Dear Ex, This Is Exactly What Went Wrong, so Listen Up. Let’s Untangle this Mess.

Have you ever heard anyone coin the following phrase: don’t forget the past, learn from it? Albeit seemingly cliché—an obvious and banal platitude, at best—it is indeed a necessary component of self-growth and progress. Of course, no one is suggesting that we ruminate over the metaphorical wounds and sores inflicted upon us, but being mindful and conscientious of how the past may better inform the future is, indeed, a crucially important feature of the human experience. No experience, no matter how painful or how distressing, is ever wasted if one, simply, learns from them. If we wish to better ourselves, we must first imagine what adaptive and valuable lessons we can discern from the past.

As cliché as it may be, I wholeheartedly encourage you to reexamine the past and extract its most significant lessons—what experiences have shaped your career prospects? What experiences have led you down the road towards open-mindedness and empathy?

Don’t brood, don’t fret, don’t agonize about unalterable mistakes, but healthily reexamine both the past and the present—are you proud of the person you have become? Does all the pain you’ve experienced make you into a better, more empathetic person? If the answer is no, go ahead and change that. Growth is an inevitable aspect of the human experience. And, furthermore, we can better ourselves, if we truly want to.

Now that I have established the importance of self-examination and introspection, I’d like to transition over to what I have recently coined as my relationship ‘fiasco’ (selfless plug: please, read my previous article entitled My Relationship Fiasco and the Lessons Learned). Throughout the proceeding paragraphs, I’d like to self-reflectively discern exactly what I believe helped contribute to the termination of my most recent relationship which, in turn, will reveal and illuminate some of the most noteworthy takeaway lessons—ones that I will undoubtedly carry with me into the future.

Here’s a comprehensive list of what led to our inflammatory turmoil—a breakup that was both immature and frantically chaotic. Of course, this is a one-sided account told from my own personal perspective—regardless, it is an important matter to touch upon and discuss.

1. The Connection Concern

Our relationship was characterized by what I would label as comfort—I was comfortable in your presence. I was comfortable simply being me. I was comfortable being intimate and vulnerable, but a plethora of factors, in turn, contributed to the creation of a connection that was shallow, lacking both bond and trust.

In other words, we never connected in the way I hope to connect with others, the individuals whose presence I love and cherish the most. An important aspect, if not the MOST important characteristic of a successful and committed relationship is vulnerability and self-disclosure—none of which I ever received, in return for my expended efforts. Simply said, in a metaphorical sense, you kept me an arm’s length away, never sharing nor disclosing the intimate nor profound details of your own personal experiences. I understand the discomfort, but this, in turn, led to a relationship that was both unfulfilling and, in a sense, inequitable.

When I did share my innermost and deep-seated stories, opinions, and experiences, you were, at best, dismissive and irreverent. Your responses were usually curt, alternating from the typical, “let's talk something else,” to “oh, yeah? Sorry. Let’s change the topic,” or “I typically don’t talk about this with other people.”  

You were never inquisitive. And, more importantly, you never really aspired to fully comprehend the true essence of my being—you were curt and disparaging. And that was hurtful, in a way, I cannot outwardly explain nor express. Of course, I never needed your (nor, may I add, anyone’s) pity nor sympathy, that was never the intent. Simply put, I wanted you to obtain a clear understanding of ‘me,’ someone you apparently loved but never truly understood. I wanted you to understand the motivations behind my mannerisms, behavior, and goals. BUT, you were never inquisitive, and more importantly, you were never appreciative of the definitive steps I took to break down my protective walls.

If necessary, I wanted a shoulder of support, a voice of reason within troubling and stressful times, because, of course, inherent within the human experience is imperfection and struggle, especially within my aggravated family dynamic. Vulnerability, despite the inherent discomfort, is important beyond imagination.

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston within the graduate college of Social Work, indeed, suggests that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love (and) belonging.” Its lack thereof became detrimental, a casual reason behind our disarray.

And now, you’re a stranger carrying my deepest, darkest secrets. F#@k that.

2. Metaphorical Distance

Our relationship, as it temporarily existed, I believe was characterized by a sense of purported and exaggerated distance. In reality, however, this was far from the apparent truth—you live in a neighboring town close to my hometown, yet you were seemingly always inaccessible and secluded. Our relationship felt long-distance (and it, most certainly, was not), and the mere use of technology extended its continuation.

Understandably so, we are both students highly engrossed in the college experience. Although I am seemingly more involved in extracurriculars and work more often than my fellow ex-counterpart, I had to be the one who was lenient and flexible. Our lack of communicative effort only further aggravated the problem at hand.

If you truly love someone—even if it’s just to study alongside one another and grab some coffee (red flag: my ex didn’t like coffee, haha)—you will allocate some time for that specified individual because, at the end of the day, they should be one your most prized and cherished blessings. You told me you loved me, but I felt dispensable to you. You didn’t care to see me, in the end.

No one is perpetually busy. To say that is not so is a fallacy.

The propinquity effect, as described by social psychology, postulates that the creation and maintenance of social relationships—intimate relationships and friendships, alike—are largely determined by whom we encounter frequently, whom we are exposed to. We create bonds with individuals within close geographical and psychological proximity.

And we had none. We had no propinquity. No proximity.

3. Passive Acceptance

Amongst other things, our relationship was also characterized by what I would seemingly coin as ‘passive acceptance’ and lack of communicative efforts. You let your worries and concerns fester until, of course, they boiled over into a heap of resent and anger.

Although we both intuitively felt that our relationship was encountering a slippery slope, an abysmal path, it was easier to avoid such difficult subject matters. It was easier not to be communicative.

As much you enjoyed using the word ‘fight’ in the context of relationships, you never fought for our relationship. You never fought for me. You let things slip from your fingertips, all without saying a word. As much as you manipulatively talked about the future and “the big picture,” you never did your part in trying to remedy or resolve the waves in which we found ourselves suffocating under.

Your irreverence shone brightly. Concerned with everything but me, you, simply, just didn’t seem to care to maintain nor ensure the successful continuation of our relationship.

4. Breakup Fiasco

I recognize that I hurt you, but you were sheepish and immature. And, as mentioned previously, your irreverence shone brightly after our breakup. Scowling in the dark and understandably hurt, you ignored me. I only ever asked for a minimal effort. But, nevertheless, you ignored me, robbing me of the opportunity to set things straight, truly talk these things through, come to some equitable consensus, explain whatever I need to explain and discuss the break-up itself.

But, you robbed me of that opportunity. And, in a sense, you robbed yourself too, because I guess you’ll never understand, never truly know.

Throughout our relationship, I made all of the executive decisions because, of course, you were passive. You never challenged me. Never questioned me. And, during our breakup, passivity, again, became the overarching theme.

But, I can only fault myself—what did I expect? I should have known better.

The weeks before we broke up, metaphorical language aside, were excruciating—I had to fight to keep my head above water. I felt that my heart had been pulled out of my chest and shattered into millions of broken pieces. Of course, I have no animosity towards you, and I appreciate the love we temporarily shared. But this, right here, right now, is the present reality. And we are surely done. Most importantly, I’d like to reiterate that I don’t need you. Of course, I miss you, some days more than others, but especially when I’m alone, and my thoughts run wild. These feelings (longing topped by anger and disappointment) surely won’t dissipate in a matter of mere days.

In the end, you became detrimental to my progress and aspirations and, overall, my happiness. The relationship became draining and exhausting. I believed in you. I gave you so much time—time I will, regrettably, never get back—and you turned out to be such a disappointment, my biggest let down.

I am fierce and independent and resilient. And I certainly don’t need you.

I think we could have a ‘comfortable’ life together, but that would entail me settling from something I perceive as subpar. Call me an optimist realist, but I KNOW I deserve better. I am happier without you. And as much as I miss you—you were my first love, my longest relationship—you certainly don't do it for me anymore. 

So, thank you, but bye.

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