A friend of mine told me something as his father was falling ill:
"Health is happiness. People overcomplicate things. But it really is that simple.
Health. Is happiness."
We met at a time when we were both unhealthy.
That's what we keep telling ourselves, anyway.
Sometimes you fall out of love.
Sometimes they cheat and lie.
Sometimes you both just grow apart.
Sometimes your family and friends don't approve, or you have too many religious or political differences and not enough wiggle room.
Couples often break up because of something outside of (at least) one person's control. The evaporation of emotions, an action you cannot undo or forgive, something else.
It is sad, painful, and not at all easy to accept. But I think it’s a little easier to have something or someone to blame. You can point your finger at an outside force that invaded the love and broke the relationship apart. “Fuck this, fuck that, fuck her, fuck them - that's why we couldn't work it out.”
But what about couples who break up… because they choose to?
This is for the self-imposed star-crossed lovers.
This is for the ones who are still deeply in love and end the relationship by choice. The lovers who loved each other a little too much, with a love that was a little too big for two little people.
We needed to be healthy again.
We needed to sacrifice, to invest.
This one's for you, the brave, the selfless, the almost-masochistic but unimaginably noble lover.
This is our story.
Me. A textbook Scorpio, made even more volatile by a recent (and seemingly endless) series of unfortunate events, I had half a heart and zero mercy. Guarded, insecure, jaded. I needed affection. I wanted to be wanted. I needed someone to love me.
Him. A classic Peter Pan in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, with little ambition to pursue anything, and even less direction on what. Lost, uninspired, mindless. He needed purpose, to feel worthwhile. He needed someone to love.
Need I say more?
We devoted ourselves to each other, quickly and eagerly. But when you don't have much of yourself to begin with, and give like that, sooner than later, you run out...
Not out of the love. Out of you.
You run out of you.
Relationships, love, romance… It’s sweet for a reason. It's an indulgence.
We shared a love that was so beyond sugary, so grossly gluttonous, distracting from each of our individual lack of substance.
We only had each other. And each other wasn't much.
Have you ever been in love, but unhappy as hell? Yeah. That was us.
But neither of us knew how to say no.
We both admit that leaving our relationship was probably one of the most "adult" things we've done to date.
After overindulging in a love that neither of us deserved nor knew how to manage, after using it as an excuse out of self-improvement or self-confrontation, after fighting, crying, screaming, and nearly hating each other because we weren't happy with ourselves…
We came to accept that, right now, we just aren't good for each other. Or for anyone else, for that matter. Jeither of us started with enough substance nor balance, and ended up losing the little of ourselves we had while binging on the sprinkles off each other.
The confusing part about this, though, was that the love stayed as sweet as ever, despite the relationship growing sour.
Because the problem was never the love we had for each other. The problem was each other. Me. Him.
So we finally garnered some self control, (or did it just get too bad to ignore?) and quit the habit. Intentionally, consciously, self-administered.
choosing to break up was only the first step.
Going through with it… is
It'll be easy at first.
You’re both so sure of where and why you left. You trust in the love you shared so deeply. Your memories together are just as salient as the days you made them. Everything's still there, just without the motions of the relationship.
Then you see signs of their life – now a life without you. It stings to see them do things you used to share, but it stings even more to watch them do new things you never did together. You feel scared that they’re forming a life and identity separate from you. Foreign faces, unrecognizable settings…
But this was the point, you remind yourself. For both of you to grow. On your own.
You tell yourself to quit stalking like a creepy ex. Please, we're above that.
You talk here and there and even slip into old coupley habits. You call them "babe" and call them out of muscle memory. And if the opportunity is there, you end up having sex. Why not, right? The love is still there, it’d be so tragic not to express it! (Plus, you’re super horny.) You wonder if they started sleeping with anyone else. And it stings, yet again, to remember that this is none of your business.
Inevitably, those same habits get you both back into old, dangerous mindsets – the mindsets responsible for your downfall in the first place. You're overwhelmed by how real the pain is again, and remember all the reasons the breakup was necessary. Their shortcomings, your reactions… way too familiar. You haven't changed much, after all. Another fight is more than enough of a reminder not to go there again.
You try and cut contact completely.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Through it all, you miss them. You wonder if they miss you too.
They do. They do. He does. Right?
You talk to other people, and compare every impression, every conversation, every feeling to theirs. No one can compete – not because the new people aren't as great, but because your ex hasn’t faded quite enough for you to be able to see anyone else.
Still, you mess up. It’s not technically cheating, because you're not in a relationship anymore. But you do things like flirt or kiss or sleep with someone because, despite how you feel, you really want to feel something else… even just for a little bit. The empty space feels even emptier with someone else in it. You realize you cheated yourself.
You start to confront your thoughts and feelings instead. You talk to your friends. You journal. You take inventory of both of your strengths and weaknesses that the relationship revealed. You make a list of things to work on. You feel a little weird, like maybe you're only doing this so that they can see a better version of you – according to what they expressed was “better.” Those harsh words, those nagging criticisms. You get even more weirded out as you notice their habits and idiosyncrasies that you seem to have adopted during the relationship. You worry that you're becoming them, instead of a better version of you. You wonder if you rubbed off on them too, at least a little. The good parts, you hope.
The temptation to reach out decreases, but you still think of them.
Every moment. Every other moment. Every 10 moments.
You find yourself forgetting.
So many sweet memories. So many inside jokes. So many stolen kisses and an embrace that felt like home. They all feel a bit strange now, like it happened in a different lifetime. To a different you.
You grasp for those memories with frantic hands. Please come back, please stay. You look through old pictures. Re-read your conversations. It was here. It was real. We were... You keep fighting to keep them around.
But they're slipping. And you wonder if you're slipping from them, too.
This is what it's like to be in love, but not in a relationship.
After a breakup where there is a definite something else to blame, you have an obvious mission: Get over them. Move on. Be happy on your own.
But when the feelings are still so alive, you both just end up play tug-of-war with love and loss.
It's ironic and bittersweet and everything contradictory.
But that was the deal we made with each other, darling. A deal born from a promise that each of us made to ourselves.
Who knows. Maybe in a few years we'll find each other again.
But that's an idea neither of us should be focusing on.
There's too much to do, too much to create, too much in life we can't say no to…
For two people to truly love each other is such a rare and beautiful occurrence, it seems tragic – downright wrong – for our relationship to not have a complete or even a partial "yes."
But it's even more tragic when a "yes" is premature and ends up becoming a "never."
So we say "maybe."
I know he loves me. More than anything.
And I know I love him. More than ever.
And right now,
is all I need.
After all. I have me.
(Starting to, anyway.)
Be healthy, lovers. It's really the only way.