In a little over 24 hours, I will be driving to my boyfriend’s place with the intention of breaking up with him.
I am – to put it frankly – a big ball of stress and nerves wrapped around a smaller ball of deep sadness and fear.
The last time I broke up with someone, I did it while holding a 22oz. beer in my hand, which I drank between cigarettes outside of my “regular” late night spot. I had the type of courage that can only be afforded to a person through being tipsy. On the other end of the phone (he lived two states away, don’t judge me) I could hear him protesting, starting to cry, pleading with me. I held my ground and proceeded to get steadily more drunk. After I hung up the phone, I finished my beer and walked two blocks back to my apartment, and probably slugged back a glass or two of wine before passing out on my bed/couch.
I was resolute and firm and decidedly cold. I was drunk. I kept being drunk for the next 7 months.
Now, tomorrow, as a fully sober person, I am going to have to sit across the table from the quiet, sad face of a man who I love, who is great in many ways, but just not great for me. I have to look him in the eye (if he’s willing to look into mine) and tell him that I’m sorry, it’s just not going to work for me. I need things that he can’t give. I have things I need to work on for myself, by myself. I need to be single. I need to break his heart in an attempt to heal mine.
As I said above, I’m feeling anxious, scared, sad, fearful. I’m terrified. I know somewhere deep down that I’m probably projecting a lot of my fear and sadness onto my boyfriend, and making guesses at how much I’m going to hurt him with this. Chances are my anxious little brain is making things out to be way, way worse than they actually will be. Logically I know he’ll be sad, probably pretty hurt, and maybe a bit angry or confused. He will likely retreat into video games or gym visits for the first few weeks. It might sting for him to go to the summer festivals and concerts alone, when I was supposed to be there with him. His friend’s wedding in a few weeks might be particularly hard.
But maybe, just maybe, it won’t be as bad as I’m imagining it will be. I have no way of knowing. I cannot pretend to know how he processes things, or how he will react once I walk out the door. The fearful part of me thinks that I will be leaving him in a deep pit of pain, that his friends will see me as heartless and that I’ll lose whatever level of honor and respect they had for me, because I decided to leave.
And then I have to remind myself that this is a really egotistical way to think. How can I possibly assume that the act of me leaving will ruin someone? Especially this particular boyfriend, who has been in no big rush to bring me completely into the fold of his life, his identity, or his future? Our relationship, while fun and uncomplicated, has been largely surface-level, and even after a year and a half, we haven’t really intertwined many of the major aspects of our lives, beyond our weekly (and sometimes monthly) schedules. He has loads of friends to fall back on, and a supportive family with whom he’s very close. I’m not pushing him off some cliff into isolation by leaving. I’m probably not creating some huge, gaping hole that he’ll have to figure out how to fill. Form what I can tell, I’ve largely complemented his life, not compromised or completed it.
So why am I so scared that I’m fucking up? Why am I so terrified of having that conversation tomorrow afternoon?
Well, my best guess has to do with the guy I broke up with last – the one who got my cold, firm, drunk phone call, telling him it was over. No more. After that happened, he went completely off the rails, to the point of me feeling fearful that he might try to stalk around my apartment or show up at local events where he thought I might be. His reaction was so poor that, in retrospect, I can see the experience of trying to disentangle myself from his pleading, prying grip has been traumatizing. I am terrified of being typecast as the evil bitch who has no heart. I’m scared that leaving will make people think poorly of me, or that my boyfriend will turn his back and start talking all kinds of shit.
He won’t. I know he won’t. And if he does, well I suppose that goes to show just how little I actually know about him, which basically reinforces my desire to break up anyway.
Times like these so badly make me feel the pull toward alcohol. It seems so easy. It’s the quickest way to fill that horrible vacuum in the pit of my stomach. It would make going home feel less chaotic in my own head, at least for a moment. I could get blasted and cry a bit then fall asleep fully clothed, then wake up just in time to stumble hungover to my therapist’s couch.
But, I won’t. I can’t. It would be the biggest shame to let this experience pull me back down into that horrible pit I found myself in just last summer. I have so much work left to do, so much left to discover; pouring poison down my throat to temporarily ease what pain I feel would just be stupid and short-sighted, not to mention straight-up painful, physically. I can’t even imagine what kind of horrible body ache and stomach rot and anxiety I might feel after a bender, and that’s definitely not something I want to add to my plate on top of everything else.
So, here we go then, and here we are. Tonight I’m hanging out with my boyfriend’s roommate’s girlfriend, who I’ve gotten to know over the past 1.5 years and who I hope will stick around as a friend when this is all over. She’s mostly aware of what I’m going through, and while she and I haven’t always been close, I feel like she’s been a good and validating voice for me in this process. We’ll be eating homemade fish tacos and sipping LaCroix in her front yard. I’ll try not to cry but I can’t make any promises.
Oh, wish me luck friends. This sober world is hard, crazy, and yet somehow still worth fighting for.