I Loved My Ex but I Broke Up With Him Anyway
“Ast,” he said pointing at a tree branch. “Stein.” He gestured toward a rock on the path up ahead. I repeated the words after him diligently.
My German boyfriend was teaching me his mother tongue as we walked through a nature reserve near my hometown last summer. I needed to learn the language because, in a month, we would move to Berlin together.
Almost a year after that, I walked through the same nature reserve again without him. I swallowed hard as I passed Aste and Steine once again.
Back when my German was still embryonic, he had been such a patient teacher. He’d wanted nothing more than for me to learn.
He had small blue eyes and thinning light brown hair. I spent a lot of time looking at those features. I loved that face and how tiny I felt engulfed by his six-foot-four frame. My love for him was boundless.
But we broke up anyway.
Why we split
The end happened in phases.
The first phase had to do with babies. I wanted them soon and he realized that he didn’t.
But that didn’t do us in completely. It was only the knife placed just below our hearts. After that blow, our relationship was still breathing.
But we were hanging on the edge. Any sudden movement and we were done for.
In an attempt to heal our wounds, we decided try an open relationship.
I went on a few dates and he did not go on any. And it didn’t go well for him. The idea of me with other men hurt him too much.
And because I loved him, it hurt me too.
That two-sided blade pierced us deeper. We were both in pain, although for slightly different reasons. Me, because he didn’t want to commit to making a family with me. And him, because I was happy in our open relationship and I didn’t want to go back to how we were before.
The blades were wedged deep inside of us, stinging our flesh. But there was no way to dislodge them without us tearing apart completely.
We had to let each other go. To accept that fact that it was time to now give up in order for our hearts to heal once again. I knew this. So after some back and forth, I told him it was over. And a few weeks later, he moved out.
Wondering if I did the right thing
That was more than six months ago. But I still sometimes wonder if I did the right thing.
When I have those little moments like I did in the nature reserve that day, I second guess my decision to end things.
The love we had is still potent. We were so in sync, so together, that giving up on him still feels like giving up on a part of me.
There’s still pain from that blade. And a part of me doesn’t want that pain to go away. Because when the pain goes, that means the love has gone with it.
It’s so hard to accept that it’s over. Because it’s not that he did anything wrong. It’s not that we weren’t compatible. It’s not that he betrayed me. It’s not that we stopped loving each other.
It’s that I couldn’t be happy anymore with someone who didn’t share the same goals (having a baby in the near future) or lifestyle desires (being in an open relationship). And those were the only two things I was pretty sure I wanted in a partner before I even knew we’d try to create a life together.
There are more important things than love
In the end, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on the important things. Our individual needs were not in line.
And when those needs surfaced we were no longer able to compromise. Those needs were the knifes that did us in.
A healthy relationship requires more than moments of happiness, shared values, and even compatibility.
It requires an agreement on how you want to fundamentally live your life.
At the time, it was excruciating to let go of Phil. We still lived together for a while after we decided to split.
When he was in eyeshot of me, my whole body would beg me to go over to him and make up. It would scream for his touch. In the comfort of his arms, I knew the stress I felt would dissipate as it so often had.
But my mind knew better. It held me back. It forced me to suffer through that pain.
And now despite my moments of nostalgia, I know it was for the best.
One reason is, if I hadn’t broken up with Phil, I wouldn’t have been able to make things work with Flo, my current partner.
I don’t know where things will go with Flo, but we are more in agreement in how we want to live our lives.
We are both flexible vegetarians, who love dancing. He’s not sure either about when he wants kids, but that’s okay because I want to hold off on that for now too.
But unlike Phil, he actually embraces the lifestyle that I essentially gave up my last relationship for.
Flo and I are in an open relationship and it’s going really well. I wouldn’t change a thing about my love life right now. And I’m so happy I’m living the lifestyle I’ve wanted to for years.
Phil was an amazing person that will make some other woman really happy. We shared irreplaceable memories.
But he was never really right for me. Even though I still feel the sting of that blade, the love that still lingers, I know that it isn’t always enough.