At the beginning of this year, I was still reeling from the pain that was rife in 2017. I was in a quasi-relationship. I’m still not sure how to define a romantic relationship that is lacking commitment but is filled with intention. We never put a label on it, even after almost three years of dating, seeing each other, couple-hood, fucking––as I said, I’m still not sure what to call it. I could feel things drawing to an end, partly because of my need to put a label on it, partly because of our inability to agree on one very important thing: whether or not this relationship was worthy of committing to.
I waited. I waited for him to make a move. For him to decide to either get on board or end things. I’ve been told that I have a tendency to push so hard for the things that I want that I scare people away. I didn’t want to do that this time. I didn’t want to push too hard. I didn’t want to seem too eager. So I waited.
We started falling out of our usual pattern of seeing each other every week. Our daily text messages slowed to every few days. I knew he was busy, but I started to feel that I was the only one putting in any effort anymore. I decided to wait and see how long it would take him to initiate a conversation.
Once I realized how long I had been waiting, I paused to think. It had been a week since I had heard anything from him and that was odd. Should I worry that something was wrong or should I keep waiting? Was this the answer I had been waiting for? Was our entire relationship going to vanish as though it had never existed without even so much as a goodbye?
A week stretched into two, then three. Before I knew it, I had been waiting a month to hear from him.
The emotions cycled through me like a washing machine. Rage. Fear. Worry. Sadness. Anger. Pity. Frustration. Heartbreak. I couldn’t figure out where to land. My mind raced with thoughts that could not be quelled. He had committed suicide and his rotting body was yet to be discovered in his apartment. He had moved away, finally ending the physical distance between him and his daughter that had caused him so much pain. He had met someone else who had less baggage and was more Republican. The thoughts kept churning loudly in my head until finally…
“Hey stranger. What’s new?”
The silence had been broken. And with it, all hope of the future shattered with it. This was over.
I could not understand how a person that I had been so grossly intimate with, a man that had been by my side through one of the most challenging years of my life, could not only disappear on me for a month without warning or explanation, but would act so casually as if nothing had happened.
Did he not understand the agony I had been through while I waited? Did he even care?
As I stopped to think about what all of this meant, I wasn’t sure what to say next. I needed him to know the pain that he caused me, both by his silence for the prior month, but also to leave me wondering what our future would hold.
The early days of our relationship were not easy. We had been friends for years, but had drifted apart when my daughter was born. He didn’t know it at the time, but I separated myself from his world because his friend was the father of my child, who didn’t want to have anything to do with us. I kept the secret in order to leave their friendship intact.
When we reconnected a few years later, there was a spark. Memories of our fun times together flooded back. We laughed over some of our more ridiculous adventures. He was interested to see if we could take things further, but his ex-fiancée was an acquaintance of mine, so he opted not to act on it, but to keep his distance to leave our friendship intact. What he didn’t know then was that their breakup also led to the end of my friendship with her.
A decade later, a chance connection brought us together again and it was the stuff of dreams. I felt like I had fallen into the middle of a romantic comedy–not the part where they dislike each other, but that moment that they realize they are meant to be together. In spite of the failed relationships we had both had over the years, this one felt right. It felt like it would be lasting. It definitely felt like one worth fighting for. I risked the stability of my newish coparenting relationship to explore it. I still don’t regret it.
But the drama was too much for him. He didn’t see the risk as being worth it. He tried to end things. I refused to accept it.
The next two years left me waiting for him to see the potential in our relationship that I saw. We enjoyed spending time together and we both agreed how amazing our heart-to-heart talks were as we sat out on the patio each night. He made more of an effort to spend time with me than I did with him. I gladly accepted every invitation he offered up. I poured my soul into this connection, opening myself up in a way that I had never done before. I allowed myself to admit things I had been avoiding for a lifetime. I processed the pain of my past as we sat by the fire. I listened to him wonder why he always seemed to get the short end of the stick.
As I waited for him to commit to our relationship–to our future–the sound of his resistance was slowly amplifying itself. He cared about me, but he couldn’t admit that he loved me. At least, not to me. He told my best friend, the only one of my friends that ever met him, over a fireside chat we were having while I was in the bathroom. He shared with her that he wanted to love me, but he still wasn’t sure.
I waited another year to hear those words.
They never came.
As I sat, stunned by the words on my screen, I contemplated exactly how to say what I needed to say. I was tired of waiting––for the commitment, for the “I love you”, for the acceptance of me, for the beginning of our lives together––all of which would never come.
I told him exactly what I thought. He agreed with me. And then the waiting was over.