So, I have recently found myself single (again) and reflecting on what went wrong. It would be easy to try to apportion blame, to identify things that the other person did or said that had an impact but I am not a believer in avoiding personal responsibility. The relationship ended because of me, this isn’t to accept total fault but rather to recognise that I was in enough control to direct and avoid things. Where did it all go wrong? It sounds ridiculous but it was 10, 20, 30 years from me writing this; it was in the future. Often we can focus on the split itself and assume all of the problems occurred here, upon consideration though problems can often have their roots elsewhere, the break-up is merely the final dire stages of unhappiness and an inability to resolve problems.
For me, it all went wrong on day one. I met the guy for a coffee, more out of politeness than interest. He was sweet but there was no initial chemistry, despite him flashing his pants as he got up to order another tea. Our communication pottered on for another couple of months with intermittent interactions, as I said, he was a lovely guy. Eventually I found myself inviting this clubbing virgin to a club night with my friends. I had thought he would make excuses and not come along but he was actually eager to experience the debauchery of a hedonistic night. Not wanting to sound condescending, I avoided giving him dress code advice and was pleasantly surprised by his choice of attire, a casual style that would have been appropriate for any decent bar and a vest underneath, ready to transform bar-wear into club-wear. After a few drinks I became far more relaxed and less concerned about my tea total friend. And just like that, as the alcohol swam in my head, he slipped off his shirt to reveal his vest and an abundant hairy chest. I had been forced to reflect on my narrow-minded views. He had surprised me; he had clearly been more prepared than I had expected.
As night turned into morning we headed back to my house, where he had parked. We chilled on the sofa for a while with a movie slowly passing by unnoticed. I was finding him endearing; he was not what I had expected nor what I would have usually considered my ‘type’. In the end we fooled around and thus began our dating adventure. But, this is where it all went wrong, the relationship had been founded on me misunderstanding and misinterpreting who he was; I hadn’t taken the time to get to know this person properly before embarking on a relationship. Prior to this I had kept him at arms length, an acquaintance rather than a friend; suddenly we were in a relationship without the foundations to make it secure. I was in a situation with a lovely guy who was smitten, someone who I did not want to upset but with whom I had not bothered to really get to know. Over time, I began to gain a fresh perspective, a clearer understanding of him. I saw his care and consideration, and I saw his hairy chest (frequently). Like a song that comes to signpost an event in your life, he became a signpost for so many things. I was growing to love the guy and speculated on a future together.
We worked to craft an ‘us’, slowly building our relationship on the sand of misunderstanding about who the other person really was. Parts did fall down on occasion but we overcame these. However, the final days were spectacularly terrible as the walls of Babylon came tumbling down. In the last days he wouldn’t even return text messages let alone engage in conversation when I called. He was conspicuously silent and conspicuously absent. When he broke this silence it was to plead his woeful situation and berate me. I retreated into myself, choosing not to engage in an adult discussion for fear that things would go from bad to worse. As break-ups go this was absent the drama of broken furniture and screaming but was nonetheless as damaging. Silence and an inability to cooperate with each other via conversation had brought us to the end of our journey together. A final ‘Bye’ as he collected his things sealed the finality of the break-up; it was all he could utter to me. How had we come so far only to end with this chasm between us, a gulf that even made conversation difficult?
Reviewing it now, it seems ridiculous that it ended as it did; we had been together for two-years, had enjoyed new experiences and places as a team, yet we were like strangers. I blame myself for the split; we all make choices and decide what is worth fighting for. I was simply out of fight. In writing this, I am reminded that we can blur the edges of what we really want so far that we forget what it even was. We can see a picture of a future and simply ignore the present. It’s what Mindfulness seeks to teach us; to appreciate the present before it becomes the past. We had burdened each other with the expectation of a future that had not been realised and the inherent fears that accompany a speculative life yet to be lived. In the end it had caused a split so severe that even words lost their meaning – silence filled the void before grief and regret took residency.
Buyer beware: dating is a commitment that relies on us seeing the present, living in the present but hoping for the future. If we place too much focus on the intangible we will lose sight of what is truly important, and what lies right before our very eyes in the immediate present. By failing to discuss these elements we reframe a relationship through a single pair of idealistic eyes and see failure when the realism does not match our hopeful expectations.