Thursday, January 24, 2008

I suck at breaking up

Wendy once told me that I break up like a lesbian. I suggest, as an alternative to continuing our romance, we become roommates and start a business together.

I was musing about that this morning and realizing that breakups always, always, always require you to throw out the baby with the bathwater. And your success at that (assuming the baby is not the demonic spawn of Rosemary) depends on how well you deal with loss. Some people, maybe most, are way better at dysfunctional unsatisfying relationships than they are at loss. I've experienced both, and I gotta say: it's a toss up.

On the other hand, if you do manage to end a go-nowhere romance, nothing quite compares with the friendship of an ex-boyfriend. He knows every single foible, he calls you on them, he forgives them, he makes fun of you for them. You have old jokes, old fights, you have memories that are particular and specific to you.

Through no fault of my own, I have enough dead ex-boyfriends that they could start their own band. (Long story, but the statistics of random chance prove me innocent.) One hot summer night, lying in bed on the tops of the covers with a (still alive, even now) guy I was dating, I noticed that his legs reminded me of one of those exes. Brown and strong. In that moment, I had a rush that there was no one alive but me with that particular memory. Or any of the years of private memories I'd shared with that boyfriend. When I died, those memories would be gone.

It felt very apocalyptic. I had a history teacher who lectured that the atomic bomb introduced humanity to the threat of not just death, but annihilation. For the first time, entire cities could be wiped out in an instant. Not just you, but everyone who had ever known you, every record of your existence. It changed the way people thought about life and about war.

So breaking up, walking away, never speaking feels like my own private emotional version of Hiroshima. The nuclear capability you only use in case of dire emergency. (You know, or for testing on a bikini atoll somewhere.)

Except you totally do have to break up in order to get to the incredible lifelong friendship part. I used to volunteer at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. As part of our training, we learned the average number of times a person leaves and returns to an abusive relationship before permanently ending it. Nine. I've heard a similar number for how many times people quit smoking. If it takes that many times to leave stuff that noxious, I guess I shouldn't feel so bad that I hate ending relationships that are "almost, but not quite."

I think the trick is to develop some sort of relationship-ending method short of an atomic bomb. Economic sanctions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

" breaking up, walking away, never speaking feels like my own private emotional version of Hiroshima"
Amen to all that. But what about the exes with whom there's no chance of ever being friends (because of how hard you fought and still do when you've managed to talk) but still love?