I’ve made much of my desire to keep everyone I’ve ever loved in my life, no matter what. It is one of the most unique things about me, although I only started to realize that relatively recently.
In the spirit of that, on Saturday I decided to see someone I haven’t seen in 3 months, an ex-boyfriend of mine who I had dated earlier this year but also one of my best friends. I heard he had a new girlfriend and I was upset for two reasons – one, because he doesn’t enter into relationships easily or frequently so therefore I had thought I was special, and two, because I was afraid that this would mean I’d lose him permanently.
I disappeared 3 months ago because I didn’t feel like I was always being treated with respect and sensitivity, and I realized that I needed some time to try to get over him, or I risked ruining our friendship.
The outcome I predicted was this: He would be hurt at first, and he would miss me. He would either miss me so much that he would realize he wanted to be with me after all, or he would come to understand why I did what I did and give me the time I needed because it was what was best for me (and us). Either way, I thought that I could come back when I was ready and he would be so happy to see me again. I even fucking thought he might eventually be proud of me for finally taking care of myself.
Needless to say, it didn’t go that way. I don’t think my expectations were unrealistic, though he would say they were. Based on our friendship, in which we talked every single day and saw each other several times a week, I thought that at the very least he loved me as a person. And for me, love does not end. Ever. I’ve also been in similar situations before where either I or the other person was totally understanding.
But he told me that I’m no longer important to him and that he no longer really cares about me. He told me that he didn’t miss me when I was gone, and that once he found out how hurt I had been by some of his actions he missed me even less. He told me that he didn’t want to spend time with me and that his new girlfriend deserved most of his time (as if I, who got him through the first half of 2015, didn’t deserve any). When I protested, he relented a little and said that maybe we could still go climbing together. I said that that was nothing (especially since I knew he only said that because he can’t find another partner) and he said that was all we ever did anyway, and that is so far from the truth that I would have laughed if it wasn’t so fucking sad.
I sent him a letter a few weeks after I left to try to explain. Initially, my emotions were so jumbled I had no way of putting them into words, but as soon as I was able to I felt like he was owed something, at least.That letter took me a week to write, at least, and the process was arduous and full of tears and memories that I didn’t care to relive. He didn’t even read half of it.
He missed the most important part (not to mention the list of terrible jokes I ended with), so I tried to reiterate it even though I was crying. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just copy from the original:
Believe me, this decision does not make me happy. I know that it won’t. It’s only been a month but I miss you like hell. My life is worse off without you in it. I miss your terrible but secretly really amazing jokes and the fact that we could just chill and watch tv together and climbing and your middle of the night texts and snapchats and sports news and laughing at people on the subway.
I just don’t know what else to do. Because aside from you not feeling the same way about me romantically, you don’t respect me the way I respect you. And that was the real root of my problems with [x].
I know every situation is different, but I’m so scared of watching us fall apart the way he and I did, because when I think about that year, all I feel is regret and everything looks violent and sad and scary and bloody. And it kind of ruined all of our good memories.
I’m hoping that if I walk away now while things are still actually pretty good, those memories will be intact, and maybe one day we can be friends again…Maybe if I give it some time, I’ll fall out of love with you and you’ll gain more respect for me.
…Know that I love you and I miss you, and I hope that you’re happy, whatever you do. You have great ideas and I hope that you pursue them. Remember that you deserve success and I believe in you.
I genuinely thought that the decision I made was the best thing I could do for myself, but I also thought it might be the best for us, because I didn’t want to be a negative presence in his life, and I felt like that’s what I would inevitably become if I didn’t take a time out.
He looked at me like he just wished I would stop talking and ESPECIALLY that I would stop crying so he could go home.
Several months ago, after we broke up, we had a talk about why the hell he wanted to be such close friends but not actually date, because that’s weird. Even for me. I felt like we were still basically dating except without the ‘fun stuff’. During that conversation he said that he wanted to be a better friend to me than he was a boyfriend, and in terms of emotional supportiveness I think he definitely succeeded there. I said that I was almost afraid to be friends because it was unsustainable – as soon as he got a new girlfriend, he would forget about me. He said he wouldn’t do that.
And now, I found myself saying, “I didn’t come here to tell you to break up with your new girlfriend. I just came here to say, please don’t forget about me.”
The best I got from him was that he would try to find some way to spend time with me that would please everybody (not sure who ‘everybody’ is, considering that his new girlfriend doesn’t care). I knew he didn’t want to, and he said it so reluctantly you would have thought I was torturing him.
But I’m not sure I want that. Is nothing better than something? Than taking anything I can get?
I left it open-ended. I said, “I want you to be happy, and if that means without me, okay.” I walked home crying until I jumped on the subway when I was halfway there because I felt like I only had a certain amount of time until I walked into oncoming traffic, and I wouldn’t make it home in time otherwise. He probably went home to his new girlfriend, and they probably did the same things we used to except he probably had more fun with her, and she probably slept where I used to sleep and he probably felt relieved.
As with all my posts these days, this one was also inspired by some piece of media I came across. It was a post on Tumblr that said, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”* That is exactly why I keep every single person around that I possibly can, even if they have hurt me in the past – because they make me glad to be alive.
He certainly used to make me glad to be alive. Those memories make me glad to be alive. But does he make me glad to be alive now?
Well, given that just a few days ago I thought it might be better to walk into oncoming traffic than think about how he had just treated me, I’m guessing not really.
Maybe one day our feelings will change, but for now, maybe I should accept the fact that HE has become a negative presence in my life, because every time I look at him I remember that he doesn’t believe that I was worth trying to work on our relationship, that he looked at me as we were in bed together and thought “nope”. I’ve been fighting those thoughts ever since we broke up and I was able to do it most of the time when we were friends, but now I don’t think I could. Now I have the added burden of knowing that he no longer cares about me in any meaningful way. Sure, we could go climbing together and I can trust him to not drop and kill me, and we can joke around but underneath the surface we will both know that truth.
I loved him for just letting me be me and never making me feel like I had to apologize for anything, but now I would never be able to truly be myself, because part of who I am is a person who loves him, and he doesn’t want me to do that.
I never thought that I would choose to have LESS time with him. The entire time I’ve known him I’ve tried to be fully present in every moment because I’ve always had this thought of “What if this is our last good day?” while simultaneously hoping with every fibre of my being that it’s not, because I want every moment I can possibly get.
But I think that any day we spend together from here on out will not be a good day. Our last good day was July 31st. It has already happened. The best thing I can do for myself now is exactly what I set out to do in the first place – preserve those good memories and don’t ruin them more than they already have been.
He’s defined my entire 2015, but it’s time to find new things that make me glad to be alive. Because I would hate for my 2016 to be defined by the absence of him.
Despite not actually knowing him for very long, he legitimately gave me some of the best memories of my life and it’s easy to dismiss them as invalid now because of what’s happened. But I don’t think that’s fair to either of us.
He can tell me he didn’t miss me and that he doesn’t care all he wants, but I know that I hurt him by walking away. There’s no way in hell he would act this way if I didn’t. That would just be a waste of energy. And I know that it doesn’t matter to him how good my reasons were. I abandoned him, I disappeared and that is all that matters to him. I understand that to some degree. I think it shocked him that I was capable of that, just like it shocked me that day that he was capable of those words.
He would rather that I had stayed, seen what ended up happening – maybe we would have ended up fighting, but maybe not. He doesn’t think we would have.
I feel like he just tossed me out a window (or defenestrated me as he would say), but to him maybe it seems like I did the same thing. I can definitely see how it would without the last page or two of that letter.
To him, I did this all to myself. I turned him into this.
Maybe I did. So I’m sorry for disappearing. I should have been braver. I should have talked to him. I should have seen if we could work it out, the way I wish he had done several months earlier instead of automatically breaking up with me. I guess this is my version of that. Maybe things would have been different. Maybe at the very least he wouldn’t have forgotten about me and he would have made good on his promises.
But there’s no point in living in a world of ‘maybe’s. There’s no point in reminding myself of my shortcomings and mistakes every time he’s around. And ultimately, if our relationship had become that fragile, on both sides, is it worth trying to keep?
In his mind perhaps we are even now, and I might agree if it weren’t for the fact that now I know that he didn’t even try to understand how I felt. He didn’t care. But all I’ve ever done is try to understand him, and this will never not look like a tragedy to me. I will never not miss what we had. He’s forgotten me and what we were like, but I will never forget how glad he made me to be alive.
I apologize for the length of this post, and if you actually read the entire thing thank you very much. I realize that this could be like three regular length posts. I have some more relatable/interesting posts lined up in the coming weeks, I just wanted to get this out there first and foremost because this is what I’ve been going through.
I was lucky enough to attend the Mental Health Commission of Canada Consensus Conference on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults (seriously, who named this thing) so I’ll definitely be writing about that. I have some thoughts to share particularly about the divide between young people and older people. I’d also like to start doing reviews of some mental health related books I’ve enjoyed recently. Maybe one day move on to other types of media too.
I also just want to say thank you to Melissa, Charlotte, Mitch and my brother for taking care of me in the 24ish hours after this situation happened. Thank you for keeping me company and giving me perspective. I truly do not think that I would be okay right now without you.
*I later found out this quote is apparently from Hafiz, a Persian poet from the 1300s.
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.