The worst breakup was the one that didn’t happen

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was having a Bumble BFF date with three girls at a wine bar in East Village (if you don’t know what Bumble BFF is, get with the times). One of the girls posed a question to the group: “What was the worst breakup you ever had?”

We went around the group, and everyone had their horror stories. Then, my turn came, and I said awkwardly, that the worst breakups I’d had were probably worse for the other person, because I was a terrible breaker upper and broke up with people by text most of the time. We then started talking about ‘ghosting’, a form of bad dating etiquette that has so commonly been picked up by members of our generation. We talked about all the disappointments that were accompanied by ghosting, and how we were also guilty of it ourselves on occasion, and suddenly, I was reminded of a painful memory.

I had glossed over the “worst breakup I’d ever had”, because at the time, I truthfully couldn’t think of any times I’d had a terrible break up. Then, while we were talking about ghosting, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The worst breakup I’d ever had wasn’t really a breakup, because it never happened.

Two years ago, when I was in my last year of university and holding on the vestiges of my innocence, I was ambivalently dating on Tinder. Due to a few horror stories, I hadn’t really met anyone in awhile, but out of the blue, I noticed someone that I thought might be worthwhile– let’s call him S. He had model worthy good looks, with one noticeable caveat being that he was two years younger than me. Nevertheless, good looks trumped potential lack of maturity, so I swiped right, and we matched.

Our conversation at first was idle chatter about what we were doing, before we exchanged numbers. S shortly texted me asking if I was free to talk on the phone that night. I replied saying that I was free, but I’d prefer to text. S managed to persuade me to chat over the phone though, and I anticipated his phone call that night with trepidation. That night when he called me though, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of our conversation, and his eloquence and charm.

We ended the phone call after an hour and a half, and he texted me straight after saying, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” We continued to text every day and talk on the phone intermittently for a couple of weeks. I began to like him more and more as we got to know each other better.

After a couple of weeks of texting every day, and weekly phone calls though, I began to think that he only wanted to be virtual friends. Just as I was thinking this though, he asked me if I wanted to meet up in the near future. In my mind, I was saying a resounding yes.

We met up for the first time the following week, and when we met, I liked him even more. Things went well, and we continued going on weekly dates, and talking every day. We always did a lot of walking on the dates, and it felt kind of like that overly talky movie franchise, ‘Before Sunrise’. Around this time, I was still planning to move to Japan after graduating, and every time we went out, S continuously asked me if I was still planning to move. My answer at this time was usually something like, it depends on the circumstances at the time. My real answer was, I’d stay if I was in a significant relationship, but I didn’t want to seem needy or overly interested.

Things went on like that for about a month, dating at a steady pace of about once a week. After the fourth date, I went overseas for a month, and we continued chatting every day while I was away. Despite only having been on four dates so far, I felt like I knew him so well, and I really missed him while I was away. During this time, I also casually asked him if he’d met anyone else from Tinder while I’d been away, and he replied that he’d deleted because he didn’t have enough time to date, and he’d met me. I came back to Sydney a month later, and we met again a couple of days after I got back.

I was glad to see him, but I noticed there was a palpable distance between us that I couldn’t cross. We were discussing plans for the coming weekend, and after first asking me if I was free to come to an event, S then said he thought he’d double booked, and that he’d confirm with me later. I got the feeling then, that there would be an end to all the dates and phone calls, and that it would be soon. He kissed me goodbye that night without lingering, and I felt pitfalls in my stomach all the way home.

He texted me later that night, saying to message him when I got home, and we exchanged cute texts like we usually did, but I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that it was over. The next day, he texted me saying not to try and take off work on the weekend, because he’d double booked. I texted something back, saying that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see him. Never before had I come so close to admitting how I felt about him. In response, he sent a “me too”, with a couple of crying face emojis. As expected, our communication dropped off for two days, which previously had never happened before.

I didn’t want to text him first, but after a couple of days, I was dying to hear from him. This resulted in me messaging him on Facebook messenger one night, the lowest ranking in the pillar of communication. I asked him pathetically how his week had been, when really I meant, ‘why haven’t you contacted me for the past couple of days?’ S replied, rattling off all the things that were keeping him busy, and it just seemed like he was making excuses. I obviously knew what he was trying to say to me, but I kept digging for some concrete answer. I replied that my week had been strange, because I hadn’t heard from him, and he gave a non-committal answer saying, “I haven’t really been speaking to anyone”, before again stating all the things that were keeping him so busy.

He then abruptly ended the conversation and said goodnight. It was clear that he was blowing me off. What was unexpected though, was that I actually felt really bad. For the next couple of days, I was kind of heartbroken.

The most painful thing about it to me, was that he hadn’t even deemed me worthy of a breakup text. From other breakups, I’d gotten a clear sense of closure, but I’d never gotten it in this situation, which only made the sting worse.

Life in New York: A beginner’s guide to polyamory

NYC view from ben's placeAfter my first couple of weeks in New York, I found myself in a relationship with someone I had met in San Francisco a couple of weeks prior. However, for one reason or another I had been dissatisfied with the traditional relationship model for some time, and had had the desire to expand my horizons and experiment with polyamory. New York, a truly cosmopolitan city, facilitated my hedonist tendencies.

After nearly two months of living in the US, I found myself with 3 lovers that I was extremely fond of, while also dating several other people whose company I enjoyed. I was very happy with the current set up and didn’t see myself conforming to the traditional relationship model again anytime soon. One particularly glorious day before my bliss shattered, I was sitting on a sun-drenched residential rooftop overlooking Manhattan, at 4pm on a weekday, gorging on berries and reading. I thought to myself what a grand adventure my life in New York was, and that I never wanted to go home again.

With the next day however, came a complete turn of events. It was the last day of spring, and I was walking in Prospect Park, feeling utterly down in the doldrums because one of my lovers, who I was completely enamoured with, had just told me they were not okay with my ‘polyandry’. While I did some rounds of the park and some scheming, I decided, as any sane person would, to rush over to his apartment later that evening and convince him of the necessity for three lovers (himself included), and to please be reasonable.

After I rushed over in the evening though, it just so happened that I ended up saying I would stop seeing all the other suitors, and just see him, including planning to move into his apartment immediately. We discussed how to mitigate my need for variety and attention, and what we both wanted from each other. He requested that I tell all my other suitors of my new relationship the next day. With that, came a series of uncomfortable calls, texts and and an in person meeting, that left me with a sense of consternation for several days thereafter. During the two days over which I contacted my suitors and prospective lovers, I received several accusations, the most of which were particularly disturbing, included, “you exhibit many of the signs of sociopathy”, “you’re a walking red flag”, “I think you should see a psychiatrist.”

And I couldn’t deny all the accusations, but it just so happened that this particular man who I told I would give up everyone else for, had an ineffable quality that took complete hold of me. He was muscular, stocky, and was masculine in both build and demeanor, with a deep voice that commanded and captivated me. His facial features were quite pleasing to me,  with an aquiline nose, and hazel eyes that expressed boredom or disdain at times, but at other times, were mirthful. Physical appearances aside, he had skipped to his PhD at an Ivy League school right after completing undergrad, spoke 5 languages and could order dim sum in Cantonese, and was a discerning oenophile and gourmand. I was completely enthralled by him. If he told me to cancel all my plans to see him, I did it. If he asked me to jump, I would have said, “how high?”

After all the uncomfortable goodbye conversations with my other suitors, we settled quickly into an idyllic living arrangement. I was basically living like a “bird in a gilded cage”, as one of my friends mildly put it, in his luxury Chelsea apartment. While he went out to work, I would busy myself going out to boutique fitness classes, reading, and writing. When he came home from work, we would go out to dinner, which was almost always paired with wine or sake, and accompanied by light-hearted banter. We would stroll around New York briskly, and he would educate me about the history of the city. The first couple of days were blissful, and the most emotive for him, but after the weekend was over, things grew stagnant, with me requiring downtime with the fallout of my sudden lifestyle change, while he fell back into his emotionally distant ways. There were also some skeletons in his closet, which was a rather concerning issue for me. It was a combination of these issues, and my uncertainty as to whether I would be able to re-conform to a monogamous relationship model, that led to my leaving his beautiful apartment after nearly a week of cohabitation, with an explanatory goodbye note.

My fickle heart had had difficulty leaving this person, who was the first person in a long time who I was crazy about. The night before I left, I pressed him on his opinion regarding my cohabitation and whether he was ready for me to take the next step, and actually gather all my things for a real move in. As usual, he had been fairly coy with me about taking the next step, and I was feeling rather insecure about his lack of emotional directness. He said he would deliberate on the decision and let me know in the morning. But when the morning rolled around, I asked him what his position was, and he said he would think about it during the day and then tell me later that night.

As it was, I myself had been deliberating on leaving, and the possibility of waiting another full day for an answer regarding my living situation with this man was almost intolerable to me, in addition to the other concerning factors. I decided to pack my things that day, and leave. That day was also the first day that he didn’t text me all day since I’d been staying with him. I thought the lack of a text was a pre-emptive sign on his part, and that perhaps he had wanted me to leave, but later in the evening, slightly later than he normally got home, I got an Um, where? text from him, questioning the lack of my whereabouts, and then a succinct Oh. that was heartwrenching to me.

It was a difficult decision to make but ultimately, I reasoned with myself that I’d rather have the other sorts of freedoms that my other relationships allowed me, and that it was probably better to not be committed to one person at this early point in my move.

And then, the next day, as I was sitting back in my Brooklyn brownstone, stuffing my face, albeit in a glum manner, I questioned my decision once more, (and not for the last time), my inability to make a decision, and stick to it.