My boyfriend and I elected to split up recently. He was the first person I ever really loved who truly reciprocated my affections, and I don’t regret the time we’ve spent together. Jordan represented my first real adult relationship, and I’ve not only learned a lot about relationships but about myself over these past six years.
A little-known fact about me: I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. I live for those cheeseball unlikely-teen-love-story movies from the 80s, referring of course to classics like Sixteen Candles and Say Anything…, and I spent a lot of my life wistfully waiting for a Lloyd Dobler of my very own–a guy to come to my window at wee hours of the morning playing the latest pop-punk ballad (at that time, probably Fall Out Boy or something equally angsty) and confessing that I was the girl he’d been waiting for, that he understood me, that I wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.
Despite what you may believe, I didn’t garner much attention from the opposite sex growing up. I was an awkward, gangly teenager with braces and hair twice the size of my head. It would be YEARS before I discovered hair products, so I furiously tried to brush out my curls as evidenced by my horrifyingly hilarious sixth grade yearbook photo. I was also really into anime, and I played with Barbies until I was 13 years old. I didn’t get my first boyfriend until I was fourteen, and even then it didn’t feel natural. (History of our relationship: My friends bullied him into dancing with me at eighth grade prom, he signed my yearbook with a vague and subsequently overanalyzed sentiment, and we broke up over Yahoo! after three weeks. How romantic.) My group of friends continued to find relationships while I sat around quasi-dating a bunch of duds and pining for my shroom tea-drinking next door neighbor, hoping that one day he would notice me. (We kissed twice: once during a game of spin-the-bottle at a party and another time the day his girlfriend at the time cheated on him–the girl and I became pretty good friends, by the way. This one other time he let me borrow his book of poems for a theatre project I was working on. He also signed my yearbook in a very enigmatic way, leading me to believe that he might’ve had a fleeting crush on me at one point during our friendship. He married someone shortly after high school ended, it was all very anticlimactic.) At the tail end of high school, I eventually settled on a relationship with a guy who took my virginity in a traumatizing way and broke things off once he became too obsessive and began semi-stalking me.
Once I came to college, I was surprised at the number of guys who showed interest since the dudes at my high school didn’t even notice I existed. Still, I realized that the attention I was receiving was purely for physical merit (hey, I wasn’t necessarily opposed), and I longed for an adult relationship with someone that I could really share my hopes, dreams, fears, and other insights with. After a prior false-start with a long-distance relationship, I met Jordan.
We began dating when we were both 20, and we both grew a lot over the years, as is normal in your twenties, and we both underwent many changes in our time together: He got me my third cat as an early Christmas gift in 2009, which fueled my cat mania. He left his first band, Sequoyah Prep School, and began playing more seriously with other bands like Brave Baby and SUSTO. I changed my major like five times and eventually graduated with two BA’s in 2012. I cut off all of my hair shortly after graduation. He got really into Jurassic Park, which got me really into Jeff Goldblum. He helped me through the death of my grandparents. We moved into our first apartment together in 2013. We talked each other through various midlife crises and career changes, usually ending with me ugly-crying and him chain-smoking. We said hateful things to each other and often were annoyed at each other’s company. We moved into our second apartment in January. We’re expected out of said apartment by July 31. I was supportive through his mom’s cancer diagnosis and initial rounds of chemotherapy. I gained 40 pounds. He started drinking more. We celebrated five anniversaries and travelled to a lot of really cool places. We watched our friends get married and become parents. He began to prioritize his friendships, I began prioritizing sleeping to avoid how unhappy I was with my life. We fought about things ranging from my laundry scattered across the floor to his smoking habits and how we were going to move our relationship forward. We grew up faster than we realized, and before I knew it, we were both 26.
Not all stories have a happy ending, and unfortunately over the years, we discovered that our goals and dreams didn’t align the way I’d hoped. I always envisioned us building a future together: maybe moving to a larger metropolitan area and bouncing back and forth between somewhere like New York and Charleston, buying an apartment or house of our own, travelling the U.S. in a vintage Winnebago, maybe even one day retiring at a farm with our army of cats. What I didn’t realize in all of this dreaming, this planning, is that I’d essentially created an idea of a person without really taking into account his own thoughts for his future. He expressed to me in clear and relatively harsh terms that he didn’t want any of those things, and not surprisingly, I was taken aback. What do you MEAN you don’t want those things?! I thought to myself rather selfishly. We’ve been together for six years, where did you think this was headed?! Did you imagine that our relationship was going to stay the same?!
I guess I’d foolishly hoped that if we stayed together long enough, he may want to change his mind and follow suit; looking back, I was being unrealistic and supremely unfair, and so was he. Contrary to what those brat pack films taught me, love does not conquer all, and so we have been forced to go our separate ways.
Over these past few weeks, I’ve reflected on my early thoughts of love as demonstrated by John Hughes movies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that these films strategically portray a certain point in a relationship: the build-up. They illustrate how couples fall in love but never quite breech the experience of falling out of love with someone. For so long in my head, I idolized these movies without acknowledging the fact that the people portrayed were fucking teenagers, and the relationships were likely as short-lived as most of their careers. I was hoping to find my soulmate based off of this preconceived notion of what love was, not realizing that destiny is a farce and that real relationships sustain from hard work, honesty, understanding and compromise, among other attributes. Sometimes you can give your all, and it still doesn’t work out. People grow up, and sometimes they grow apart. That’s the reality.
People keep telling me that I’m brave for leaving a long-term relationship I’m unhappy in. Others have said that these past six years have been a waste of my time. I have to say I don’t agree with either of these sentiments. Being alone doesn’t need to be considered an act of bravery; dating someone you love for an extended period is never a waste of time, regardless of whether it works out or not. In some way, I’ll always care for Jordan and currently consider him my best friend, and I wish him the best in future endeavours; but, it’s time for both of us to move on and focus on being alone for a while.
For now, I need to focus on what I want out of life. It’s easy to lose who you are in a relationship, and the way it feels to be forcibly alone for the first time in six years is too weird to describe. I’ll be taking time for self-reflection, for planning, for learning, for creating, for dreaming. For posting more frequently to my blog as a means of catharsis. For trying things that scare the ever-loving shit out of me. For cat snuggles and rebuilding friendships that fell to the wayside. For making new friends and working on new projects. For working on that novel I’ve been putting off. For not making any more excuses. For figuring out what’s next. For believing in myself.
If I’ve learned anything over the last six years, it’s that your relationship doesn’t define who you are. It’s okay to be alone and want to pursue your passions, and it’s okay to admit that you’re not as happy as you thought you were. It’s okay for me to to be sad right now about my relationship ending, because I know I won’t be sad forever. It’s okay for me to be excited about new opportunities that may come my way even though Jordan is no longer a major part of my life. It’s okay for him to feel the same way. It’s okay for me to prioritize myself, for once.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that my life isn’t over just because my relationship is.
I know that each day, everything will get better, and that’s all that matters.