I’ve been wanting to write this for the past few years, but I’ve always been wary of other people’s reactions. People seem to get all hot & bothered when you mention your past. It’s like they think I love Graham less if I ever bring up the fact that I didn’t live in a convent before I met him, which is annoying. Out of the thousands of photos I have on Facebook, I literally have one of my ex-boyfriend (and it’s just half of his face). It’s a picture of him and a cat that has since passed away. I was once told I needed to delete it, because Graham may feel bad.
I refused. Graham knows that I have a past, and he appreciates that my past has made me into the person I am today. So, seven years later, I’m going to write this post. Someone in my life who I love very much is going through a difficult time. I doubt they’ll ever read this, but I’m putting it out there anyway.
Monday, May 5, 2008. It started out as a special day, only because it the first day of finals. I went into exam week with a 4.0 GPA, while taking 21 hours, including my senior thesis. I was (and still am) incredibly proud about that semester. All weekend long I had said “I’m going into finals with straight A’s, and if anything screws that up, I will be PISSED”. So, of course that’s the PERFECT time for my boyfriend of 5+ years to end things with a phone call. Seriously. I remember the days leading up to our break-up very clearly, more than the rest of the relationship. I remember standing in the kitchen of his house on Friday night, talking about the changes we would make once we moved in together. I remember chatting on IM Sunday night about things we wanted to do over the summer. He was graduating that week, and I had one semester left, so this was the “last” summer free of any real responsibility that we’d ever had. Then, Monday night he calls & breaks up with me.
Lesson #1: People can be cruel & heartless. He had once told me he couldn’t stand to see girls cry, so he took the cowards way out. I had never experienced that level of callousness until that moment, and it changed the way I looked at the world.
I felt a lot of things in the days following. I was shocked, stunned, sad, angry, hurt, etc. But the thing that I felt the most was lost. We had planned on spending the rest of our lives together, and I had zero idea what the hell I was supposed to do next.
One thing I did do, was give myself a mourning period. I know that may sound silly, since a person didn’t die, but something else did: the life that I had planned. That mourning period was the best thing I could have possibly done for myself. I pulled myself together for a few days, made it through exams, and then took the next week off. Originally, he and I were going to go to the beach with his family the following week, and since I already had the week off from work, I took it. I spent the week lounging around the house. I read, I watched TV, I wallowed in self pity. My step dad asked me how long I was going to mope, and I gave him a definite answer. I was going to mope till Sunday, and then I was going to put my big girl panties on and get on with things. Summer classes started on Monday, I went back to work on Monday, and I couldn’t afford to be pathetic any longer.
Lesson #2: Take time for yourself. Eat ice cream (or in my case, don’t eat at all & lose 10 lbs). Watch cheesy soap operas. Read X-Files fanfiction. Whatever. Just take that time for yourself to grieve what you’ve lost.
Once I started my new routine, I flourished. I had feared that summer would be the worst of my life, but in all honesty, it was one of the best (the best summer of my life would be the next one). For the first time in five years, I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and it was glorious. He and I were very unsocial. We spent most of our evenings lounging around, him watching TV & me doing homework. We were in the most boring routine ever. Our date nights were always Texas Roadhouse, and we were just incredibly comfortable & boring. That summer would mark a lot of big changes for me. 1) I got in the best shape of my life. When I was in high school, I was skinny. I fluctuated between a size 4 & 6. That summer I went from a size 12 to a size 8. So while I wasn’t as skinny as I used to be, I was strong. I went to the gym 4-5 times a week. I spent hours on the elliptical, the treadmill, lifting weights, and even taking group exercise classes. I did Body Pump with my friends Heather & Megan. And while I hated every second of Body Pump, the results were amazing. 2) I started trying new things. I’ve never been much of a drinker, but my friends and I started going for martinis at Therapy. Heather introduced me to sushi (for which I will ALWAYS be grateful). I started reading the Harry Potter series. 3) I developed new relationships & cultivated old ones. Once we broke up, I was terrified of being alone. All of my friends were in relationships, and two of my friends were engaged. Saturdays were lonely, because everyone else was on dates, but other than that one night, I never felt lonely. I was more social that summer than I ever have been, and part of that included dating again. I was terrified that if I waited too long to put myself back on the dating scene, I would be too scared to do it. So, I signed up for eHarmony. I wasn’t looking for a husband, or even a relationship. I just wanted to go on dates & meet people. And that’s exactly what I did. I went on dates with 3-4 guys over the next couple of months. None of them were worthy of a second date, but going on those dates was better for my confidence than anything else I could have possibly done.
Lesson #3: Stay busy. I don’t mean busy yourself with reading or watching TV. STAY BUSY. (FYI: This is very good advice for surviving a deployment too…) Go to the gym, hang out with friends, take a class, do something. Just don’t sit around the house. That leads to moping, crying, Facebook stalking, etc.
My relationship with him was done on May 5, 2008. Even though I was lonely at times, I knew that it was done, and there was no going back. I remember saying to a friend that he could come back and beg me to get back together, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would say no. We were done. After May 5, we communicated only a couple of times. One night that first week, we chatted on IM, just out of habit. But after that, we never actually conversed again. Months later, I sent him a rambling Facebook message with everything I needed to get off my chest, but I had no desire to actually talk to him. What was the point? What good would come from continuing to talk and be a part of each others lives, even though part of me wanted to. For five years, he had been more than my boyfriend – he had been my best friend, my confidant, my companion. And when we broke up, I lost all of that. But the bigger part of me knew that we could never be friends. We were never purely platonic friends to begin with, and we couldn’t become friends after what we had been to each other.
Lesson #4: Sever all ties of communication. This may be the hardest thing to do, but it’s the most important for survival. Especially if you weren’t the one to end the relationship. If you were the dumpee, not the dumper, being in communication with them is always going to give you a little bit of hope that things may eventually work out. It needs to be a clean break. Block them, unfriend them, unfollow them, delete them, whatever. It needs to be done with.
Once I had survived the summer, I spent the next few months focusing on my last semester of school. I didn’t date much, simply because I didn’t have the time. But I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted in future relationships. People say they have a list of what they want, and they usually mean an internal list. I actually had a physical list (and Graham actually meets every single item on that list), and I refused to settle for less than I knew I deserved. While my ex & I had a lot of good times over those 5+ years we spent together, we also had bad ones. As far as I know, he never cheated on me, but he lied to me to a lot. I never told anyone, because I knew what people would say, and honestly, I didn’t have the courage to end it. We came VERY close to breaking up around the three year mark, after his ex-girlfriend emailed me some things she thought I should know. But I couldn’t go through with it. I was scared of being alone. I didn’t want to have wasted three years of my life and have nothing to show for it. So, I stayed & let him continue to lie to me about stupid things that weren’t worth lying about. Once we broke up, in the words of an old country song, “my give a damn’s busted”. I changed. I stopped being a people pleaser. I stopped worrying about making other people happy at the expense of my own happiness. I was more honest with everyone (including myself) about what I was thinking, feeling, and what I wanted (in every aspect of my life, which is annoying to some people). I refused to settle. I even turned a guy down for a date once, after he texted me “what R U doing 2nite?” (Excellent grammer is one of the top 5 reasons I was initally attracted to Graham.) I was 25, and wasn’t getting any younger. I knew I wanted to get married someday, and I wasn’t prepared to waste time on a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.
Almost a year to the date of my break-up with him, Graham & I reconnected. He walked into the bar where my friends & I were, and when I saw him, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Despite the stresses of the military, our relationship is everything I had ever hoped for. He challenges me, respects me, is completely honest with me, and loves me unconditionally. I’m not trying to be braggy, I’m just trying to express that there is someone out there that is perfect for you.
Lesson #5: Dating sucks, but don’t settle. Know what you want, and wait for it. Settling for someone who is not what you want, just because you don’t want to be alone is just begging for unhappiness. Life is short. I knew within a few minutes of a date if it had the potential to lead somewhere. If I knew that it didn’t, I didn’t waste my time with a second date.
I think that’s it. This is probably the longest, most personal post I’ve ever written.