My first serious relationship in college ended unceremoniously over email. We had been dating for a little over a year. Then one day in June, I got an email from her telling me that it was over.
I was totally blindsided by the breakup. But looking back, there were clear signs from even the very beginning that it was not the relationship I thought it was.
I wish I had been more honest with myself about how I felt about my girlfriend. Had I done that, it probably would have been me breaking up with her long before she broke up with me. I wanted the relationship to work so badly that I overlooked obvious signs that she wasn’t that interested in me.
The happiest moments with her were when we were alone. She was fine being close to me when it was just the two of us, but not in front of other people. She never wanted to hold hands with me in public. Never. The first time I tried, she pulled her hand away. The second time, she just stared at me. She said she was uncomfortable with “public displays of affection.” Looking back, I should have walked away right then and there, because that’s weird.
Something else that bothered me: She became a different person around her friends. When we would hang out as a group, it seemed that I suddenly disappeared from the room. She chalked it up to her parents being “non-touchy” people. In hindsight, that was pretty weird too.
I didn’t understand why she ignored me in public settings, or why she never wanted to hold hands with me. Both of these things made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for her. Her behavior gave our relationship a streak of secretiveness. I didn’t like that at all, because it again made me feel like I was someone she was hiding. I ended up feeling like she was ashamed of me.
My friends at the time—and my own feelings—told me I wasn’t happy. I ignored both. My closest friend saw how much the relationship was taking a toll on me and always advised me to be more easy going and less “serious” about the relationship. But that was advice I refused to take.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I was just dating. I wasn’t engaged or married to her, even though I was kind of acting like it. The lengths I was going to salvage the relationship were yet another ignored red flag that told me it was time to break it off.
So why didn’t I end things with her? Two reasons: I found her extremely attractive, and she had a lot of qualities I was looking for in a wife. But believing and liking the same things are not fail-proof indicators that the relationship will have a strong foundation. Our personality differences soon overshadowed our similarities and created rifts even in the areas where we had agreement.
The most important lesson I learned from this is to be honest with yourself about what emotions you feel most in the relationship. Weigh whether or not what you are feeling is just a phase or a persistent trend. Looking back, I realize I was so focused on forcing our relationship to work that I was ignorant of how angry I was the whole time.
I made the mistake of believing she was the only one who could make me happy. Dating is supposed to be fun and lighthearted. My relationship with this girl was dark and heavy. If you are experiencing this heaviness, take a step back and ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Don’t invest so much in a relationship that you ignore your most basic instincts, or the advice of those closest to you.