In Both Sides of a Breakup, the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. Albert, 30, and Baxter, 32, had a terrific thing that suddenly went south after “the talk.” This is their story.
Albert: I’m bad at relationships. I say it on every first date. I tell everyone: I suck at relationships, be forewarned.
Baxter: Our first date was at a comedy show that my friend was performing in. It was a blind date — our sisters, who work together at a magazine, set us up. Albert walked in and was very cute and stylish. I got excited. And then he hugged me hello and said something like, “I make a horrible boyfriend. Just sayin’!” I didn’t know what to make of that, but I loved his charisma.
Albert: Baxter is boyfriend material. Great job, good family, no major issues. He’s fine with monogamy and generous with money and comfortable with himself. I was like, Well, shit. You can’t walk away from all that. So even though my default setting is, like, casual sex and casual relationships only, I was interested in testing myself to see if I could go further with someone.
Baxter: Albert’s personality is self-deprecating and dry-witted, so it’s hard to tell when he’s being funny-dark or just dark-dark. We started sleeping together and dating right away, and I always walked away from the moment being both enchanted by him and a little bit anxious about it all. If you’ve ever been in that kind of relationship, you know it’s very alluring, a good recipe for electricity and intrigue.
Albert: The sex was great. We were definitely in sync that way. The intimacy was nice, but unnecessary. It was for Baxter, not me. I don’t mean to sound cold, but I really do not need to be held at night. I need sleep at night. I’m sorry to be blunt. See, it’s this kind of thing that makes me bad at love.
Baxter: We had been hanging out a lot, for about three months, so I wanted to talk to him about monogamy. I knew neither of us were sleeping with other people because we were either together every night or texting each other every night. It seemed like the right next step … “the talk.” Boy, was I wrong! The worst part was, the whole thing happened at my favorite place: The Smile. (The irony.) And now I can’t go there without flashbacks.
Albert: We had literally just started seeing each other and Baxter suggested we get real about what was going on. He was like, “I’m falling in love with you and I want to marry you.” I completely shut down. I don’t even know why. If I’m being honest with myself, I was probably falling in love with him too. But I’m just bad with that stuff! I couldn’t go there. So the talk was a disaster … I became completely closed off. I was just like, “You crazy. Why are you being such a drama queen about everything? You have co-dependency issues …” In my heart, I knew I was being too harsh, but I couldn’t help the things coming out of my mouth.
Baxter: He flipped the fuck out on me. I stayed relatively calm. I was like, deep breath, “Honey, you’re the one with problems here. Not me.” It stung that he rejected my monogamy idea and basically said we were NOT anywhere close to being in love. Still, I knew him well enough to know this was about him, not me. I actually just felt bad that he was unable to feel and love like the average human being can. I went home that night and prayed for him. I’m not like a super-religious guy, but I just felt the urge to pray that someday his heart could be cracked open — he deserves that, as we all do.
Albert: I think it has something to do with my Asian upbringing. The emphasis on being strong and stoic. I go back and forth between, “This is just who I am, and at least I know who I am” and “This is no way to live … you need to work on it.”
Baxter: Things ended pretty much cold turkey after the talk from hell. We both knew it was over, I guess? I’m not sure. For me, I’d already started flirting with someone I knew from work, Miles, so I wasn’t that sad to walk away. I mean, I was sad, but also confident that I had done something smart for the well-being of my heart and soul. For Albert, who knows, I think it felt nice having the pressure to-love-and-be-loved turned off.
Albert: There was no official-official breakup. After he suggested things get serious and I wouldn’t even engage in the subject, he seemed crushed but accepting. We just weren’t moving in the same direction or at the same speed. It did make me quite sad, but I also knew it was the right thing to do. And then we kind of seamlessly transitioned into friendship. I know that sounds weird, but we talked a little less and stopped hooking up obviously, but we weren’t ever angry or estranged.
Baxter: The first few times we hung out as a non-couple, a part of my heart hurt, sure. But it was a manageable hurt, nothing catastrophic. Had I not already met Miles, I’m sure the pain would have been worse, but it was all happening while I was discovering a chemistry with someone who is very much my soul mate.
Albert: I wasn’t happy about the breakup. It hurt. I missed him. But I guess not enough to work on myself. I felt stuck for a few weeks after that. Confused by who I am and what I want.
Baxter: It’s been a year. Albert and I remained friends. He’s met my boyfriend, Miles, and we’ve all shared some fun nights out. There’s no part of me that wants to date Albert again, but I still look at him with love and respect. I still want him to find happiness.
Albert: I dated mostly for hookups for the next year. No strings attached. Now, I’m very grateful to have met Baxter and I’m happy he’s happy. I’m not too worried about myself. I like my life a lot, just the way it is. It’s nice just to “be.”
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