We Broke Up
A tale of conscious uncoupling.
This may be one of the most painful posts I’ve had to write. But it’s important to get it out.
My relationship of 6.5 years ended on July 7th, 2021.
We were engaged for over half of that time, and this year we tried to move to the next level.
But if you’ve ever gambled and lost, then you know sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you hope.
To give you the most accurate retelling, I have to start at the beginning.
How We Met
It was on an app called Whisper…
Don’t judge. People meet where they meet. And creepers gonna creep no matter where they are.
I made a post about the type of guy I think is cute and he responded with a chat.
We chatted on Whisper for a few days before becoming Facebook friends. After a month, we scheduled our first Skype date.
We did everything right during that first year. We Skyped and FaceTimed a few times a week before making plans to meet each other in person.
However, there was one obstacle… he lived in England, I in the United States.
We were in our late teens and early twenties, respectively. Neither of us had great jobs, and I was an aspiring singer-songwriter with a lot to prove.
Needless to say, our friends and families weren’t taking our relationship seriously at this point.
We tried to work around it, and my fear of losing it made me cling to it pretty hard.
Looking back on it now, it contributed to my reluctance to reach out for advice whenever we had a disagreement.
It would always be the same — “You know you’re not gonna marry this guy, right?”
“Long-distance is hard. Are you sure you want to do this?”
I felt like my concerns went unanswered, whether I voiced them or not. I imagine he might have gone through something similar.
The challenges of that year would definitely influence how we moved through the rest of the relationship.
The First Visit and Beyond
My father and I fought pretty badly a week before B (let’s call him that from now on) came to visit for the first time.
I still lived with my parents, but B had gotten a steady job and saved the money to book flights and a hotel for himself. My plan was to stay with him while he was here.
(I didn’t need my parents’ help to get around — I had a valid driver's license and a car — so I didn’t see a problem with this.)
Other than wanting to meet him face-to-face (like I did), I didn’t understand what my dad wanted from me… except the end of my relationship. Which wasn’t going to happen.
I was 21 years old with my own means of travel. As long as I didn’t violate their boundaries with their property, my destinations were my own business.
Also, B and I had done everything right up to now. He’d tried on different occasions to talk to my parents so they wouldn’t be concerned about meeting him in person.
He also gave all the details of where he’d be staying so they knew where I’d be while he was here. His family had more to worry about than mine did.
But my father wasn’t satisfied because he’d already decided he didn’t approve.
He did everything just shy of saying what he actually wanted, which was to forbid me from seeing B at all.
He just progressivley took “privileges” away from me — my privilege to live in his house at the top of the list.
I stood my ground. Not just for the relationship, but for my future decisions. If being myself got me kicked out, so be it. I would survive.
Thankfully, it all resolved itself in the end. I got to stay with B and still had a place to live.
But now, all my existing insecurities were augmented by the precarious nature of our long-distance relationship.
Every time B and I argued I was afraid to ‘complain’ about it to anyone else.
As much as I loved B, there was a part of me that always questioned what we were fighting for.
It wasn’t reasonable, but the fear was there all the same.
We had so many good times: B’s trips to the U.S., my trips to Greater London, our trips to other countries (Cape Verde, Wales, and Morocco).
I’m grateful for every experience, but still, we’re only human.
We held a lot of things in, most likely out of fear of upsetting the other. As well as the looming fear of our friends’ and families’ opinions.
Fast-forward to 2020–2021
By the Summer of 2020, the semi-annual visits between B and I had become hard to maintain.
COVID-19 had us both working from home. National travel was (or should have been) discouraged.
So forget international travel — that was pretty much prohibited.
We panicked. Now was the time. One of us had to make the move.
His income was better, so I would be the one to quit my job and join him. I applied for a Fiancée Visa and got the ball rolling.
I couldn’t tell you the exact date the Visa came back, but by Christmas of 2020, we knew we had until August 1st, 2021, to seal the deal.
This looming date exposed issues we’d managed to sweep under the rug for years.
We both hoped the other would “change”; that somehow they’d miraculously want to “fix” themselves for the other person.
The whole thing was precarious from the beginning. We just wouldn’t admit it.
The Last Straw
Flowers. The fight was about flowers.
Dumb, right? Especially since B and I agreed we didn’t want a “wedding”, just a civil ceremony.
But unfortunately, it wasn’t about the flowers. It was about boundaries, or the lack thereof. We both came from families with strong personalities, and making them respect our own boundaries was exhausting.
Getting them to respect our new boundaries with our intended was even harder.
It was about feeling disrespected and unsupported in your own home (which we both felt).
Too many underlying problems and too little time to address them. And we couldn’t make the other person willing or able to address their part in it before the Big Day.
It would only make us hate each other.
A Mutual Decision
It didn’t start as a break-up.
We spent a night apart; B went to his mom’s house and I slept on our couch.
(I never liked sleeping in the bed while he was away.)
But the next day, he came home and sat me down. “We need to talk.”
The last thing we wanted to do was hurt each other, but that’s why this was necessary.
I was pissed. I glared at him with tears in my eyes and told him it felt like my own efforts hadn’t been reciprocated.
I knew it hurt him. It must have. But I didn’t care.
He offered to stay in case I didn’t want to be alone in the flat. **TW: it’s because I have a history of suicidal ideation**.
But I didn’t want him near me. And I told him as much.
So he went back to his mother’s house for the night.
At some point I called him to tell him he should have left me alone. I was referring to the first year of our relationship while still doing the long-distance thing.
This, too, was meant to hurt him (the way I felt he was hurting me). No matter how many times he told me after that my reaction was “justified”, I don’t accept it. My cruelty in those moments will probably haunt me forever.
I didn’t smash anything, but I did take all the pictures down, including a collage of photos he’d made of both our families.
Then I cried. A lot.
I called my friends and cursed him out behind his back. I whinged to my parents about how unfair this was.
Once I’d gotten over the initial anger, however, I began to reflect: how many times had I resented my relationship for “tying me down”?
With the change of location came the desire to try new things. I began to explore the possibility of studying music again, but this time at an English conservatoire.
I sought them out, researched their audition requirements, started curating my vocal repertoire to said requirements…
But it would cost money. And since a music degree is such a risky investment, I never wanted anyone — not my parents nor my partner — to feel pressured to help me pay for it.
So I knew I’d be solely responsible for funding my education while simultaneously contributing to the household; we couldn’t afford to live on his income forever.
Would I have the energy to do all of this? Maybe. But I would be resentful the entire time. I know myself too well to think I wouldn’t be.
It wouldn’t have been fair to B, or our future children (since we both wanted them).
I still needed the freedom to try for my dreams without the pressures of family life…
That’s when I knew B had made the right choice for both of us.
I messaged him to tell him as much. I told him I hoped we could eventually be friends.
He responded that he hoped for the same, and that he’d be home the next day to help me pack and make amends.
The day before I left (ironically, it was also the day before we were meant to get married) he returned to the flat like he promised.
We had some of the easiest conversations we’ve had in years.
Seriously, it felt like two old friends catching up. We’d spent so long fighting to be together I think we forgot what it was like just to enjoy the other person’s company.
Things that usually put us on the defensive didn’t raise our hackles.
We could breathe.
The saddest part, of course, was that we only had the day to enjoy this. I’d be leaving England the next morning, possibly for good.
We both made it clear we still loved each other, which made the separation all the more heartbreaking. But that’s also why it had to end when it did.
This way, neither of us would grow to hate the other. Our relationship could remain 6.5 years well spent by two people who loved each other and genuinely tried to make it work.
It didn’t work out the way we’d hoped, but the love hasn’t gone anywhere. It just needs to evolve.
I’m still mourning the loss of the relationship I knew. I’m certain he is, too. But I’m also hopeful for the love we still have.
Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.