A friend of mine is having a rough patch with her boyfriend right now. I won’t go into details because they aren’t mine to share, but talking to her brought up one of my past relationships.
When I was in my twenties, I dated a guy for three years. We met at a party, went on some dates, and a month later said, “I love you” to each other. Four months into our relationship we moved in together. It was fun and adventurous since we rented our friend’s trailer in a trailer park. We laughed about how our house used to have wheels. We giggled when the washer was on spin cycle and the opposite end of the trailer shook like a carnival ride.
Eventually, we moved from Vail to Boulder. Although we’d both lived in Boulder before, my friends were long gone after graduation and his were happy he was back. Quickly, I found that the time we used to spend together in Vail was now spent with his friends or alone while he was with his friends.
About a year into the relationship, I started questioning things. Prior to this one, my longest relationship had been in college for six months. I was determined to have one that lasted at least a year. So, I ignored the questions and persevered.
That summer, I asked my cousin how she broke off her engagement, and she said, “When the voices got so loud that I couldn’t ignore them, I ended it. At first, there was a small voice saying he wasn’t the one for me, but I ignored it. Then, it got a little louder, and I told it to shut-up. Finally, it got so loud, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. That’s when I knew.”
I’d recognized the voices, but I thought, “They aren’t that loud. Maybe they’re wrong.”
In the second year, we went to a couple’s counselor to try to make it work. He even moved out so we would have to make an effort to see each other instead of taking each other for granted. We broke-up and got back together about eight times until we finally decided we would stick it out until we were sure we wanted out. That was October.
By the following spring, I was wrought with emotion. I woke up at 5am, tossing and turning, so upset as to what to do. I would wait, tormented, until 6am so I could call my mom on the east coast in tears, begging her to help it get better. I fell asleep worrying, with a knot in my stomach, not listening to all the signs around me.
I booked a trip to North Caroline to see my mom and clear my heard. I spent the week talking about the future with my boyfriend in Boulder. It was like I was trying to talk myself into a life with him. The more I talked about it, the more real it became so I kept talking. My mom, being the amazing woman that she is, just listened, biting her tongue from saying DUMP HIM.
Finally, the week ended and I was on my way back to Boulder. I remember sitting on the airplane full of hope for my relationship. He picked me up at the airport, and things were good. I was happy to see him.
Then, back at my apartment, we were snuggling on the couch when the voices screamed at me, “He’s not the one for you! You have to move on!”
I looked around to see if he heard. He kept going on about how great things were, and how much he missed me.
“YOU HAVE TO BREAK-UP WITH HIM!” the voices yelled.
I sat up. And I knew. The voices were not going to let me ignore them any longer. It took me three more days to finally break-up with him, but I did it. It was the best thing I ever did for myself, and I wondered why I waited so long to do it. It was also one of the hardest things to do. He never hit me or cheated on me, which I used to wish for because then I would have had a clear answer as to why it had to end. In hindsight, he said things that damaged me, but I probably did the same to him. I had a lot of healing to do after that relationship. Sometimes I wonder if I’d listened to the voices earlier, would it have been easier?
I don’t envy my friend right now. Trying to figure out if a relationship should continue or not is difficult. There are so many variables, and everyone who listens and gives advice is carrying their own baggage. No one can see what it is like to be in the relationship, the secret goodness (or badness). It’s hard because in my experience, being unhappy meant that I needed to move on, but for other friends, that was just a layer before their relationship deepened. I listen to her, and like my mom, I try to bite my tongue from saying anything too positive or negative, knowing she has to come to a conclusion on her own – whatever that may be.