when a friend who had spent a weekend in his company observed: “he is a great guy with a lot of interests but there is no emotional depth there. He wants a long-term activity partner, not an intimate relationship.” There was emotional depth. Only it was so walled off, even to himself, that it rarely saw the light of day. I had some idea of this before we started dating, I just thought he would open up more as time went on. I repeatedly asked a mutual friend for reassurance that I hadn’t asked for or expected too much. After the millionth time, even the ever-patient T finally said, “No, you didn’t. I’m not having this ridiculous conversation anymore!” With some distance, I can now say that I did not ask for too much. In fact, I did not ask for enough. And that, is on me. Lesson learned.
Phase Three: It’s You and It’s Me
It wasn’t just Him and it wasn’t just Me. It was Him + Me. In the end, Him + Me did not work out. And that sucks. And it is sad. Because we had, at one time, both really wanted it to. We had made plans for the future, and those plans are often just as hard, if not harder to let go of, than the person themselves.
In the end, unintentionally (I hope), he made me feel like I was ‘good enough.’ And ultimately, that is not good enough for me. Nor should it be. For anyone.
I have come to learn that forgetting is active, not passive. That to let go, you have to create new memories in order to allow some of the painful ones to fade. To take back the activities, places, and jokes again. So that walking by a certain cafe or driving down a particular street no longer causes your stomach to churn. You drove down the street before this person and now you will do it again. It is a good road ahead. It’s true what they say, looking back too often will hurt more than just your neck.
*The mention of this is neither to place blame nor to gain sympathy. It was just the situation at the time. I am well now, in case you were wondering.