After 20 years, my college boyfriend and I broke up again—but this time, it was forever.
Today the text came:
I cannot be close to you as my wife is not comfortable with it and I need to be a good husband and father.
It was no shock; it was a final ending to what had first ended over 20 years ago as he packed his things from our apartment into his car and headed cross-country to live with his parents.
Back then we were both upset. Today it was a peaceful good bye.
I told him to be the best husband and father that he could be and to open his heart and give himself completely to his family. We weren’t’ having an affair; it wasn’t anything like that at all.
He was my college love, my fiance, my other half, for years: years that ended like two cars in a head-on collision. Immaturity, insecurities, infidelity, trust issues, an ended pregnancy: all leading to where only they could, a dead-end road.
No matter how we tried, everything got in the way. Anything that could throw chaos into our lives, did, but instead of seeing what we were supposed to learn from one another, we went against the grain—fighting against all that was happening, creating even more pain and hurt.
We became so co-dependent that I couldn’t breathe. I loved that feeling though, being so engulfed with another person that I couldn’t breathe, but it was so incredibly unhealthy and toxic. We pushed, we fought and we tried to do everything we could to stay together, when in reality we weren’t supposed to.
It wasn’t in the plan for us to be together for a lifetime.
We all have relationships that have ended, unless you are one of the very few that married your first boyfriend/girlfriend and are still together. I think it’s normal to wonder: what went wrong? What could I have done differently to guarantee a different outcome? What if I wouldn’t have said or done X, Y, or Z?
All those “what ifs” mean is that one of us would’ve given up too much of who we were, of what we believed in, a part of our identity, simply to remain a couple. We have all done it at one time or another—dimmed our light to become what someone else wants us to be. After all, we all want and need to be loved.
Love is necessary for survival, like air and water.
Fast forward 20 years,
Facebook and a random encounter at a middle-of-nowhere gas station let the healing begin. He equated our past to being young and stupid. I agreed. I mean, why else would we have kept tormenting ourselves for year after year?
We forgave one another and said the words that needed to be said, in order to move forward with our lives.
Even though it was so long ago, there was so much power in forgiving and being forgiven, strength in saying: “I am sorry.” Knowing that we will always love the other, but that we will never again be in love with them and understanding the difference.
The last few months have been wonderful, checking on one another, being friends the way two people of the opposite sex can be, genuinely caring for one another and always having a listening ear. We never saw one another again, besides the five minute long awkward encounter at the gas station, yet for six months we continued to check on one another.
We were simply creating the space to say good bye one last time.
The first time we broke up, even though it was mutual, after he left, I got depressed sitting in our one-bedroom apartment. I didn’t socialize and stopped answering the phone. I tried to make sense of the past five years, wondering what went wrong: after all, we loved one another and were supposed to get married.
I couldn’t understand any of it, I was living in a fog. The weeks passed and life went back to normal, but we never spoke, never apologized to one another for all of the pain. We had damaged each other’s hearts so deeply that coldness set in. My mother saw my pain and flew me to Hawaii for a week, because what couldn’t a week in a tropical destination with family and friends heal?
My mom was the “fixer” of problems and this was her way of repairing her daughter in some odd way, or at least trying to cover up my pain and confusion. The sunshine, the ocean and a few tropical drinks and I felt better. It didn’t hurt that I was attending luaus and drinking little umbrella drinks every day. I was completely in my own world, my own paradise and had complete freedom and release from the past (or so I thought).
This time saying goodbye didn’t hurt. Our souls knew we had unfinished business.
For almost 20 years I’ve dreamed that I left something at college, that there was something there that I needed. As I sit here typing this, I smile because I never knew what I was dreaming about. It was this relationship that was left open-ended that needed to be dealt with. I needed closure and I finally got it.
The universe is funny, in giving you exactly what you need when you need it. Call it divine intervention, karma or a holy s**t moment—it is what it is. It’s a time to learn, to open your heart and soul and to accept whatever is being thrown your way even if it seems like the craziest thing in the world and makes absolutely no sense. In time, you will get it! I sure as hell did.
We both knew that we were in each other’s lives again for just a brief moment—just enough time to heal, accept, love and turn the page, back to the beginning.
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Editor: Bronwyn Petry
Photos: Flickr Creative Commons