Once upon a time I was in a relationship for three years. The first half was great. The last half was a slow deterioration that in hindsight was much more drawn out and painful than it needed to be. Most of the heartache could have been avoided if only I had been willing to face the truth instead of burying it over and over again.
I won’t bore you with the initial love story of how we met and moved in together. For the sake of time, let’s begin where it all started to fall apart. We decided to pick up sticks and move to New York City. (Please note this I my version, and I am happy to admit and honor that my former partner would see it differently)
Shortly before we made the big move, my boyfriend sat me down and suggested he go to New York alone (A.K.A. “I think we should break up.”) He revealed a number of things about the relationship that were not working for him. I burst into tears and said that I loved him and wanted to go with him and I would be a better girlfriend and work on all the things that he wanted me to.
Buried Truth #1
The real reason I wanted to go with him was that I was a burnt-out pet sitter with no exit strategy for my business. I was drowning, and I thought running away to New York with someone I knew and trusted was the life raft I need to carry me to dry land.
We got to New York, and settled in. There were many fun moments exploring, but there were lots of stressful and difficult moments too. I set out right away to find work, while my boyfriend stayed home surfing Craigslist and recruitment sites for potential jobs.
When we had our “talk” before coming to the city, he told me he often felt lonely while I was busy with all my activities. So, I decided to always tell him what I was planning to do and invite him to come along. Often, he wasn’t interested, so I would ask if he minded if I went alone. He genuinely didn’t seem to mind, and I took this to mean that he had understood that I had never meant to neglect or ignore him, I just liked to keep busy.
After a while, I noticed him going inward. Not leaving the apartment and not interested in doing anything social. But I was certain that when he found work, he would perk back up, and we would start enjoying our new life together.
Buried Truth #2
He didn’t want to go places with me because he had checked out of the relationship. He was done. He had told me as much in our “talk” before we moved. I didn’t want to hear it because the other truth was that we needed each other to pay the other half of the rent on the apartment we had leased. Knowing now how things would work out, I wish I had just asked if we could break up and live as roommates for the rest of the lease. Heck, we even had a second bedroom.
Compounding my domestic situation was the job I had found through a friend at a commercial real estate firm. It was a toxic boys club that was so emotionally upsetting, I developed terrible and seemingly untreatable B.O. Every day that I went back and forth between work and home felt like I was jumping from the pot to the frying pan.
Finally, relief came in the form a few job offers for my boyfriend. The only problem was that they were all back on Nantucket, which we had said goodbye to forever less than six months before. But I once again felt like I was drowning, and the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that this could be another life raft – a better life raft—to dry land. If he got a job he loved back on Nantucket, we could go back home and begin fresh and everything would work out great. After all, it was his idea that we move. I had always secretly hoped we would end up back on Nantucket. I was positive that with the right job and the right housing and the right lifestyle, we could rekindle our relationship and start to make long-term plans.
Buried Truth #3
We wanted completely different things. He wanted to get a year-round position as a private chef for a wealthy family, who would likely split their time between Nantucket in the winter and someplace warm in the summer. I, on the other hand, wanted…hell, I can’t even tell you what I wanted at the time, but it wasn’t that. For him, I was no longer a girlfriend. I had become dead weight. (That’s probably a bit harsh, and he probably wouldn’t describe it that way. But it is accurate.)
All this lying to myself was adding up. Then one day, I don’t remember exactly when, I distinctly remember sitting in my apartment watching an episode of Criminal Minds. For those who have never seen the show (It’s only been on for about 40 seasons!!!), each episode begins and ends with a voiceover of a quote. At the end of this particular episode, one of the characters, quietly leaves her badge at the door of a colleague’s apartment, letting him know she has made the difficult decision to leave the FBI. She walks back out on to the street, and you see her look back up at the apartment building one more time. Just then in a voiceover you hear her say, “Sometimes you need to let go of the life you planned, so you can accept the life that’s waiting for you. Joseph Campbell.”
Like dam had broken, I started sobbing, not just for the character’s final good-bye, but for my own acceptance that my relationship was over. I knew in that moment that needed to let go, so we could both move forward.
It took weeks and plenty of more denials and excuses before I finally sat down with him and told him we should break up. He nodded in agreement. I think he was just waiting for me to say it first. We dated the rest of the summer and then went our separate ways. We’re still friends and have stayed in touch.
When all was said and done, I learned the following:
• The truth exists whether you see it or not.
• Being honest with yourself is easy once you are ready to see it.
• The sooner you are willing to be honest with yourself, the sooner you can take action.
• The real weight of self-deception isn’t felt until you stop carrying it.
Being honest with myself was scary and daunting. It forced me to consider possibilities that seemed unimaginable at the time. Yet, when I was ready to accept the truth and take actions that were aligned with that truth, a path opened up before me. In the months after the breakup, I discovered how much I had been keeping in and how much lighter I was when it came out. (Plus, my B.O. went away.)
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”