Another Reflection, 10 months on

In the last 10 months, everything changed, and nothing changed.

Four weeks before sitting down to write this, I was away on my first vacation with my boyfriend. We enjoyed a myriad of different adventures, we joked about how we’d developed a unique way of communicating that only we understood, we both bombarded our families at home with photos, to the point that they were undoubtedly bored. He uploaded some happy photos of us to a fitness tracking app that we both use, just before we flew back.

Three weeks ago, back on dry land, we exchanged our usual standard funny messages throughout the day. He went to my friend’s house at lunch to fix her bike. And then he came round to my apartment in the evening and told me our relationship was over.

My boyfriend and I started going out around a month after I wrote my first reflection. I didn’t realise, when writing about the loneliness of being single during COVID, that something so amazing was just around the corner. I had no idea that I was going to get such a treasured taste of happiness that I’ve never truly believed I deserved, one that would elevate me far beyond the sadness that I’ve carried around with me for too long.

He and I have had some ‘false starts’ in the past 3.5 years, which is how I have taken to describing our history to friends. Although technically an astute description of our relationship trajectory, ‘false starts’ does feel a rather reductive way to describe completely opening up my heart, more than once, to the same person with whom I know I have a special, precious connection, who has never been able to tell me why he’s had to abruptly finish what we had between us, leaving me out in the cold (both literally and figuratively — this is Canada!) multiple times.

In March this year, during whatever soul-crushing wave of this never-ending pandemic, I was just about able to go about my life doing pretty much OK, without having him cross my mind that often. There were some occasions when I’d catch myself thinking of him, wondering again why it had never worked out, but I’d make my mind move on.

It had been over a year since we’d last seen each other, just a few short messages exchanged between us in that time. And then — he got back in touch. He came back into my life and told me that this was it. It wasn’t just the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It was that he had realised that I was the one for him, the person he wanted, the person he knew would make him happy for real. Laced with some alcohol-fuelled self confidence, I told him that night that I know we are right for each other. But also — that after sinking into a COVID-encouraged depressive state for a year, I didn’t have 6 months for him to figure his shit out, test if this was what he wanted. Looking back, I guess I should have told him that 6 months also meant 7 months, 8, 9, 10.

I went into the relationship with my eyes open. I’d been burned before. But it was different, and it was amazing. So not only were my eyes open, but my heart was too. My heart, which has spent the best part of just over three decades safely stowed away, collecting dust, kept under lock and key. I have never been so happy as when I was able to say I was my boyfriend’s girlfriend. We spent the early weekends of our relationship just with each other, since that was what COVID decreed. We ate, we drank, we did puzzles, we played Scrabble, we watched TV, we ran, we kayaked, we canoed, we hiked, we played board games, we talked and talked and talked. Early on, he lamented that we’d wasted time not being together until now.

Eventually we could socialise, seeing each other’s friends, going for weekends away, weaving our lives in and out of each other’s with incredible ease. My friends, initially hesitant to endorse the two of us trying again, were thrilled for me. People noticed how much happier I was, they told me how well we worked together.

I internally celebrated every month we were together. I thought about how I wanted to go and revisit myself in the past three years, and tell previous me that it was all going to be OK, because the two of us would eventually work things out, and all the heartache and confusion of the past was worth it. Hold on, Jess! He’ll realise!

We told each other that we loved each other. We met each other’s families on a trip home to the UK. I regretted that it wasn’t longer, that my parents couldn’t spend longer with the man who made me so happy. We made plans to return home together at Xmas, booking extortionate flights together in his name. We had conversations about the future, but lightly. I was more focused on the here and now, content to be building what we were, when we were.

Our relationship ended shortly after our aforementioned first vacation, a 10 day trip to the US. The hundreds of photos that we took while away show a happy couple, in love, both adventure-seekers finally released to explore new places, together. I joked multiple times that our vacation was the first test of our relationship, how I hoped we’d return home as a couple. He laughed with me. Only a few days later did he tell me that the fact our vacation was so great is what made him know he had to end our relationship.

I am confused, and I am so very, very sad. He told me he loves me, but doesn’t see a long term future with me. He told me he’s had doubts about us for months, that he’s brushed away because our day to day is so amazing. This doesn’t make sense to the calendar burned into my brain. Did he have doubts when we booked our vacation? Doubts when we booked our flights home? Doubts when it was my birthday and we talked loosely about when we may move in together? I accidentally stumbled across messages from him where he tells me ‘everything is absolutely great’, how he has ‘zero thoughts of things ending’, how he wants to ‘start having longer term conversations’. Those messages are from two months before things ended. Was I going out with a liar? Or a very confused man?

I joked, when we were on our vacation, eating dinner in Las Vegas, about how he’d had everything new this year — new car, new job, new house, new girlfriend. That was a beat or two after he told me how much he appreciated having me in his life to help him make reasoned, rational decisions, like whether or not to take his new job. Turns out I’ve now had nothing new this year — I’m back where I started. Painfully alone again, working from home, filling my time to cover the built up sadness inside me, facing a lot more time alone thanks to COVID, variants, winter, all of the above. One day, I had a loving, kind, smart and affectionate boyfriend. And then the next day, I did not. He was gone, his mind made up, choosing to be single and facing the world alone, rather than with me by his side. I miss him, I miss spending time with him. I miss talking, joking, laughing, feeling so comfortable and happy and having my person to rely on. I feel like there is a huge hole and I can’t fill it, despite all my attempts to try.

He told me, through tears, ‘you can’t think your way into a feeling’, as I tried to get some sense out of why the man who told me repeatedly that he loved me was also telling me that we couldn’t be together. Well, I hope that’s not true. Because I need to think my way into feeling better, not feeling heartbroken, not questioning everything and understanding nothing. But that’s where I am for now.

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