The Story I'm Telling Myself About My Breakup

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By Vanessa Zoltan


My ex and I broke up three weeks ago after four and a half years together. In reflecting on our relationship and our breakup, I have realized that I am entirely in control of the narrative that I tell myself about our relationship and our breakup. The spin on us, the spin that I live with for the rest of my life is entirely up to me.

I can choose to believe that I am better off now that we have broken up. At least he didn’t ‘waste any more of my time.’ I can choose to believe that my life is over now. I’m 31. Maybe I won’t find a husband and baby-daddy now that he ‘wasted so much of my time.’ I can be mad at him or feel bad for him. I can regret things or not. I have a lot of decisions to make now that he and I have broken up.

In the relationship, it felt like inertia. Everything was a negotiation and everything had to be vetted between the two of us. Now it’s just me, my dog and my biological clock. So I have to be careful about the story I tell myself.

I haven’t wanted to talk much about the breakup. I’ve had such supportive people who want to hear me. But I have spoken to very few. I haven’t wanted to talk until I have my story figured out. And it will keep evolving.

But for now, the story that I am telling myself is as follows:

I loved him. He loved me. I dare say we both still love each other and always will. We were really great friends. We supported each other to become better versions of ourselves. Without him I would not be pursuing the chaplaincy, nor would I have my dog. I wouldn’t have run a half marathon or run around Philadelphia handing out hamburgers to homeless people late at night. I wouldn’t be as happy a person as I am. I wouldn’t still have my blog. I would not be in school right now. I would not be so comfortable in my own skin.

We were honest with each other, we trusted each other, we supported each other. We went through hard times together and we went through easy times together. We made a home and a family together. We were a family of 2 and it was a beautiful, little family.

We were not destined to break up. We made mistakes. We did not know we were crossing bridges that we couldn’t uncross until it was too late. We hurt each other, but never intentionally. We disappointed each other all the time, but again, never intentionally.

I think that we could have figured out a way to be together and that we could have been a happy, successful couple. I would have loved to spend the rest of my life with him and have children with him. But we made a series of decisions that led us to making that impossible.

I surround myself with optimistic people - caring people. People who say to me that the break up is for the best. A lovely friend said the other night that my next relationship will simply be easier. That it doesn’t have to be as hard as it was for my ex and I. Maybe. I think it had been hard for us for a while. But after four and a half years, I think that you go through hard times and that we could have made it through to the other side. We just didn’t. I honestly believe that poor timing bit us in the butt.

I also think that it’s OK that timing bit us in the butt. I think we’ll both be fine. I don’t think we’re better off, but I don’t think we’re worse off either. I think we’re just off now and that we’ll both make the best of it.

And I am writing this down now because in 5 years, I am 100% sure that I will feel differently. In 5 years I will have such a wonderful life that I will think, “I wouldn’t have this life if he and I were still together and so thank goodness we broke up.” But right now I know better. I would have had just as wonderful a life with him as I will now have without him.

I am now off to go live that other wonderful life; the one without him. But I mourn the one we could have had. There was a trip to Ireland in the near future, and a life plan to hit all the National Parks. There were children with names already picked. There was time with his family and mine. There was a wonderful little life.

At least that’s the story I’m telling myself.

writer photo

Vanessa Zoltan

Vanessa is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and at the Humanist Hub. She graduated with her BA in English Lit and Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, her MS in Nonprofit Management from the University of Pennsylvania and her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School in 2015. She is working on a book about treating Jane Eyre as a sacred text. She blogs at www.aliberatedlife.blogspot.com.

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