At 9:00am on August 8th, my boyfriend and I broke up. At 10:30am, we boarded a bus that would take us to Massachusetts, where we’d spend the weekend at a wedding, pretending we were still together.
Up until that point, Dan and I had been together for 14 months, and it was by far the happiest, most serious relationship that either of us had ever been in. We’d talked about everything -- marriage, kids, dog names, where we’d live when we inevitably left New York -- and we saw all of it in in our future, to the point that we were planning on moving in together on October 1st. We were best friends and we always had a great time together, but we had privately been struggling with whether we were a good romantic match.
Neither one of us wanted to acknowledge it, but we were both having complicated feelings, and as our move-in date approached, it was becoming more and more obvious that we needed to pump the brakes and figure our shit out.
So that morning, as I felt a minor argument shifting into something more serious, I followed it. I heard both of us saying things that were leading to a very inconvenient place to be on the first day of a weekend excursion, but we’d gotten to a point we couldn’t come back from, so we kept talking and crying, and all of a sudden instead of packing for this wedding, the love of my life and I had accidentally broken up. Very gently and mutually and amicably, but also very permanently and on the day before a wedding.
I did a quick mental inventory of everything I’d ever learned from Emily Post, Martha Stewart, and Julie Andrews in Princess Diaries, and came up with the following options:
Option 1. A phone call to the bride. “Hi Amy, it’s Alexis. Remember how you paid for my boyfriend whom you’ve never met to have a meal and a chair at your wedding? Well I took the liberty of flushing that money down the toilet, see you in a few hours, bye gurrlllll!”
Option 2. A phone call to the bride, punctuated by nose-blows and shrieks. “Hi Amy, it’s Alexis. Love is dead, love has died. I won’t be attending your wedding because I’m SAD, but best of luck with your life.”
Option 3. Suck it the fuck up and get on the bus like nothing happened.
So we rallied and showered and option-three-ed ourselves to Penn Station, which was really the only thing we could have done. Any other way we’d handled it would have turned into an over-dramatic time-suck that ain’t nobody got time to deal with on one of the most important days of their life.
I’ve never had a wedding myself (AND I NEVER WILL OH GAWD MY LIFE), but my understanding is that most of the attention is supposed to be on the bride and groom and not on the imploding personal lives of any of the guests, right?
So he came with me and we kept it to ourselves, and thus began one of the most painful, heart-breaking, and yet surprisingly beautiful weekends of my entire life. In the movie version, we get back together, or I discover I’m pregnant, or Dan makes a pass at a bridesmaid and I ruin the wedding by ending up wine-shirted and slobbering drunkenly into the microphone that love is a lie and we’ve fooled you all, but by some miracle, none of that actually happened. I could write you dozens of spec scripts for that storyline, but nobody would buy the one that was true -- that we turned the weekend into a really wonderful celebration of our relationship.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of crying. For as much as I knew it was the right choice, I cried the entire way there on the bus as Dan murmured, “I know, it’s okay” into the top of my head. I cried when I had to leave him for three minutes to go to the bathroom. I cried if he said something nice to me. I cried every time I realized that when the weekend ended, so would the pretend version of our relationship, and I’m crying now.
But for the most part, the tears came from a good place. Anytime I was alone, even for a minute, someone would come up to tell me how amazing Dan was, how perfect we were together, and how much we seemed to care about each other. And of course I’d get very shiny-eyed and suddenly need to have a long drink of water or put on my sunglasses, but the wonderful thing is that all that stuff is true. He is amazing, and we were perfect together, and above all, we do care about each other. Immensely.
We cared enough to support each other through a break-up that neither one of us would have had the balls to initiate alone, and to move through it as partners, the same way we did the rest of our relationship. As weird as it sounds, getting each other through that weekend was one of the most supportive moments of our time together, and I couldn’t have done it with anyone but him. Dan has always been an incredible teammate that I’ve been lucky to have in my life, and never more so than when we were playing "Don’t Let Anybody Know We Broke Up...Ball."
And as he pointed out at the time, it wasn’t lying. We still love each other the same amount we always did, so even though we weren’t being strictly honest about the state of our relationship, those feelings of care and respect were still there. So by keeping up appearances, we gave ourselves the opportunity to say goodbye to all the best things about each other.
I got to watch Dan be kind to my friends, trash-talk during a game of cornhole, dance like an idiot, join the clean-up after the reception, and help me hold it together during the hardest adult decision I’ve ever been a part of. And that’s a beautiful thing! It was like personified proof that he was exactly the person I thought he was when we started dating, and I can’t tell you how much I respect him for that.
And on a more pragmatic level, that weekend gave us a chance to really get on the same page with our breakup. We got to decide as a unit how we were going to phrase it to our friends (“we were taking better care of each other than of ourselves”), hash out how to communicate our schedules in order to avoid running into each other (via a Google doc that we both update), and to say "I love you" for an extra seventy-two hours (oh good, more tears).
And we didn’t ruin a wedding...so I feel pretty good about those odds.