Surviving a breakup is hard, but getting through a ‘conscious un-coupling’ should be easier, right? Not so in this case.
Gemma and I broke up.
And yes, before you think I’m being a jerk by sharing, she knows I’m writing this (of course) and has approved the final draft.
We broke up. More accurately, I started the ball rolling by blurting out an unfair amount of feelings, she listened and accepted it, and we mutually decided to “consciously un-couple”. I know that’s a shitty celebrity buzzword for agreeing to go your separate ways, but it’s accurate: we have un-coupled and it was a conscious decision.
In the moment, there was relief. Relief from the worry I’d been carrying about not being for her what I thought she needed me to be. Relief from the sad, jealous goblin that has lived in my stomach for the last few months, making compersion difficult, making me feel lesser than. Relief from the worry that I would hurt her or bring up past feelings from recent breakups she has had. The sense of the relief was also owed in no small part to Gemma’s grace. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her, but I was also tired of hurting myself in a relationship that wasn’t working for me.
It was a long time coming, which feels unfair but also assures me that I took enough time to decide what to do. I am overly analytical at the best of times, add relationship stress and a fear of hurting the other person and my self-analysis goes through the roof. In the end, I don’t think I did it very well; I was emotional, it was by text, and despite my best efforts, it was very clumsy. There was a point in the conversation where I sobbed (privately, I didn’t tell her) and was quite sure that she hated me. That’s when it hit: what if we never spoke again? And the raw hurt settled in. Was I being hasty? Could I endure the heavy, awful sadness? Maybe I should take it all back and just do better? But as quickly as those thoughts came, so did the ones that reminded me that it wasn’t fair to either of us to just get by. Given a few more minutes and many more words, I realized she didn’t hate me, but that the hurt was very real for both of us.
There’s no manual for relationships, no how-to for the heart. I wish I could have been a better partner to her. I wish I hadn’t been so frozen and stuck in my head. I wish that she wasn’t my first ‘real’ girlfriend – I wish that I could have experienced my baby-bi growing pains with someone else, or better yet, before trying to be someone’s girlfriend. And yet, I have no regrets. She is amazing and brilliant and beautiful and just typing this about her is making me cry, because I’m so fucking proud to know her and to have had her love pointed in my direction. She is sunlight on still water.
I can’t blame all of my discomfort and anxiety on it being a same-gendered connection, but if I’m honest, I know that’s part of it. I just couldn’t ever quite relax, I over thought everything, and I realized why (straight) men joke about the intensity of relationships with women. In straight relationships I am undoubtedly the more emotional person. In this w/w relationship with Gemma, we were both emotional, both expressive, both prone to processing our feelings out loud. I say this meaning no offence to her at all: for me, dating a woman is much harder work than dating a man. I had not considered the social and communication differences and I was not prepared for how much more emotional information there would be and how worried for and pre-occupied with her I would become.
So now the label has been peeled off. We are no longer girlfriends, but great friends. Losing the label and the bog-standard expectations of a relationship feels right because it means neither of us is trying to give more than we have and worrying about disappointing the other. But what of the feelings? They haven’t gone or changed for me. I still love her, but it’s not right for either of us to define things as we were. That’s why I use the term ‘conscious uncoupling’ – making the choice to let go of someone you love. I say ‘let go’ but the reality is we still text each other every morning, we still check in on each other, we still talk. I don’t want her to fade out of my life. I don’t want to cast her out or label her an Ex, but I also don’t quite know how to do … this. It feels messy and also completely simple and neat. We were together, now we aren’t. But again … feelings. I have never lingered like this. When things end with someone, I usually cut all ties, I burn the letters and delete their contact info. I usually take a ‘scorched earth’ approach, but this time, I can’t. I can’t quite let go for fear it will all slip away and she will be lost to me. And yet, it was me that let go first.
I’m rambling and my heart is aching. I honestly didn’t think it would hurt. I thought I had resolved it all in my head, but I forgot to look into my heart. That seems to have been my issue with all of this: I could never get out of my head. I wish I could be as vulnerable with her as I want to be and I don’t know quite what the barrier is. It’s not her; she’s wonderful. Maybe I’m struggling with some internalised issues with my own sexuality, maybe the timing was off, maybe it just wasn’t right. A million maybes, and I don’t expect I’ll ever find answers. Maybe the answers don’t matter.
Behind the smiles and starry eyes,
Lay tear-stained truths we cannot hide;
Heart outsmarts head, it must abide,
Despite the turning of the tide
Put down the gloves, the fight is fought.
Friends to lovers, in the end
The love in-hand makes friends again
The thrum and hum and that never ends
Forgive me and forget me not.