Not long ago my relationship with Clancy reached a milestone: I have now been with her longer than I was with Julie. Clancy and I surpassed Julie and I in most ways in our first year. The only remaining milestone was simply a matter of running out the clock.
Julie and I were together for over four years when I decided to end it. Even before that I was subconsciously moving away from her. There came a point, though, where we had to either fix us or break up. The idea that she didn’t think that there was anything that needed fixing made breaking up all the more inevitable. She knew that I was upset, though, and tried to figure out whatever on her end was causing that.
She thought it might be her insecurity. It was, ironically, her announcement that she no longer felt insecure about our relationship that tripped the wire. I’d had no idea what to say. That night we had our first of several talks and we gave me two weeks to figure out what I wanted. Well, it was two weeks for her to try to change my mind.
She sent two emissaries to talk to me about it. The idea was to talk me out of it, but in both cases the mutual friend was closer to me than to her. The first was Kay Brown. Kay was one of the few people that knew that I had previously been intending to propose to Julie as recently as a couple months before. Laying out my thoughts was therefore easy for her. I was able to stick with the same program: I wanted to propose=>thought about married life with her=>determined it would be miserable=>did not want misery.
The second person she sent was our friend Tony. Shortly after our friend Walt died, Tony was divorced and in need of friends and so Tony sort of filled Walt’s slot in our social circle. I’d known Tony longer than she had, though, and unlike Walt he had a slightly greater allegiance to me than to her at the time. Even so, Tony dogged me about leaving a relationship that was so practical, peaceful, and serene. Once I explained myself, though, he sat back and said that it was a worst-case scenario: I knew exactly what I was doing, I had made my decision, and my decision made a great deal of sense.
Within a month of my breakup with Julie, she and Tony started dating. Within six months they were living together. Julie had a little time line in hear head that would have them married in 18 months and sporting kids by 36. But once they moved in together, things stalled. Tony’s divorce, which had previously been stalled by him when he was trying to win Lara back, was now being stalled by Lara. The reason that Julie and I didn’t get married was because we were young and in college, but similarly Tony and Lara couldn’t get married because Tony was still legally married to Lara and he said that he did not want to be planning a new marriage before he got out of his old one.
It was ironically the finalization of Tony and Lara’s divorce that did Tony and Julie in. Once that was out of the way, the Marriage Question loomed ever larger. Tony announced that he wasn’t really sure he ever wanted to get married again*. Then he announced that he was sure that he didn’t want to get married again. Julie had always wanted to get married and was horrified at the thought of having kids outside of wedlock (which was Tony’s plan). But faced with losing him, she finally relented and said that actually getting married wasn’t all that important to her anyway.
I was privy to both sides of this conversation as it was happening. I was to them what Tony was to Julie and I when we were together. The more I talked to Tony, the more disturbed I got. The more he started to sound like me. I wasn’t even surprised when he said that he wasn’t sure that he was in it with Julie for the long haul. Every conversation thereafter felt like I was talking to someone more and more emotionally checked out of the relationship. The program was clear: He considered marrying her=>thought about what married life with her would be like=>determined it would be miserable=>did not want misery.
When he finally broke the news to her, Julie of course sent me as an emissary to try to talk him out of it. I already knew by that point that the worst case scenario was true: He knew exactly what he was doing, he had made his decision, and his decision made a great deal of sense.
The part that struck me as the most disturbing was how similar the rise and fall of the relationships were. We both picked up Julie on the rebound, we both moved had quiet, happy, and directionless relationships, we both considered marrying her, and we both broke up with her. More striking than that, though, was that we had the exact same problems with her. Neither of us could really describe it very well, but we both knew exactly what we were talking about. I would have to write a separate post to do it justice, but both of us could tick off rather minor practical problems and yet we both knew that none of those would at all be an issue if there wasn’t this very distinct emotional void that came with being with her.
After they broke up I became the shoulder for Julie to lean on. She called me three times a day crying and sobbing her way through it all. She could go on for hours saying bad things about him and talking about how she destroyed she was. Thoughout these many discussions, never once did she acknowledge that her two serious relationships ended at the same phase for the same reasons. In fact, she never drew any connection at all between the two breakups. None at all. The only time she made any comparisons it was to say that I had done things the right way and he had done things the wrong way and how this hurt in a way that that one didn’t. Of course, part of me wants to say “Hey! I did so hurt you badly!” but that did not seem wise.
I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that she completely missed the connections. Had she seem them, it would have thrown her into even more despair and thinking that she wasn’t lovable and that any guy she got next would just leave her after over years. On the other hand, you can’t correct behavior if you’re not aware of it and if there is some behavior modification needed on her part it won’t happen without recognizing whatever role that she played in our decision. On the third hand, even if she asked me point-blank what she could have done to save the relationship I would not be able to give a clear answer and neither would Tony.
So maybe ignorance is bliss.
As an epilogue, by the time that Tony left her she had been in one relationship or another for ten years without so much as two months on her own. She’s been single ever since, though. She’s self-reportedly thrown herself into her work and doesn’t date very much at all. The last thing that she said to Tony was a message she passed through me: Tell him that I hate him. I couldn’t blame her for the anger on that, though, he’d just cost her her job. That’s a story for another time.
* - To be fair, that’s how he had always said that he felt, but he acknowledged that his mind might change once he was no longer married to Lara. It obviously didn’t change.