In “Both Sides of a Breakup,” the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. After meeting in college, Brie, 48, and Drew, 48, started their life together, and as they grew their own family, Brie’s resentment of Drew grew too.
Brie: I met Drew when we were both in college. We were two young kids living in New York City, and we found out we came from neighboring towns in Vermont. It felt like home when I met him. He was really cute and grounded, and I liked that he wasn’t another rich kid spending his parents’ money and going to clubs. He was middle-class, trying to make his parents proud … and yes, getting very drunk and having lots of young, dumb fun. But ultimately he was a stable person with a good head on his shoulders. We started dating pretty much right after we met.
Drew: We were introduced to each other at a sorority party, and when we put the Vermont thing together, it was like the party disappeared. Neither of us really belonged there anyway. She was hot and had this tight sweater on. She’s very … um … not flat-chested. Her physicality was breathtaking.
Brie: Drew’s going to tell you first he fell in love with my tits and then he fell in love with me.
Drew: We were together for four years of college. We never broke up or fought much, if ever. We studied abroad together in Italy, and it was one of the best years of my life.
Brie: I remember living in Italy together and having doubts about us. I didn’t have anyone or anything to compare him to, but I started thinking that there were other types of men out there and so much more opportunity for me and wondering if I should dive deeper into that hunch. I always wanted a very successful man, and I found myself lusting for these Italian men in their custom-made suits, looking so slick and important. Drew was about to start a job at an investment bank, but he wasn’t particularly excited about it, which kind of turned me off. Basically, in Italy, my gut started to tell me that Drew was perhaps not my Forever Person.
I pushed those feelings away. Being with Drew was always comfortable. So comfortable that it was too scary to seriously think about life any other way.
Drew: It was all very “normal” and, I guess, traditional. We got starter jobs after college, and we lived together. I personally felt lucky to come home to this beautiful and cool woman every day after work. My friends were all being finance bros and getting wasted and bringing home college girls. I didn’t envy that. I always wanted to come home and be with Brie.
We had sex a few times a month, and for me, it was good and satisfying enough. I would have loved to have more sex, or daily sex, but that wasn’t Brie’s style. I just accepted it; I didn’t read too much into it.
Brie: Drew lasted in finance for like, a day. It wasn’t for him. He’s more creative, I guess. My first job out of college was for a jewelry company, and I was helping with their marketing. It doesn’t sound like a hard or interesting job, but it actually was pretty intense and I was very motivated to succeed there. I’d come home really tired and Drew would already be on the couch. Sometimes he smelled like he hadn’t showered. Sometimes he would have like two or three beer cans around. I thought it would be temporary, but it felt like this happened for a good year.
At first, I would tell my friends, “He’s just not the douche-bro type and that’s a good thing!” and that felt like a good excuse for him to be taking a break and figuring things out, but how long could I use that line?
He was taking odd jobs here and there and collecting unemployment, but he was on the couch a lot. Playing video games. Drinking beer.
I just think he wasn’t made for the hustle of New York. He had more simple needs — and I don’t mean that as an insult. It was hard to find his lane here in NYC. Everyone else I knew was hustling, but it just didn’t appeal to him. I had empathy because he seemed so lost. But I was also annoyed a lot … okay, I was seething with irritation 99 percent of the time. I still loved him, but the respect part was fading.
Drew: Finance was a miserable career path for me. I wanted to go back to school and become a social worker or a teacher, but I just couldn’t commit to anything. I was waiting for some clarity to find me. It felt like, aside from the Brie part, I couldn’t figure my life out and didn’t know where to begin. I was sort of just waiting for answers to find me.
How did I pay for life in New York? Brie paid our rent because she had some family assistance. My family has no money and hers does; so it was just a matter of practicality that she’d cover us until I started earning money somewhere. I paid for this and that, and I always expressed my gratitude. I also took care of our house and did all the cooking. It wasn’t so black or white.
Brie: I paid for everything. I was losing my mind. It embarrassed me to tell my parents that their money was covering the both of us. They are very nonjudgmental, but I was humiliated by that. I never understood how Drew wasn’t?
We got married around this time. We were obviously young, but that was just the path we were on. I know we’re only talking about what went wrong here but I should say that I definitely loved him and I also sort of fell into the societal norm of you meet a nice guy, get married and have kids. It was like we were on a path that I didn’t think to really question on a conscious level.
And then, when things got really bad, and Drew was just turning into a full-time lethargic couch potato, I found out I was pregnant!
Drew: The pregnancy helped me get out of my rut. I started selling merchandise and customized apparel online, and became something of a businessman. It was something I’d done before for friends or small fundraisers, but I finally drafted up a real plan. It didn’t happen overnight, but I started making money and feeling inspired.
Brie: A big part of me was happy that we were starting a family and that we were going to be “normal” and all good; and another small part of me, again, was like, oh shit … I hope I bet on the right horse.
We had a few great years after that. We had two kids. I ended up running that jewelry brand. Drew’s business was fun for him and had momentum and energy. We were still surviving on my money (his income was just enough to cover child care), but the bulk of everything — money, fun, plans, organization, food, meals, child care — fell on my shoulders.
Drew: Brie worked long hours and was more of a classic working mom. I was able to make my own hours so that some days I could be the stay-at-home dad still.
Brie: I loved being parents together, but my resentment toward him never went away. He was never not going to be the guy who laid on the couch too much and drank beer all day.
I can’t remember one specific fight. There was just uncontainable tension and hostility emanating from me.
Drew: I remember one day, we took our kids to day care, and I came home and used the bathroom. I asked Brie to bring me some toilet paper because there was none there. And she just lost it on me. She was screaming and screaming, and I was there absorbing everything while sitting on the freakin’ toilet. Talk about emasculating!
She was like: “I even hate how you shit!”
Brie: I don’t remember any specifics of a bathroom-related fight, but I know that he never bought toilet paper or even thought about where the toilet paper in our bathrooms came from, and so I resented him for even using the facilities.
Drew: Our marriage was falling apart and there seemed to be nothing I could do right. I couldn’t figure out how to make more money doing what I do. I couldn’t just stop being me. I was loving toward her, and doting, and I admired her so much. I tried really hard to show my respect for her, but nothing like that was ever reciprocated. We were both juggling parenting and other responsibilities; it wasn’t like I was just chilling. It seemed like every time I took a little break — like watching a basketball game — she would focus on that, and that would turn into a whole narrative.
We also stopped having sex after our second kid was born. We went a year without sex.
Brie: It was like, I knew Drew was handsome and nice and an amazing dad. Intellectually, I knew he was a special person and a wonderful man. But then I would notice something stupid like, a hole in his socks, and just start fuming about the fact that he’s too lazy to even buy new socks. Everything set me off. I had no idea how to get divorced or where to begin, but I knew I had to divorce him. It almost felt like life or death. I was scared that I was going to have a nervous breakdown!
Drew: I never thought we would get divorced. Not in a million years. It just didn’t occur to me. I figured we were in a bad stage and we’d get through it. Brie was my family; you don’t leave your family.
Brie: The day I told him I was leaving him was the worst of my life. I can’t put into words how sad it was to see him so devastated. It broke my heart to break his heart.
Drew: It hurt. I was like losing a limb. It was like death.
Brie: My parents helped me find another apartment, near ours, to settle in with the kids and keep things as fluid as possible. I was determined not to hurt Drew any worse, and really do this amicably. I was also determined to handle my shit with strength and not let my motherhood or work life suffer. I’m a mind-over-matter person when I need to be.
Drew: I had no say in the divorce. It didn’t matter that I wanted to stay married. It didn’t matter that I wanted to see my kids every day. Brie took over from there. I was too destroyed to voice my wants or needs, and frankly, I didn’t have the finances to fight on her level anyway.
Brie: Drew thinks this was easy for me. He thinks “I won” or something. It’s been rough. Divorce is extremely painful, and of course, putting our kids though everything has been heartbreaking. But I will say this: They have a happy mother now. I am doing well. I am in therapy. I feel calm. I’m a much better mother and person than I was with Drew. In my heart, I have no doubt that I did the right thing.
Drew: It’s been two years. I’ve gotten used to things. I got myself into AA and stopped drinking, so that’s been healthy. I lost some weight. Sometimes I think, eh, I’m just a pathetic loser. I beat myself up for not being good enough for Brie. But my kids bring me joy. I’d love to start dating soon, but I’m not quite ready yet. Some local single moms flirt with me occasionally, and yes, it would nice to start having sex again! But the divorce knocked the wind out of my sails. I hope that, someday, I’ll understand that it was probably the right thing.