Relationships are extraordinary learning opportunities–it’s a tried and true sentiment. They show us parts of ourselves we would otherwise not know or explore and parts of ourselves we would never have opportunities to know or explore before. Great relationships bring grand feelings of love, acceptance and comfort. Most of all, they become sources of strength in ourselves.
I never imagined the great sense of peace I would gather by breaking the heart of someone I loved. I would have doubted the courage and reassurance I gathered as he cried next to me when I drove him to the airport after our final trip together.
I met a lovely young man during my first year of law school, at the beginning of what would be a rollercoaster of a year. I moved across the country to an unfamiliar state, and felt calmer in the presence of a man born and raised in New England. He made my first year far happier, safer, and more comforting. He became someone I turned to as I navigated a new life away from all I had known. What we had was wonderful; our connection was almost instantaneous. He became my new home. I fell madly and deeply in love.
The time we spent together was magically filled with love, support, laughter, dances, and passion. When he picked me up for our first date, it was raining. He waited by the door with an umbrella. I had never felt so comfortable with anyone so fast, and I am so lucky and grateful we had our time together.
Falling in love was not part of my plan, but I was optimistic of the relationship we built. It was both a safe and secure space for us to co-exist. I loved him so much I trusted him with myself. Opening up about my life, family, and the dreams I sought came naturally. I hope I was able to reciprocate the comfort I felt when he listened and loved me in those moments. To me, his arms were a soft place to sleep soundly; his voice instantly unwound my worries and concerns; and the hugs I received in his arms were the closest I could get to a warm home on a chilly New England night.
He made this decision long before our paths crossed: he would only be with “one more person” for the rest of his life. So going into our relationship, he had the expectation that “this would be his last.”
I am fortunate to know my needs going into relationships, and this was no different. I wanted someone to have fun with who would show me the beauty of New England while accompanying me through my law school journey. I truly believed in us and the power we had in our relationship; we both knew we could do great things together. I tried my hardest to make it work, so we could both be happy and satisfied with the things I could give.
I also knew I couldn’t prioritize a relationship over school. Several sacrifices had already been made in the name of getting to a wonderful starting line. I knew love and relationships often take me on a deviation from my chosen path. And yet, when I met him, I knew we would have something great together. He is fun, adventurous, and kind. Similarly, he is a young man starting his career and could understand the constant pull of academic obligations, so I wonder where my priorities were misconstrued.
During our time together, I spent time carefully planning how I could fulfill both my partner’s needs and those of my own. I have no regrets making myself available to him and our relationship, but I feared my own boundaries and limitations were not clearly expressed. Or, worse yet, my intentions were clearly and concisely communicated, but were ignored. Truthfully, I feared the latter occurred.
One of the greatest things about dating in our twenties is we learn what we’re willing to give to relationships, or lack thereof; what we want out of these relationships; what we find absolutely horrifying in relationships. We also learn our partners have different expectations of relationships than we do. As a woman in my early twenties balancing law school and other obligations, love and relationships take a lot of forethought and planning. Though I think of myself as a superhero, I am still only one person and I have personal limitations I must adhere to.
By the end of this relationship, I had been unhappy for a few months. I realized we were incompatible unrelated to our goals in life. It was something difficult for me to accept and even more difficult for him to understand through the conversations we had about our relationships.
I had moved back West for the summer to work at a law firm. I worked hard to ensure any and all time I had to give was given to calling him and texting to check in. Different time zones made it difficult to meet all of his needs. All I had wasn’t enough for him. He needed more attention and reassurance that I could not give.
He visited me out West and talked through the weekend about the goals we had, and the things we needed from a partner. I don’t think he heard my needs because when I said I could not rearrange my priorities he said, “I don’t need more time from you, I just need you to check in more”; or “I want you to rearrange your priorities, I know how important work and school are to you. I just need you to call me more, and to focus on the things I need.”
I was asked, by him, to stretch myself beyond my capabilities and to rearrange my priorities with him at the top. We had been together for 8 months. He asked me to promise my 100% commitment to the relationship and along with it, the rest of my life to my partner. I told him I couldn’t promise 100% commitment to anything but myself and to living by my values.
I think one of the worst things about our breakup was his inability to be honest with himself about the kind of attention and reassurance he needs from a relationship. I realized we differ in how we view relationships: I see relationships as invitations to grow. He feared we were wasting our time; or rather, that I was wasting his time by not committing to a “forever” relationship and promising to settle down. Both ways are acceptable as each person prioritizes differently throughout their life. However, I do not appreciate the insinuation that relationships that do end are unsuccessful or bad.
It broke my heart to end our relationship, but he needed things from me I couldn’t give. I know he would never be happy with me, and if he forced himself to accept the things I couldn’t give him, he would be unhappy with me too and could grow to resent me. And more importantly, I knew I couldn’t meet him where he needed to be.
And, overall, I was hurt by our breakup. I was hurt deeply that he asked for me to rearrange my priorities. That makes me think he knew what I was willing to give to a relationship and he seemed to not care about my boundaries. His priorities and values are different from my own. He searches for peace, happiness, and fun in his life. I am searching for someone I can share my triumphs with, who I can share my day with over a glass of wine. I need someone who understands that hard days and difficult obstacles are not inherently bad, but wonderful learning opportunities with great lessons to be learned. I need support from someone who knows not only that I seek out discomfort — and that I thrive on it. I am also looking for someone who knows I want a relationship to make me happy and that I don’t consider relationships a waste of time. It does not matter how long we are together, simply put: a relationship where we enjoy one another.
He chooses things differently than me, and fun is not a priority in my life. I think having a partner who wants me to have fun and live in the moment reminds me to prioritize such things. This breakup taught me that a partner who asks too much of me and who wants me to dedicate myself to them and not my own passions has no place in my life.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if I am a monster because I broke up with someone to whom I had given my whole heart. I was devastated by our separation…but I would do it all again. This breakup reminded me of who I am, and what I stand for. The relationship and the breakup taught me I can’t want someone to see things my way, nor can they to me. I wish him all the peace and happiness he seeks, and to know his own needs in relationships. I will continue on my path, and remain firm in my boundaries.