Almost a year ago, I started to see someone who I believed could have been a great companion and partner. He appeared lovely on the surface, seemingly a good-hearted guy with decent intentions.
Our relationship started with a bang on one of my worst days in a very long time. He was kind and considerate at first, but there was a constant undertone of apprehension and evasiveness. The longer we spent together, the more he wanted to be apart and the more I began to feel a sense of dread. I worried and obsessed constantly over what I said, what his friends said, and what he said. Our ups were great, but our downs became deeper and more frequent throughout the winter.
Despite the deterioration of what I thought was our bond, I continued to maintain high hopes. I tried to plan dates, be helpful, and surprise him however and whenever I could. The less he gave, the more I started to compensate. I was, and still am, aware of my imperfections and yet, I still told myself things would improve even when I could see the impending collapse. By February, I was clinging to whatever was left of what we had. Still, it came as a shock to me when things ended.
There was no obvious warning and, at the time, no clear reason. He left me hanging on the words that no one ever wants to hear or will ever understand: "Let's just take a break."
I had no answers, no one to give me an explanation, and very few people to go out of their way to support me. It was the first time in seven years of dating that I didn't know what to do or how to feel about a breakup, the first time I was completely lacking a "why."
I was lost on how to move on with such vague terms set over our breakup. I was especially at a loss for words which was shocking to me as a writer. Was I to wait on him? Or was I to say screw it and move on like it never happened? I could only express to people how confused I was and it came across like a broken record.
I was desperate for answers, a second chance to ask my questions, or simply a reprieve from feeling like crap. I started to skip classes, I caught two colds, I didn't eat and barely drank, and I spent very few hours awake. I didn't want to be awake because I knew I would think about everything, but I also didn't want to be asleep because I couldn't control my dreams. I ended up losing 16-pounds in two-and-a-half weeks.
I am certainly not proud of my post-breakup depression, nor am I proud of my blind devotion to someone who showed me all the signs of a toxic, noncommittal, unfortunate excuse for a man.
However, I am grateful for the things I learned from our tumultuous time together and even more grateful for what his decision gave me.
Once the college grapevine finally extended a tendril in my direction, I found myself appalled and disgusted with the alleged truth: there were never any intentions of a break or reconciliation, or even a relationship to start with. I was an occupant for a vacant block of time, a pardon from boredom, and a childish perception of monotony. I was never of any interest to him beyond what I could give and what he could take. I wish I could say his decision to run back to his on and off whatever-she-is gave me freedom, or that it gave me relief, but it only made me furious.
Was I cheated on? Perhaps, however, I don't even have the intention to ask and wouldn't ever have the desire to give him the satisfaction of my asking. It was then that I made the most logical decision that college girls often do — go to a frat party.
The situation was essentially an unsavory mess of rumors, alleged cheating, and wounded exes left behind for the sake of momentary lust. I knew who she was and I knew she had left someone else once my ex was made available. However, I had no clue I would find the casualty of her immaturity in the back alley of a party. I had assured myself I was not going to be pursuing or dating anyone else for the remainder of my college days, and I felt set on my choice.
I figured at the very least, this fellow injured party could fill in the blanks for me as much as I could for him. He was extremely kind in probably the most platonic way imaginable. We found ourselves talking until well after the other party-goers had left, and even so, we still had so much to talk about. I still didn't like the idea of being close to him but I was discovering I sincerely enjoyed his company. We spent the entire night talking in his dorm, even after sunrise. I sat at his desk and he sat cross-legged on his bed. He was respectful and seemed content with my company despite the circumstances that brought us together.
After a short-lived attempt at some sleep, he offered to take me to lunch. We tried to say it wasn't a date but by the time we got there, it sank in that it had turned out to be exactly that.
The more we talked, the more we moved on from the insolence of our shared past experience. We began to talk about our lives and adventures, our plans and our preferences. I felt content and surprisingly whole and I tried to ignore my slight hope that we could keep seeing each other. Before the end of our lunch together, he asked me to come out with him that night to watch our Wildcats compete in the March Madness tournament. I'm pretty sure I said yes before he finished his sentence. Almost every day after that has been spent doing almost everything together.
From the moment we met, we were cautious and apprehensive because of our unfortunate experiences. In spite of all we went through, we had both grown in the dark space between being left and being found.
We had learned that we didn't need to seek out love or hunt it down relentlessly. Rather, when we stopped searching for someone specific we ended up in the happiest relationship of our lives, built on a foundation of honesty, commitment, and a love that was built and not bought. I could never have seen myself with a man like mine.
Perhaps it was because I always wanted a person to fix, or because I felt unworthy of happiness and unwilling to wait. What I've learned from my ex is that I am more than capable of being happy on my own and I do not need someone to create happiness for me.
My experiences with him were the last pieces to the puzzle of understanding how to be in a healthy relationship. What I learned was undoubtedly valuable, but who I strangely and miraculously gained in the end will always be perfectly priceless.
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