Five years. It would have been five years in a matter of weeks. We were in the midst of designing an engagement ring. He had just asked my dad for permission to marry me.
And then everything fell apart.
I can’t say it’s all his fault, because that’d be a lie. But these are the things that’ve come to light as “lessons” from my most recent, heart-wrenching breakup.
I will say though that the kicker was his sister, whom he has a tenuous relationship with at best, who had the gall to share something I told her in a private conversation about how I felt like I didn’t understand her parents and the way they’ve treated me over the years, with her parents the very next day. Instead of talking to me, or hell, even having his parents talk to me, they blindsided my then-boyfriend with how much they dislike the “vibes” (I shit you not, I was told they got the impression I didn’t like them, exclusively based on feelings) I gave off towards them.
In the end, this is what did it in. I’d put up with so much. SO much. Like when their son got evicted, not once, but TWICE and needed help to find another place to live, I was there pulling up the Craigslist ads and visiting places with him. When his student loans weren’t renewed and he was going to drop out of school, I helped him pay for tuition with money I’d earned working my first year after law school. (I should note he never wanted to accept my money, so we made it a loan that he still intends on paying back; we made the decision as a couple to not take on a loan, but I don’t think his parents ever knew the extent to which I had his back).
Well, you know what? I feel like a mother-fucking champion to have dodged the bullet of all bullets. Not marrying into a family that treats me like shit and waits five fucking damn years to express their feelings, no thank you.
So without further adieu, my lessons learned:
- You can’t change a person. When I met him, he told me he had big dreams, but the reality was he was content existing in his part-time job (working for his dad for the last ten years – no benefits, no extra pay on holidays or weekends he went in, and my favorite, a fucking guilt trip every time he asked to cash in his PTO). He never fully articulated goals or deadlines for the future; or when he tried to, he never consistently worked on them to materialize them into a reality.
- You can’t please everyone all the time. This is a rough one. I pretended I was okay with the way his family treated me, even though I’d go home to my family and blow up at them for how angry I was about it (like that time his parents invoice him and I for drinks at a Thanksgiving dinner they’d invited us to…and we shared an entree). What I thought I’d get over I didn’t, and that stress just built up and often resulted in me getting mad at him (which I shouldn’t have done, but didn’t have any other place to release the tension).
- You shouldn’t stay in a relationship just because it’s comfortable. Again, really tough. Maybe we should’ve called it quits a while ago. The fights only got bigger. The animosity only grew stronger. Staying in a relationship just because it’s all you’ve known for the present time isn’t enough of a reason to keep putting in effort. The way his family treated me had bothered me for years and only when engagement talk got real did I actually start to formulate thoughts to express to them…but too little, too late. I’m not saying I was angry 100% of the time or didn’t like his family, but we’d fight about the same things and that’s not healthy.
- Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you can (or should) love their family. I tried, I really fucking tried. I got them gifts for their birthdays. I acted interested in stories I really didn’t care about (like a two hour conversation about naming a dog “Penny.” Does it really fucking matter if the dog’s name is two or three syllables?). I really tried to look past how irritated his family made me because I felt like they made zero effort to get to know me in the half a decade I’d been in their son’s life, but the little things that bothered felt like notches on a belt over time, and with every passing year, I guess for both of us, it felt insurmountable, and to him, unfixable.
- There’s no shame in the solo game. I’m not the 20 year old I was when I met him, but that’s okay. I’d rather be alone and work on myself than struggle in a relationship where neither of us know what the fuck is going on.
As much as I love/d him, I know this is the right choice. How can you trust “family” that goes behind your back and causes something so painful?
I don’t really have many other words, other than I know everything will be okay in time. It’s not today. It’ll probably suck tomorrow, but that’s what keeps therapists and alcohol companies in business, right?
Hoping your Monday’s been less of a shitshow than mine.
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.