In “Both Sides of a Breakup,” the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. Phil is a 34-year-old visual merchandizer; Terry is a 33-year-old graphic designer. They met on Valentine’s Day, dated for two years, and dealt with jealousy issues the entire time. This is their story.
Phil: We met at a Valentine’s gay-singles party and I liked him because he was sexy and confident. He looked like a poor man’s Ashton Kutcher … which, really, is not so poor. I am quiet, more of an introvert. “Energy” is such an overused word but his energy just turned me on.
Terry: I could tell he was a real sweetie. I was just out of a long relationship. Like, my fifth long relationship. I’m a serial monogamist. I asked him over for dinner. I make a killer jerk chicken. Leading up to the date, we had fun texting about the double entendre there.
Phil: We had a bottle of wine or two before eating and I was just, like, a dog in heat. I don’t think we ever had the … what was it … steak salad or whatever he was making.
Terry: The jerk chicken was bomb. Then we had sex. And … pretty much kept having sex for two years. I was decently into him at first, but after maybe three months, I was really, really, really into him. Like, living for him.
Phil: He got really needy and really jealous after a few months. I felt monitored by him. Jealousy, on his part, kind of infected every aspect of our relationship. And it was all for no legitimate reason. Well, I hooked up with one person behind his back. It was around our year anniversary. I never admitted it to anyone, but there you have it. It was a random, safe sex, one-night stand. I never talked him again.
Terry: I just felt like he didn’t respect me the way he should have. In my heart of hearts, I never trusted him. I’m still not sure if my insecurity was valid or not. He swears he never cheated on me. I just felt really uneasy every time we did our own thing.
Phil: I think I only cheated that one time because Terry had been acting insane and I just needed a release. It’s such a cliché, but it truly meant nothing. I just needed to not be “owned” by Terry for a second. Freedom, I guess, is the word.
Terry: I knew I was falling apart — all my jealousy rants and drunken meltdowns — it’s kind of my pattern with relationships. Like, here we go again. Even recognizing this was a pattern, I still couldn’t get a grip. It was all driven by love, but it was excessive. Like, I’d bang on his door in the middle of the night, convinced some dude was in there with him. I once threatened to jump off my roof if he didn’t show me every single text and email in his phone. (He wouldn’t.) Let’s just label my behavior as: excessive crimes of passion.
Phil: I’m sure a part of me liked being the object of Terry’s obsession. When he wasn’t inflamed with jealousy or cheating delusions, I did love him. The sex was always phenomenal. We went to so many plays, museums, dinners. We’d visit friends upstate all the time and just light fires and cuddle.
After two years together, I had a college reunion in Boston. I wasn’t totally “out” in college so I was really excited to show up as my true self, with my partner. Terry and I had been getting along so well, mostly because he’d stopped drinking.
Terry: I went to like two AA meetings because Phil made me, but I don’t have an addictive personality. I didn’t belong there.
Phil: He comes from three generations of alcoholics. He lives in denial.
Terry: Everything went to shit — real fucking shit — after he took me to his college reunion. He’s one of those annoying “college friends” people. Kinda juvenile, you know? I got too drunk and was watching him talk to his former roommate — a straight guy who I know for a fact Phil once blew.
Phil: My ex-roommate is a really good guy. He’s in the Peace Corps now. He’s trying to have a baby with his wife. Great guy. And Terry just hated him. For no reason.
Terry: I was watching them catching up, and I was drinking tequila … and watching them chat … and drinking more tequila. It was like, ENOUGH. I walked over there and pushed the ex-roommate away. It was a serious push, but not, like, violently hard. He actually felt into a bowl of chips and salsa or something. That’s what I remember most: a bowl of chunky salsa spilling on the ground. Phil freaked out. He called the police. It was soooo ugly.
Phil: It was such a horrible scene. The reunion was ruined. Everyone was horrified. The food and the buffet was all wrecked. This is such a superficial detail, but I remember there was salsa all over my new, white Prada loafers. I don’t care what people say about me, but it didn’t exactly feel good that everyone was talking about me and my psycho, violent boyfriend, either. I mean, no one got hurt. When the police came we all dismissed it as a stupid, drunken thing. Terry didn’t get arrested or anything, but I knew I’d never be with him again.
Terry: We tried to get some therapy after that. But it was like I couldn’t get Phil back onboard. He was totally emotionally dead around me. I just felt like he hated me.
Phil: I just wanted Terry to get centered enough to leave him. I love him. I didn’t want him to hurt himself or anyone else. So I let things settle, and a few weeks after the reunion hell, I sat him down and said I was done. It’s hard to explain why, but my heart was really hurting. It was excruciating. I was bawling my eyes out. It hurt me at my core to leave him even though I knew, 100 percent, this relationship was not for me.
Terry: I knew it was coming. It was sad, but honestly, I was so ashamed of my behavior, it was hard to even look at Phil. He hated me. He saw only the worst in me. And that made me feel ashamed.
Phil: I ended up dating a sober guy right after Terry. I’m still with him. And let me tell you, it’s night and day. We have a peaceful, joyful life together. We have dogs. We want to get married and have kids.
Terry: I moved to L.A. I drink a lot less. I am not the needy train wreck I was with Phil, but I also have done enough emotional work to know that I wasn’t as bad as he made me out to me. His narrative for me wasn’t exactly accurate, and I’m choosing to believe I was a good boyfriend. If anything I cared too much, but I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. The next guy I fall in love with? I’ll probably care too much again. He should love that about me, though!
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