The Ex Files

They say “write what you know”. So what DO I know? I know about failed relationships and being tall. There is only so much you can say about being tall. Each day someone asks me if I play basketball and it’s hard to find pants that are long enough. There is only so much I can say about my height but there is plenty to say about my relationship epic fails.

Today is ex-boyfriend #3’s birthday. We’re not Facebook friends so luckily I’m saved from watching people shower his profile with salutations and well wishes. Gratefully, I can avoid the inevitable Facebook wall post from his new girlfriend. And, I can just pretend it isn’t his birthday, he was never born and that he doesn’t exist. Except, he was born, he does exist and it is his birthday. I can’t avoid thinking about it because it’s the first time in nearly a decade that I won’t wish him “Happy Birthday”. Of course, I’ve been thinking about what his birthday means to me. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been dreading this day on my calendar. I wanted to pack the day with as many events, meetings and tasks as possible to keep my mind off things. But, unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, my grand plans for tonight fell through, so I’m at home early – alone except for my thoughts. And for someone who deals with my thoughts on a daily basis, trust me: my thoughts are annoying, tedious and not very fun to hang out with sometimes.

I miss ex-boyfriend #3. We haven’t had a good time together since before we broke up. Every conversation or meeting since has ended in yelling, drunkenness or tears. So needless to say, we do not see or talk to each other. His birthday has made me confront precisely how I feel about him now that we’re six months removed from our relationship. I’ll be 100% honest. I miss him. I’m still unhappy that we broke up. I believed in the relationship and, also, believed it had the potential to be a great relationship. And, I still love him.

I don’t mean “love” like how it’s characterized in any Smiths song. I certainly don’t mean “if a double-decker bus crashes into us to die by your side is such heavenly way to die” kind of love. I really don’t mean Beyonce loves Jay-Z kind of love. I was listening to Beyonce’s new song, “XO” and realized that I truly don’t mean “I love you like XO” kind of love. The love that Beyonce is describing (and, of course, I’m guessing because I’m not her and not in that relationship) is an all-consuming, mutual, supportive, inspiring, strong and amazing love. I surely do not mean that type of love. (I’m not certain I’ve experienced that type of love yet.)

When I say “love” I mean a connection that retains importance within me. I believed we had a great connection and, as I said above, there was something about the relationship that I thought had the potential to be special. The “love” made no sense to me. We had nothing in common. If people saw us separately, they’d never guess that we ever dated. We don’t fit in person. We don’t fit on paper. But, to me, we fit perfectly. Unfortunately, for me, my ex-boyfriend did not agree. I never reached that “I love you like XO” kind of love with him. Who knows if I would have achieved that. I do know that that type of love is mutual. Both people need to be there, equally invested with the same level of intensity. In my past relationships, I’ve had flashes of that type of love but my level of intensity varied and at times the love was not mutual. Much of the time the love ebbed and flowed and the timing was completely off. Love is a game of chance and the timing has to be precisely right for both people. And each time I’ve played the game, something has always been off.

None of this makes me entirely happy. I’ve spent most of the past decade in serious relationships but I haven’t experienced that “I love you like XO” level of love. The type of love they sing songs about. The type of love you see in movies. The type of love that changes your life. And this not a slight to ex-boyfriends #1 or #2. I’m almost 100% certain that if you ask them they’d both agree that while we had happy memories their lives were not forever changed by my presence.

And, I know what you’re thinking: that type of love isn’t real. That type of love is created by song writers like Diane Warren and only exists in romantic comedies. I’ll admit that my mind has been corrupted by plenty of romantic comedies and cheesy love songs and despite my better judgment, I do believe in that “I love you like XO” kind of love. However, I’m also a realist. I’m a lawyer by training so I am thoughtful, fact-drive and analytical. I’ve been in long term relationships and understand that successful relationships take work and compromise. In one episode of Scandal, Olivia Pope described the type of love she was looking for. She explained that she wanted “painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love”. Her ex-boyfriend retorted that love isn’t supposed to be “painful or devastating” stating that “love isn’t supposed to hurt.” While my logical brain understands and agrees with Olivia Pope’s ex, I can’t help but fall into the “painful and devastating” camp. If I’ve learned anything from the past decade it’s that I’m not built for normality and simplicity. Real love is scary and terrifying. Real love is uncomfortable and upending. Real love makes you uneasy. I’ve realized that I would rather be scared, terrified, uncomfortable, upended and uneasy. And maybe this desire for that “painful and devastating” love may leave me single forever. As I look toward my 32nd birthday in March, I’m becoming much more comfortable with that concept.

So, what does all this have to do with ex-boyfriend #3? I was terrified of our relationship. I was scared from the beginning. The entire experience felt like trying to hold water. As a result, I turned into a needy, crazed lunatic who spent hundreds of dollars to lose weight and changed my entire wardrobe. I realized now that I was reacting from a place of fear. While, I can’t control anyone else’s emotions or actions, I can control my reaction to fear. I do know that the next time I’m in a relationship that challenges me, that makes me uneasy and that scares me, I’ll push past fear. Because I believe in the existence of that “I love you like XO” kind of love. But, in order to get to that type of love, I have to be willing to push past fear to explore the potential of relationships. I believe that a relationship worth holding onto requires effort and work. I believe that real love can change your life. I believe that real love can inspire both individuals to form a partnership in which they shine and truly bring out the best in each other. And, next time, I’ll be ready to accept the challenge.

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