passage of time

I am 33, and I’m single again.

All my closest friends, with the exception of Miss M (who is heroically working on her diss), are happily married. Mrs. H (formerly Miss H) just had her first daughter, Baby SMrs. J is expecting her first child; and Mrs. C (not “that” C) is the mother of  her “nearly 2” son, Baby A. 

Until recently, I was in a long-term relationship with Orchestra Teacher. We met in Houston during my residency, moved to Austin for my fellowship, then moved again to Chicago for my first real job as an attending. We were together for over 3 years when one day, right after the holidays, he decided he was done. The kicker was we were living together and we were talking fairly seriously about getting engaged over the last several months.

It started with him saying, hey come here we need to talk. Basically, he decided he didn’t know if he ever wanted to get married and that he didn’t want to be have to account for someone else in his life. I told him flat out, sounds like you don’t want to be in a relationship. He confirmed that he wanted to be alone. He’d been thinking about this on/off for months, and didn’t bring up even a hint of what was going on in his mind until he couldn’t stand it any longer.

I should have known from the beginning that I was ignoring a multitude of red flags:

  1. His longest relationship was 6 months (3 of those months the girl was studying abroad).
  2. He had never had a fight without breaking up (before me).
  3. His conflict style was avoidance.
  4. When we did fight (like all couples do!), he would shut down, get upset, and I would have to “comfort” him.
  5. When things got difficult, he would say, “I don’t think relationships are supposed to be hard.”
  6. I would try, try, try and give, give, give and he would take, take, take.

The worst part of the breakup wasn’t the lost of the relationship; it was the realization I dated someone who I question if I respect as a person.

After we broke up (2 days later!), I got really, really sick with a bad case of stomach flu. I had vomiting and diarrhea– nothing was staying inside of me. I dropped 7-8 lbs in a week (which is about 6-7% of my body weight), and he never once asked if there was anything he could do to help. He did “try” to get me medicine. He’ll defend himself and say he did what I asked. Yeah, I asked for Pepto Bismol and he brought me Pepcid AC (nice try, NOT!).

He left me alone when I was at my sickest because he couldn’t “stand” to be in the same apartment with me. He only came back because he was “tired” of socializing with his friends. Not once, did he ask if he could bring me something to eat that maybe I could keep down. Instead it was my guy friend, BL, who asked if I needed anything since he knew I was sick. He brought me some congee and gatorade; and the best part was he kept me company for a few hours while I intermittently cried and talked nonsense.

I learned from this disastrous dissolution of our relationship that you learn more about the person and how they treat you when things are going terribly wrong. I thought Orchestra Teacher at the very least, cared about me, because that’s what he said. He didn’t love me anymore, but he cared for me. His version of caring and my version of caring are completely different. His version was, getting rid of me ASAP so he could move on and do what was best for him. Forget about the fact that we lived together for over 2 years and there was shit to be done to separate our lives. I was foolish to think he would want to do what was better for both of us to make things easier.

He was done with me the moment the relationship was over. Who cares about the years spent? Who cares about me as a person? All he cared about was himself, and I realize now that he’s always put himself first. And that’s fine for him, but it’s not conducive to the kind of partnership in life I want from a relationship.

In the end, he did me a huge favor.

I’ve always found it difficult to know when to give up. I think it’s because I’ve learned that a lot of my successes have come from my sacrifices. But sometimes you have to quit to begin again. If I could tell him one thing, it’d be that there are things worth a good struggle. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without struggling through the bad to get to something good.


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