Welcome to It’s Complicated, a week of stories on the sometimes frustrating, sometimes confusing, always engrossing subject of modern relationships.
In Both Sides of a Breakup, the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. Maddie, 36, and Tyler, 39, survived cheating and illness, and then the city got in the way. This is their story.
Maddie: We met in our early 20s in New York. It was some bar in Murray Hill. All the guys who hung out there were way too New Jersey-ish for me. Average. Just like, ordinary, blah guys. I always liked guys who were extraordinary in some way. And then, in walked Tyler. He was preppy like the other guys there, but he had this big personality. I knew right away that he burned bright.
Tyler: I had this soulless job at a consulting firm, lived with three college buddies on the Upper East Side; it was all very typical and bro-ish. That was my crowd, but I was also a little different because I grew up on a farm in Ohio, and not in, like, Long Island. I saw Maddie and thought she was cute. She has really long, curly hair and I always liked girls with curly hair. She was shy, but I convinced her to give me her number.
Maddie: I was excited by Tyler. He’s just an exciting person. He’s talkative, bubbly, warm … he reminded me of my older brothers. I come from a really big family in Montana. At this point, I was the only sibling, out of five, who didn’t live within a few hours of home. I was always homesick, but I had an amazing job working for a big charity, really near and dear to my heart, and I couldn’t fathom leaving it. My parents were really supportive and proud of me.
Tyler: I absolutely loved the Montana in her. Easily the biggest draw, second to her hair. I also loved how nurturing she was. I was really sick the first year we hung out. They never figured out what it was, but now I’m pretty sure it was Lyme disease. She took such good care of me. And looked really cute while doing it.
Maddie: We moved in together fast because he was really sick with something that we thought was maybe a reoccurring flu or early stages of arthritis — and I wanted to help him. He felt so embarrassed that he was weak all the time. Then he got better. And somehow five years went by. We were pretty happy, overall. Sometimes we fought. We didn’t have a lot of sex because the relationship never started out as too sexual, since he was ill a lot. When he was better, I remember coming up with a lot of excuses to not sleep with him. I just wasn’t horny that much.
Tyler: We had a pretty good sex life. I remember doing most of the initiating but it was always good sex. Emotionally, I felt a little trapped. She didn’t like me going out with my friends. And once I was back on my toes, I really wanted to celebrate life! She’d be pissed if I got wasted. Normal girlfriend stuff.
Maddie: Then this crazy thing happened: I went home for my ten-year high-school reunion, and I totally hooked up with this random guy from my class. There was a lot of drinking and reminiscing and suddenly I was just having sex with this guy. And it was really, really good. Maybe the best sex I’ve ever had to this day. I was screaming and I’m not a screamer. I woke up completely hungover (and with a sore throat) and I called Tyler right away. I told him what happened. I was still drunk, I think, so I didn’t realize the weight of it all.
Tyler: It’s funny because the night she was home for her reunion, I was out with a bunch of friends in New York. I was on antibiotics so I wasn’t drinking. There were women all over the place … and I just didn’t act on it … because I was sober that night. I think that would have been the night I cheated on her too, had I not been stone-cold sober. Regardless, it didn’t make the call easier. I remember just wanting to know who the fuck this guy was and how quickly could I get to him to kick his ass. The next stage was like: Shit, do we break up now?
Maddie: It was a rough month or so, but we got back on track. I gave him lots of blow jobs and was super sweet and he just forgave me.
Tyler: I never forgave her. But I was adult enough to move on.
Maddie: About a year later, I got laid off. It was the same year Tyler got promoted. He would be making tons of money, I would be making zero money. New York wasn’t doing it for me anymore. All the things I used to love — the hustle, people, chaos — I started to hate. I’d sit on the subway and just feel sick. I used to sit on the subway absolutely amazed.
Tyler: She asked me if I wanted to move to Montana with her. This was after I paid all my dues at work and was about to enter a cushy job. It was like, “Wait, are we sharing the same existence? Are we in the same relationship?” Montana was not on my radar other than for Christmas and holidays.
Maddie: He never cared about my family. That was another thing. They asked about him all the time and he barely knew my nieces’ and nephews’ names.
Tyler: That she even asked us to move to Montana felt like a bigger violation than when she cheated on me. Because this time it was like, “Hey … do you mind leaving all your hard work and this amazing life you’ve built, from nothing, by the way, to go to the rodeo with my brothers and sisters?” I was like like, no.
Maddie: That he refused to even entertain the idea, or acknowledge my needs, felt incredibly disrespectful and — this is a big word but — sexist. We got in a huge fight. Again, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to move to Montana, it was that he didn’t care that I wanted to so badly.
Tyler: This huge fight turned into like a week of not talking. It was also a week where I went out a lot and started looking around at women for the first time in about seven years. My brain was telling me it was time to start new.
Maddie: I had very little doubt it was time to leave New York. And Tyler being such a dick about everything made me more sure than ever that it was time to leave him too.
Tyler: She moved out the week of my birthday. It wasn’t the best birthday.
Maddie: We were both bawling. Which was weird — because we both knew it was right. The breakup was truly amicable. But it was still so sad. I had to be the strongest ever and just walk out that door and get into a taxi and go to the airport.
Tyler: I cried for maybe three more hours. Then I took a shower and walked out the door. It was the beginning of a new life for me in New York.
Maddie: A few years later, I own a small school for children, and it’s focused on agriculture. I’m engaged to someone who runs the business with me.
Tyler: I got married two years later to someone I met through work. We have a 1-year-old and we’re crammed into a beautiful, tiny walk-up in Carroll Gardens. My wife loves New York as much as I do.