IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Partner Of 20 Years Just Walked Away Without Warning And I Am Not Ok

It was as if he put a steel boot on his foot and kicked me in the gut. Repeatedly. It still hurts.
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November 25, 2014
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Three months ago, my boyfriend (my partner, my best friend, and the love of my life) of two decades told me that he had been struggling for a long time, his feelings had changed and he was no longer in love with me. He ultimately and emphatically ended our relationship.

I had no warning, no communication, no fight. There is no one else. We had just returned from an annual two-week vacation. I did not know that our last night at the beach would be the last time we shared a bed. He never said one word about his unhappiness with me or himself. Ever.

It was as if he put a steel boot on his foot and kicked me in the gut. Repeatedly. It still hurts. This is the most mentally and physically painful experience I have ever faced.

He is not coming back. He will always be my friend, but he promises me that the relationship will never again be romantic. I believe him because I’ve known him for half of my life (and half of his) and he doesn’t make promises he won’t keep. People tell me that he is not normal, that sane individuals don’t do this without warning -- either in actions or words. I had neither.

I just miss him totally and completely every day. I love him. My feelings didn't change because his did.

I know that more people on earth have experienced excruciatingly difficult heartbreak and grief than have not. There are millions of people out there who have been through this tunnel of pure hell and come out the other side successfully. But I have never been through a breakup before. He is my only romantic relationship, he is the only one who ever loved me. I do not know how to live my life without him in it.

He told me that I treated him like an employee, which hurt me more than when some idiot called me a fat bitch in college. He has backtracked on some of these words, and I know that he was justifying his decision to himself, but he can’t ever take them back. How can I not feel guilty after hearing that he was so angry at times that he couldn’t look at me, but didn’t tell me?

My self-esteem and self-confidence, with which I often struggle, are at all-time lows. I believe that I am the most unattractive woman in the world. Intellectually, I am aware that this is ridiculous. But my heart and my gut disagree.

Throughout my adult life, I have, for the most part, had my shit together. I have a close knit but far-flung family who loves me, great friends, a strong career, security, and safety, but most importantly, I had my rock. He loved me and encouraged me and laughed with me and lived happily alongside me. He was my first call and without question my favorite person to spend time with. I didn’t need anyone’s help.

Now, it is so unbelievably difficult to ask for help. My friends and family are wonderful and amazing and I don’t know what I would do without them throughout this trauma, but there is only one person I want to talk to, the one I’ve talked to about everything, good and bad, for 20 years. But he won’t talk to me.

Ours was (and is) an unconventional relationship. We didn't move in together, get married, or have children, but we loved each other deeply and created a true family of friends, longstanding traditions, and most importantly, an amazing friendship. We became part of each other’s families in different parts of the country and the world but also became our own little family.

Over the course of 20 years, we built a life together. We were a couple who were envied by married and single friends and acquaintances alike. We had independent lives and homes, but with the safety and security of real and long-term love. We didn't fight (we didn't live together), we truly enjoyed the time we spent together (it wasn't every day), we are best friends. Ask him (even now), and he will agree with all of these statements.

It wasn’t supposed to happen to us. I know that one in four marriages end and that couples break up all the time. But we, and I mean we, not I, structured our relationship to survive and thrive based on our mutual independence.

He told me very early on that he had no interest in getting married or having children. I was 21 when we first met and 23 when we got together for good, and had no interest in marriage. There were times when we both felt it, thought about it, and discussed it, but we were happy and didn’t need that permanence. So long as we were in a strong and happy relationship, it worked.

As we aged and matured, we reached a comfort level that we loved. We talked about it. He was in for the long haul. We had a balanced life together, with the ups and downs that everyone lives through.

I don’t regret our relationship, I mourn it. I never want to think that I wasted 20 years on this asshole because I didn’t. He’s not an asshole; he is a man who fell out of love, is experiencing pain, made a selfish decision, and cannot communicate. But I don’t want to remember how he ended it, I want to remember the good and the love.

I am an educated, professional woman with a good job, and I own a beautiful condo in a city that I love. I have worked hard to become financially secure. I was the poster child for independence. We both had lives outside of our relationship but knew that the other was there, always. When asked about our unique situation, we said that we genuinely looked forward to seeing each other because it wasn’t every day and we missed each other. It was true. But it ended for him.

Now, I realize that we are never as independent as we think. I am so painfully aware of my dependency on him for his love and kindness and companionship, his support in everything I do, his quiet presence, and the simple logistics of life. I force myself to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, go to work, exercise, make plans with friends, all of it. I try so hard to be a relatively normal person in public and with my friends and colleagues, but it is so unbelievably difficult and brutal to go home. He is not there and he is not coming back.

I am not OK. I am so unbelievably scared and look forward to nothing. I panic when I think more than a day or a week ahead. The last three months have included my 43rd birthday and what would have been our 20-year anniversary of being together. Now I am staring down the holidays, all of which I have spent with him my entire adult life, and I am terrified. It is overwhelming.

I am doing everything I can to get through each day, but time is moving so incomprehensibly slowly. I am leaning on friends and acquaintances (and sometimes strangers), seeing a therapist regularly, taking prescription medication to sleep, forcing myself to eat food I don't want so that I don't get sick, exercising to empty my brain, and filling every moment outside of work so that the panic and the fear can subside. They haven’t.

Recently, I came across this on Huffpost where Reddit users commented on what act of betrayal is more harmful to a relationship than infidelity. This was the first one:

"Giving up on the relationship for no reason. I'd rather he cheat than hear him say, 'Meh, I don't love you anymore."

This, right here, is why I can’t move forward. I don’t understand and I don’t think that I ever will.

When will I let go of the guilt and pain and focus on me and my future? I am asking for help.