Now that I’ve experienced the very brink of relationship perfection (but not quite), I now realize that the euphoric rush when you’re into wholeheartedly someone is unmistakable. The qualitative, unquantifiable, x-factor. It’s a magical glow that makes all possible incompatibilities recede, that only highlights their perfections. The objective criteria that my dating experiment tried to quantify? A futile experiment, since the heart wants what it wants.I know people often caution you against comparing your partners, but I feel like you only know what a good relationship is when you’ve been in a few and are able to compare pros and cons. People put up with all kinds of mediocre nonsense when they’re in a relationship that is a “first” in a life stage. Like your first high school boyfriend. (We’ll each go to college but do long distance anyway!) Or your first college girlfriend. (Oh, we have so much fun together, there’s no reason to question our possibly divergent values and approaches to life.) Or your first serious grown-up relationship, once you’re out of school and are a working adult. (We both know we want to get married with X kids and have Y lifestyle – passion fades anyway, I’m not going to fuss over the seeming emptiness of our union.)
Because of my flawed process while methodically dating, I had entered a relationship that was very good on several levels, but just never quite enough. Below is a breakup letter that, through highlighting what I wasn’t happy about the relationship, put into perspective what I do value about one. (Disclaimer: It takes two to tango and I know I’m not perfect, but this is my perspective.)
Start of letter
I’m hesitant to break up with you one more time, but I think it really has to be done. This time, there’s no going back. All this tumult is a sign, and I’m tired of rationalizing our relationship into existence when clearly we are swimming against the tide here.
I found myself wondering what your needs in a relationship are, and I recently wanted to tell you, “I want to make you happy, but I don’t know how.” You have yet to articulate to me what you expect from me, and as a result I’m not sure how I can please you. But then a realization occurred to me: here I am worrying about what you need from me, when I need to address what *my* own needs are. It is through this series of thoughts that it dawned upon me that you are not fulfilling my needs.
I have needs, and I want to be comfortable expressing that I have them. I have gathered that you take pride in being independent, and that you are with your partner because you want her, not because you need her. It is dawning upon me that I disagree with your view, and I have to be unabashed about my needs. While I’m all for being self-sufficiently happy, a romantic relationship fulfills needs that I cannot fulfill on my own. You have engendered a feeling of self-doubt in my having the needs that I have. I should not have to feel bad about my emotional, physical, and intellectual needs in my relationship.
While it seems like we align on some of the things we want in a relationship, (the synergy borne out of being in a team, mutual support, mutual growth) I cannot continue to wait for you to figure out what your needs are, then subsequently act upon them, while my needs are being compromised on a daily basis.
The value I observe you to place on emotional independence as it relates to relationships (both platonic and romantic) differs irreconcilably from my perspective. I have come to strongly believe that our social networks are an invaluable form of support. Maybe you perceive relying on a support network as needy, but it’s a formula that works for me and elevates my overall happiness, and we are not on the same page on the role our people should play in our lives. Even if we are, I don’t see this being played out in reality based on the way I have observed you to handle your relationships.
Because of this difference in our attitudes towards relationships, I don’t feel like I can trust you to support me emotionally in the way that I need from a relationship. I feel like your motivations are very much driven by what you want to do at a point in time, and I don’t feel like I can rely on you for the “good and the bad, the happy and the sad“. I don’t want to share my emotions with you. Maybe this might change, maybe you’re just not in a good place in your life right now. But I’m tired of making excuses for this presently dissatisfying relationship, and I can’t foresee it becoming magically better in the future either. I am not hopeful.
I also cannot be in a relationship where we coast along and avoid discussing potential deal breakers when they may so definitely be an issue. I am still unsettled by our unfinished conversation about open relationships. I have put some thought into it, and sincerely explored that option as a possibility. But I cannot make a call on this when you can’t even firmly make a call on it. I cannot abide the fact that we may have a moral disparity about what a relationship means to us, and I am unwilling to withhold this conversation about boundaries until shit hits the fan. That’s simply not my style, and this attitude to conflict resolution about such a major value should be in and of itself a deal breaker.
With regards to the present, I only enjoy your companionship in a very specific context. We have a lot of fun in the safety and comfort of your private cocoon, but we aren’t really coupley outside of it, at least not in the way that satisfies my needs: insufficient PDA, insufficient exploratory activity, lack of initiative on your end, etc. I know you have said that this would evolve, but it’s not evolving fast enough for me and our future doesn’t seem so shiny that I’m willing to put up with this limbo state of commitment with you. I also feel like I’m carrying the weight of this relationship, and I feel burdened with responsibility that isn’t mine and I’m starting to see that it is not worth it.
This sense of unwanted responsibility is new. At one point, I wanted to give myself to you. I wanted to assume responsibility. But you got scared off. And although there have been recent times where I felt very tender towards you, I don’t want to give myself to you anymore. I don’t see you in my future as a partner. I don’t want to stand by you in the way I would stand by my partner. In my ideal relationship, my partner relishes the fact that I want to commit to him, and isn’t frightened away by what I have to offer.
Another need that is slowly dawning upon me is how important it is to me to be proud of my partner. I know you have mentioned that one should start things off on the right foot by telling your friends about your partner in a positive way, but I find it difficult within myself to gush about you. In an alternate reality where I abide by your standards – have sex or go on dates with whoever I want but must inform them that I have a boyfriend – I would want to gush to my fling how awesome my boyfriend is and how he respects my sexual appetite. However, two issues present itself. 1) I don’t have a need to do “whatever I want”, unlike your need to “scratch the itch”, and 2) I don’t want to tell other people you’re my boyfriend. 2) is the bigger issue here, and relates to the point of pride (or lack thereof) I mention above. Our needs appear to diverge here – I think it is more important to present as a team to the outside world, whereas it is more important to you to indulge in your “do whatever you want”. (Again, you have yet to explicitly state your needs, but I have sufficient data to make my own inferences.)
I can hypothesize about the reasons why I don’t feel proud of you, but at the end of the day, this is the way I feel. Ultimately, I am more distressed than I am happy – I am more unhappy now than I was when I was recklessly dating. Even though I’m all about sacrifice-now-for-future-gain, this is not what a relationship should be, and especially not a relationship in its infancy.
I’m at a point where I can only find reasons to not be with you, and my reasons for staying are not ones I believe to be valid. For one, I know you don’t have a close friend in the city, and I want to be there for you. For two, I am dreading the idea of having to go out in the dating world again, but this is not nearly a good enough reason to stay. (Also, I don’t have to, but I still want to experience the glory that is a passionate and loving relationship.) For three, I crave companionship too and I enjoy yours to a certain extent, but I must do right by myself and I cannot continue this charade of a relationship. I don’t want to be in a relationship with you by your definition, and certainly not by mine.
We had discussed the idea of being somewhere along the continuum of being in a relationship: open relationship, friends with benefits, friends, and nothing. I don’t want to lose the camaraderie we share but loss aversion is a poor reason to be in a relationship. I value our similar mentalities, but this relationship is not working out. As much as I want a perfect relationship with a mental twin, I just don’t want to be with you.