This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
For a little over a year, I was dating someone wonderful. They always did things to show me they were thinking of me, and they treated my family well, too. (For example, they bought baseball tickets for us all to see my dad’s favorite team for Father’s Day, and spent October learning to cook my family’s traditional meal for Thanksgiving.)
They ended things out of the blue recently. I thought we were really happy, so to find out that they hadn’t been as happy and they’d been thinking about breaking up for some time was shocking.
In the aftermath of our breakup, as I’ve talked to friends about hoping that with time we might reconcile, everyone has been against it. They have pointed out that my ex was pretty rigid about silly things. For example, I would have liked to spend more time together, but they had firm boundaries around seeing each other only twice per week. Toward the end, it felt like they were checked out during our calls, and my pointing it out is what led to the breakup.
The breakup itself was already a disorienting experience, but the feedback I’ve received from my friends about not seeking to get back together is also really confusing. It sort of feels like I alone thought our relationship was so wonderful and everyone else could see the opposite. Am I disoriented, or straight-up delusional?
Hey there, VC!
Oh, thank goodness, an easy one. You have no idea what I’ve been going through for the past 24 hours. I’m on my way to a vacation in Thailand fighting for my life on choppy Wi-Fi with nothing but the worst airport salad I’ve ever had in my stomach. It tasted like it was still frozen and was bullied by the other salads in the freezer. I desperately needed a “should I go back to my ex?” letter. Bless you.
Anyway, did Thunderpuss remix “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” for nothing? Come on. You know better. We know better. Don’t … don’t do that. It definitely shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind after the breakup. Go with your friends on this one. Doctor Papi’s orders.
As for the rest of it, though, there’s plenty of room for nuance there. It can feel really upsetting when you come out on the other side of a relationship to be confronted with evidence that all was not as it seemed. Maybe it wasn’t as great as it felt, maybe the cracks were always there and we were just ignoring them, maybe the whole thing was a lie.
Where does that leave us? With plenty of unpleasant questions: Am I unobservant? Am I naïve? Am I just not very good at this?
But you know, VC, remember when you asked if you were delusional? Well, yes. Being smitten or in love or in lust or really into someone involves a certain degree of delusion. We do tend to smooth over the rough edges of the person we’re head over heels for, and we do tend to give them leeway on things we might not give someone else.
Maybe you really were the only person who thought the relationship was wonderful. So? Doesn’t sound like the worst thing to me. To experience wonder in this life is to cut through the innumerable harsh realities and find something beautiful. Yes, there’s some delusion in there. Sometimes, delusion leads us somewhere nice.
It’s your right to have your own perspective on the relationship you had. It was your relationship! You experienced it, not your friends. You don’t have to retroactively decide that those special things your partner did were bad, actually. You don’t have to call the whole thing a waste of time, and you don’t have to let it make you jaded.
What you do have to do, though, is know when to let go. Friends are great for that. Sure, it’s a friend’s job to take your side no matter what, and few besties worth their salt would cosign any attempt at reaching back out to an ex. But often, that outside perspective from people who know us well is invaluable in situations like these.
Don’t try to get back with them. Take what you liked from the relationship, and take this time to work on yourself, especially when it comes to codependency. If someone breaks up with you, it’s not good to immediately start wondering when you can get back together. Hang with your friends. They seem great.
Sometimes nice relationships come, and then they go. It’s not right. But you know what? It’s okay. You’re going to make it anyway. Pack your bags! Up and leave! Don’t you dare come running back to me! God, what a good song. There’s a full-blown investigation in it with established timelines and actual receipts. A classic.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on March 4, 2023.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.