Over the past two months, I have been analyzing the breakdown of a four-year relationship.
Last night, I sat up in bed thinking, and damn it, I was mad. Why wasn't he “the one?” The one I had read about in countless books and seen played out in movies? I spent almost 20 percent of my life with this person, and it's hard not to see that time as wasted now. I realize I'm not alone in this, either.
Plenty of relationships break down in the transition period between college and post-college.
It's a period in life that's usually riddled by indecision, change and, most importantly, love. So have I cracked the code as to why I felt the need to stay in this relationship? Maybe.
First, I will start with why I stayed, and then how I realized he wasn't "the one."
How does any relationship begin? With initial attraction and the honeymoon stage. You can't explain it, but you two just somehow click. I thought no one could match my passions, which range from sustaining the environment to scarfing burritos, while simultaneously handling the ongoing ramblings of my brain.
He changed my mind, though, in one of our first conversations. He freely talked about conservation, and eventually wanting a home powered by solar energy in the future because it was better for the environment and reduced utility costs (which also incidentally leads to more money for burritos).
Before we had finished the conversation, I was dreaming of a two-bedroom sustainable bungalow in northern Vermont somewhere. In short, I thought I had met my match right there and then.
His eyes would light up when I talked about my passions, and he had a new question every time I answered. One of the most wonderful parts of a relationship is discovering your mutual interests and developing mutual passions -- whether it's painting, rock climbing or cooking together.
Once you eventually find those mutual passions, it begins to feel comfortable.
The comfort stage
Every relationship has at least a few elements that are predictable, which make it feel safe and comfortable. You text him "good morning!" and he texts you "goodnight!" You learn to read the emotions on their face that explain the words that are hard to say.
You know their schedule, and what to expect out of your week, whether it's Taco Tuesdays at the local dive bar or a family beach trip in the summer. Your music tastes sync, and a specific song or artist can take you back to a specific time or place in your relationship. But just when you start to feel comfortable...
The drama sucks you in.
There's a saying that goes, "you can't see the forest for the trees," which I identify strongly with this after evaluating the timeline of my relationship.
First of all, I had never been in a serious relationship with anyone before. The first of many breakups came less than a year into the relationship, after an emotional discretion on his part.
Here's the thing, though: The valleys of our relationship made me want the peaks so much more. Anyone who has been in this type of relationship can tell you how hard it is to separate yourself from someone who has grown to be your friend and lover. Then, as things are good, you learn more about them as ...
His family becomes yours.
One of the most interesting parts of a relationship is seeing how you fit in with his family. Many times you hear the horrors of someone not being able to fit in or, even worse, hating their significant other's family.
That wasn't the case with Max*. When I was with his family, I felt like a part of the family and got along with everyone. Having those people in my life felt like an extension of my own family, and made the prospect of letting go so much harder than I anticipated.
I wasn't losing one person; I would lose six people who I genuinely cared for, and still care for. So, you're wondering, what was the build up to the end? It pretty much happened because I ...
Began to avoid all conflict.
Growing up, all my parents did was fight. Or at least to the point where I specifically remember writing in my diary that, "I wish they would just divorce." I had no concept at the time that around 40 to 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce or what my parents were going through at the time.
Regardless, it left me with the deep desire for harmony, not just in familial relationships, but also in my love life. I didn't speak up when something bothered me or I felt insulted. I internalized it and blamed myself for actions that were well beyond my control.
This internalized hate led to some serious problems with self-love, and I sometimes wondered what the point of it all was. I can't say there was a specific time when I realized Max wasn't "the one," which is a real buzzkill to this article. Or that I really even believe in someone being "the one."
From my experience, putting someone on a pedestal only puts stress on the relationship. What I can tell you is that sometimes you really need to listen to your head instead of your heart. I felt a heaviness in my head and my heart. If you start thinking, "I deserve better than this," chances are …
You probably do deserve better.
The slow decay of my relationship led to some serious resentment on both sides. Neither of us said what we meant or what we felt, and that is just plain unhealthy.
When someone puts down your dreams and goals, and then promptly tells you why theirs would be successful, and not yours, it needs to end. When they can't say they want to be with you, and only you, it needs to end. When you start wondering, "Is this normal?," it needs to end.
If you're reading this because you're thinking about breaking it off with a significant other but are afraid, I know it's hard to imagine that it will be okay, ever. I'm here to tell you that it will be.
I moved to a new city, got a new apartment and a new car and now I am seeing other people. I am rediscovering who I am without him. I am laughing deeper than I have in months. I am learning to love myself again. And you will, too.
So don't be afraid. You too will find someone new who is just as weird as you are and likes to talk about sustainable homes and eat burritos late at night. They won't be the same as your ex, and that will be for the best.
Remember, life is too short for a half-full love.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.