There's a phrase that's pretty popular in Al Anon. It says "don't go to the hardware store for bread." Meaning, if you go looking for something in the wrong place, all you're going to do is get frustrated or be disappointed. And your needs aren't going to get met. (another good one is "don't go hungry waiting for someone who doesn't cook to make you dinner")
If you've been reading my series on Thirty Days of Thankful, you know I got out of a 7 year relationship a few months back. It's what inspired me to really take a good look at my life and think about who I am, where I'm going, what I need to do to be a better me, and what I'd really like in the future. In some ways, I think I was going to the hardware store for bread the past 7 years.
My ex boyfriend and I met in grad school in 2004. For me it was love at first sight. For him, he was seeing other people (unbeknownst to me) and he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to be in a relationship. And unfortunately for me, both of those things remained true during our time together. When he finally agreed to admit that we were dating, more than 6 months after anyone else would have acknowledged that we were dating, he emphasized that if things stopped being "fun" or got "too serious" he'd break up with me immediately. That should have been my first indication to run.
See, I knew I wanted committment. I'd been in a long term relationship before I met my ex, and had hoped that it would lead to marriage. And it could have, but I never felt like that person was "the one" for me. I almost immediately felt that my ex was "the one." I knew (or thought I knew, obviously) that despite his uneasiness about committment, my ex would want to settle down someday. Would want to be married. Would want to have a family. And I foolishly thought I could make him want those things with me. Ladies - let me tell you - if a man says he doesn't want committment - listen to him. I'm sure there are men out there who want to be in committed relationships. I don't know where to find one right now, but I'm sure they're out there. I really thought that if I hung in long enough with my ex, kept my mouth shut, and didn't push for a committment, some day, the fairy tale proposal I'd dreamed of would happen. (my therapist has said that a good rule of thumb is 2 years - if you're with someone for 2 years and you're not getting more serious, NEXT!) I lied to myself and said I was happy to be dating for years and years and years while everyone arround me was getting married, but on the inside, I was really unhappy about that. Every Christmas or birthday or anniversary or big event that passed without a committment was a big disappointment to me. I can't tell you how many Christmases I cried thinking THIS year would be the year that IT happened. But it never did.
Three years ago, days after cooking a Thanksgiving feast for my ex's family in our house, he announced to me on a cold Sunday morning that our relationship was over. That he didn't think he'd ever want to marry me. That there'd be no discussion. And that he was going out to watch football. All of those things were pretty hurtful but when he left me sobbing on the couch to go watch football I realized just how cold he could be.
And so I moved out, and tried unsuccessfully to start my life without him. While he was out dating other people, I was at home pining away for him. I don't even know how exactly it happened, but we started spending more time together and eventually got back together. I had to force the issue, which should have been another sign. I moved back in 8 months after I'd moved out and I was SURE we were on the right track towards happily ever after again.
Clearily, happily ever after wasn't in the cards for us. I don't even know what caused this breakup, to be honest. I was blindsided. Sure we had some issues, but not anything that I thought was serious enough to be unfixable or bad enough to break apart such a long term relationship. And that's what has made this situation SO hard for me to process and get over. Practically as I was walking out the door of my ex's house, he said, "All I ever wanted to do was marry you." That statement was soul crushing considering that's all I'd ever wanted, too. Or thought I'd ever wanted. But it obviously just wasn't meant to be. It took me a little while to accept that. I held onto the hope that this time would be like every other time where we'd split up but then realized we were "meant to be." But then I realized I just had to let that go. I want better for myself. I want committment, a family, love, and all sorts of other things that seemed to be a struggle for us. I need to go to the grocery store for bread. Where the baker gives me a fresh loaf and I'm not standing around hopelessly searching and hungry.
So for as sad as I've been to have my heart broken, I'm still very thankful for this breakup. I've really learned a lot about "me" since being out on my own again. I still believe in love and committment and that happily ever after exists somewhere. It's just going to look a lot different that I'd imagined it. I'm really digging deep and exploring some parts of my life that really needed some improvement. I hope to be a much better "me" going forward so that when the time is right, I can meet the person who wants to go with me to the grocery store to buy bread, and cereal, and milk and push our kids around in a cart.