Looking back on the last six years, I’ve ended every relationship I’ve been in for no reason. There‘s been absolutely nothing wrong with any of my partners, but I have always found a reason not to be with someone. Sometimes it was because I wanted more, or because I wasn’t satisfied. On other occasions, it was because the person I was dating was "too into me" and I felt "smothered." Regardless of the reasons I fed myself, breaking up when nothing is "wrong" has always been particularly difficult, even if it was the most honest thing for me to do when things just weren’t working. When I broke up with my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years for that same reason, despite the fact he did everything right in our relationship, this became even more apparent. Robert* was my best friend, but he wasn’t my forever — and it took me a long time to accept that.
Robert and I first met in high school in 2011 and quickly became friends, but it wasn’t until my senior year (his junior year) when we got really close. We were involved in the same clubs and spent a good chunk of our time together after school. He’d come to me for advice, and I would go to him, too. We kept in touch after I graduated and, somehow, became even better friends after I left for college.
At the end of my first semester at the University of Florida, I came home for winter break and Robert and I got together a couple of times at a local park near both of our houses — once with friends and then just us. Almost immediately after I went back to school, we started flirting via Snapchat and text, and our friendship escalated to something much more — something neither one of us ever expected, and something that would end up lasting longer than any other relationship I’ve been in.
Right around the seven-month mark, I had my first set of doubts about Robert and our relationship, mainly because I’d met someone else who piqued my interests. We flirted a little and hung out a few times, but never physically crossed any lines — it was just a crush. It made me wonder whether I actually wanted to be in my current relationship, and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew the answer: If I did want to be with Robert, no one else would have been able to catch my eye. This was the first red flag, but I reasoned it away because there was technically nothing wrong with what Robert and I had.
Robert was good to me. He always put in the effort needed to maintain our long-distance relationship. He knew when to give me space and when to comfort me. He always did the most he could for me and for us. And I tried to do the same, but he was always a better boyfriend than I was a girlfriend. So I pushed those doubts (and that person) out of my mind, and I continued to do so for almost two more years. Having an innocent crush didn’t feel like enough for me to end my current relationship. I was comfortable, and things were good.
Toward the end of our relationship, a year and a half after I had that first set of doubts, I felt like I was missing out on opportunities — like internships, jobs, plans with friends — because of Robert. I felt like he was holding me back, even though he always did his best to support me. He had started to plan our future. He was going to move to New York with me, and we were going to get married and have kids. Every time the conversation would come up, I’d flinch, change the subject, or tell him it was too soon to be thinking about that.
Robert treated me the way most women would want to be treated. He always took my feelings into consideration. He surprised me with flowers and candles and concert tickets. When I told him I wanted him to text me more often, he did. When I asked him to stop being so overly cute with me, he did — even though it wasn’t the way he preferred to show his love and affection.
There was never one defining moment where I realized it wasn’t going to work with Robert. My feelings changed over time, to the point where one day I just accepted it wasn’t doing either one of us any good to be together if I wasn’t all in.
I tried every last thing to make it work. I pushed any little doubt about us out of my mind and constantly tried to change the way I was or felt about us. I constantly confided in my best friend about how I was feeling, and she told me it was better to end things sooner than later. But I needed to accept the fact that the relationship just wasn’t working out on my own. It didn’t matter that nothing was wrong, or that Robert was the textbook perfect boyfriend. It just wasn’t right. I could have gone on and on for months acting like my feelings were just a result of my "commitment phobia." I could have stayed with Robert for much longer, but it wasn’t fair to either of us.
So one humid Miami night, about a month after I knew it was over, I broke things off with Robert. I invited him to the local park where our relationship first started. I thought it was sentimental to end the relationship where it first began, but Robert saw it as a low-blow. That park had become a happy place for him, and I took that away. (Not to mention, he’d been broken up with in that park once before.)
We were sitting side-by-side on the swings when I asked him about his previous breakup at this park. I’m not entirely sure why I thought it would be a good idea to ask him about it, but I did, and it led us right to "the talk." He joked, "As long as you don’t break up with me here, it’s fine." When I flinched in response, he knew what was coming. And when I told him I wanted to break up, he was blindsided by the news.
When he asked me why, the only reason I could give was that I felt like something was missing. I didn’t know what it was or what Robert could’ve done to change my mind, but I just wasn’t in it anymore. I wanted to be able to give him a better reason, but I didn’t have one. In all honestly, I didn’t entirely understand why I felt the way I did.
We spent the rest of our time at the park talking and crying, prolonging our time together as much as we could. At 2 a.m., it was time to go — even though neither of us was ready. He sent me a text saying he was home, and that was the last time we spoke for months.
I thought knowing I was going to break up with Robert would’ve made me more ready to do it, but I was wrong. When you’re breaking up when nothing in your relationship is wrong per se, it’s hard to know whether you’re making the right choice. My relationship was good and Robert did make me happy, so did I make the right decision? Asking myself that question made me realize I’d gotten to the point with Robert where I was only in our relationship because he still was.
It took weeks for me to realize that I genuinely felt better than I did pre-breakup. I didn’t feel like I had to fake my emotions anymore or force myself to feel a certain way about Robert. Of course I was sad; I’d lost my boyfriend and best friend in the same night. But overall, I felt better than I had since I first realized our relationship was over.
Robert and I didn’t talk for a while, but eventually, we came to some sort of unspoken agreement that every few months we’d text and catch up with each other. I knew then, and I know now, that he deserves someone who wants to be with him, and I deserve to be with someone I genuinely want to be with too. He hasn’t dated anyone since, but regardless, he’s better off on his own than in a relationship with someone who’s not all-in the way he deserves.
Breaking up with my boyfriend when nothing was "wrong" surely wasn’t easy, but I have no regrets.
*Name has been changed.
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