I've never gone through a breakup with a boyfriend. I've had a few of them -- five, to be exact. The sixth guy I dated ended up being my husband. But I've never had a breakup, not a real one, not one where you both decide that things are not working out, or where one of you walks out, not one that breaks your heart into tiny little pieces.
Sure, I have experienced sadness and heartache, but usually because we had to say good-bye, not because we broke up.
I met my first serious boyfriend at the beginning of my senior year of high school. He was a college student, a foreigner in my home city. At 17, all of that seemed so sophisticated -- his independence, his money, his relaxed schedule, his distance from his parents. My parents weren’t happy, but I was delirious with the first taste of love and sex. Perhaps not such a great thing when you are supposed to be finishing high school and applying to colleges.
I see that now, but of course back then all I could think about was spending time with him. Someday I’ll have to apologize to my mom.
Strangely, I can’t remember how and when we said good-bye to each other before I left for college in America. I remember talking on the phone with him, curled up on the floor with the receiver to my ear, sobbing. I know that there was a last date, last kiss, last lovemaking. But how and when -- it’s all gone from memory.
We stayed in touch through letters and infrequent phone calls; it was the early ’90s. When I went back home for Christmas break he was still there and we had an amazing New Year’s Eve together. That was the last time I ever saw him.
Our relationship slowly fizzled; the letters became less and less frequent. He finished school and moved back home. I stayed in the U.S. When I found him on Facebook years later, he was already married with a child and it was amazing to feel so honestly happy for him.
I had three boyfriends in college -- I am in touch with two of them and I never heard again from the third one after we said good-bye. But all three relationships ended because of circumstances: graduation, studying abroad, moving back home. Sure, there were tearful good-byes, promises to keep in touch. But there were no bad feelings, no fights, no cheating or meanness, no unpleasant words or memories.
When one of us started to date other people, we didn’t have to explain it. When you are thousands of miles away with no hope of ever seeing each other again, you know and accept that this will happen. Even when you are young and naïve and believe in love at first sight, you still know that people move on. You move on, too.
I had one last boyfriend before meeting my husband. He was a friend and during one late night "Law & Order" marathon we became more than friends. Sure, there was some drama as we struggled to define our relationship. I longed for something real and permanent, not just friends with privileges. He wasn’t there yet. Then I met and fell in love with my husband and our dilemma became moot. We went back to being friends and when I saw him a few months ago after 14 years apart, we easily slipped back into the comfort of our friendship as if no time had passed.
Would any of these relationships have worked out if we weren’t separated by time and distance? Who knows? It’s fun to imagine what could have been, what turns life would have taken with a different person. I often think about all of these men out there, and in a way I still feel love for them. I have no reason not to: They never hurt me and I’d like to think I never hurt them.
But it also feels slightly unsettling to have so much unfinished business just sort of hanging out there in the universe. There was never any closure to any these relationships and I find myself in a kind of no-man’s land. There was no mourning period, no rebound relationship, no burning love letters or cutting up pictures. Nothing happened that signified the end of something and the freedom to begin something new. Looking back, it’s almost hard to know when one relationship ended and when the next one started.
And I know it sounds weird, but I wish I'd had that experience -- to be able to decide when a relationship is not working for me, why it’s not working, and to be able to articulate that clearly; to stand up for myself, to navigate tricky relationship waters, and to come out OK in the end. Love has taken it easy on me throughout my life, but I wish for some battle scars, some toughness gained in the trenches. I am afraid I will never have that now.
So guys, here it goes: It’s not you, it’s me. I am married and have a child. I think it’s time we ended this thing we have going and went our separate ways. I know you all will understand: I have to break up with you.