There are some life events so shocking, it is hard to imagine we will ever recover.
It took me about a decade. But events like that never truly leave you. If I listen carefully, I can still hear the echoes of his abandonment.
The detail of that evening is with me still. I can replay it in my mind at a moment’s notice.
That it happened at all—and that it happened to me—remains beyond all comprehension.
Blindsided by the person you love. The foolishness of not seeing a situation for what it is. The humiliation of being wrong(ed).
We had been together five years and lived in an apartment in a nice part of the city.
When we spoke on the phone that evening, it was almost 9pm and I was still in my office. “I’ll pick up food, we can watch The Apprentice,” he said. Meatballs, he suggested.
But I returned home and something was off. There was no mood lighting. There was no jazz playing in the kitchen. Later, I would notice his getaway bag in the hallway.
He was in the bathroom—his stomach, presumably, had the decency to be upset—and I was taking off my trousers in the bedroom.
Or perhaps he was taking a moment to steel himself to say it. Apparently he’d been trying to say it for months.
He was nervous, but he defiant when he told me—steely determination in his voice—“I’m leaving you.” I received this information wearing only my pants.
They were words I never expected to hear from him. The selection of those words; so glib, and trite. They lacked all the nuance with which I associated him.
He tried to find common ground. “You must agree things aren’t as good as they used to be.”
It was only when I pushed back that he revealed what was actually going on.
I told him, “I think we’re great and that the best is yet to come.” It made me sound pathetic, but it was true and I was in shock and so I said it anyway.
He left the following morning and I never heard from him again.
Joan Didion wrote at the beginning of The Year of Magical Thinking (2005):
Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner, and life as you know it ends.
Those words used to haunt me, and I played them on loop.
Betrayal, rejection, abandonment—it’s a lot to process in one evening. What you thought was there, wasn’t. What you thought he felt, he didn’t. And all those years spent cultivating a joint existence, gone in a nanosecond, and never really there in the first place.
You’re meant to hate him, because it is a hateful, selfish act. If only it were that simple. You can’t go from “love of your life” to “lock him up” in a heartbeat.
Some people knowingly fall for a bad boy—and there is a certain appeal to a boy like that—but that wasn’t what I was about. He was, in my eyes, beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, dedicated.
It simply didn’t occur to me there was another side to him. To what sort of person had I entrusted my heart?
Events like these change you.
We all let each other down eventually, but it is those whom we love who invariably hurt us the most. We set them apart, and we hold them to a higher standard, because we have given ourselves to them and we have nothing bigger to give.
Of course, the sense of loss is overwhelming. You’re planning a golden future only to discover yourself condemned to darkness. The speed of it leaves you whiplashed.
It becomes harder to trust people, obviously. You start looking for ulterior motives. You question your judgment. You second-guess yourself.
It is the loss of a future and it is the loss of a past. Everything he did, everything he said—all of it tainted. He kept things from you, but what exactly, and when? He lied to you, but which parts were the truth?
“I know you’ll be heartbroken,” he told me.
Such an exertion of power! It was a uniquely exposing experience. Giving your all to someone who gave only parts of himself. The humiliation of being played.
And then there is the question of forgiveness. How do you forgive someone who doesn’t ask for forgiveness? How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong, who—if they knew the extent of your distress—would likely say: “What’s that got to do with me?”
He asked for a hug and said, “It’s going to be fine.” They were among the last words he ever said to me. Well—you know what? It wasn’t.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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The post I Was About To Propose, but He Left Me for Someone Else appeared first on The Good Men Project.