The hardest break-up I ever had was with a nice guy

I walked into his apartment knowing that we were going to break up. I had the conversation dialogue scrolling in my head like the words at the beginning of Star Wars. It was a string of well thought out points, a long series of reasons that sounded reasonably pieced together so that I could say what I needed to with poise and respect and not shed a tear.

A very short background to give some context: This guy, let’s call him Sam, and I dated for three years in college. I moved to Nashville while he still worked in another city, and I began to question whether I saw him in my future. Obviously, like any relationship, there are about 712 other layers to Sam and me, but I’ll spare you those details and cut right to the poiny when I decided to end it.

I was trying to complete a break-up like a gymnast sticks a good landing. A three year relationship full of laughter, conversation, arguments, travel, meeting families, meeting friends, awkward double dates, subtle fights at parties, and secrets only we knew– clean landings don’t exist for people like us. I just didn’t know that yet

My vision of how the break-up would have played out exactly like I planned, except that I forgot one thing: there are two people involved in a break-up, not one. Not just me. I wanted it, Sam did not. I was doing the breaking, and he was getting broken up with.

So, when I actually saw him at the door, my Break-Up Kit of neatly packaged words and emotions became as useful as a wool sweater at Bonnaroo.

I began stuttering and pulling snippets from phrases that I had planned in my head like “uncertainty” and “doubt.” I even said something along the lines of: “It’s not… (*stutters for a few seconds*)… It’s me.” So much for avoiding cliches.

Needless to say, my landing was far from a 10. All preconceived notions of how the conversation would play out went, not just flying, but catapulting out the door weighted down by sadness.

It felt crazy to want Sam to yell and swear and throw things. But I kind of did. I wanted his anger to match the deep guilt. I wanted him to accuse me of unfairness or bitchiness or mass murder, because then, maybe then I would feel justified in my decision. I secretly wanted him to pull a Zuckerberg from The Social Network and drunkenly post indignant blog entries that would solidify me as the victim. But I broke up with a nice guy. He didn’t do that.

Sam listened, he interjected, but he really did not say much. When he did speak, however, it was soft. Sad, but soft. He said things like “If you think this is best” and “Was there something I could have done” and dozens of quiet “OKs.” My guilt ran around inside me, beating every organ like a gong. When we finished the conversation, I got up to leave, and he asked me if he could walk me to my car. The sadness in me wanted to respond with a “yes.” Guilt said “no.” I listened to Guilt.

Sam showed genuine kindness to me which is not something that is easy to find in people, let alone people during the ending of a relationship. He showed me that sometimes kind words are sharper knives than the ones you want to throw at the wall when you’re angry. And never try to plan a break-up like the end of a Nadia Comaneci routine. You’ll always mess it up.

When she’s not eating frozen mangoes, beating people at trivia, or laughing at her own jokes, Holly Patton is a freelance writer based in Nashville, TN. She writes about people, places, surviving childhood as the youngest of nine kids, and other things that are important in life. 

[Image via Fox Searchlight]

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