Bonus Issue: 3 True Relationship Stories
And several resources!
If you listened to the audio component in Tuesday’s issue, you know that at the cusp of my trial separation from my husband, Jonah, a family member shared with me, “You cannot imagine the collateral damage this will cause—but you also cannot imagine all of the good that also might come from this.” The good, at this stage, has been the stories I’ve received in exchange for vulnerably sharing my own. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with so many people—strangers in airports, my brothers’ friends, cousins—who have been through similar things.
When I shared my own story in Morning Person two weeks ago, I woke up terrified. I worried I would be judged harshly for my decision (likely a projection of my own self-judgement around this), but then hundreds of emails began pouring in: You generously and thoughtfully shared your own experiences, in the hopes of helping me (you did). Although I’m still responding to many of you, I created a document of the most resonant lines that I plan to print and keep accessible in my apartment. Your words meant the world to me. But I also couldn’t keep them all to myself.
After reading through your responses, a few in particular struck me, for the beautiful writing and differing perspectives they offered. When I reached out, each woman offered generously offered to share their stories here (two chose to do so anonymously) in the interest of helping others:
As a long-time follower and stalwart fan of Leslie’s, I think I speak for many readers when I say I was immediately struck by Issue #51 of Morning Person. As someone who leans anti-social media on good days, never have I felt it necessary to so much as leave a comment on any public person’s social media post or reply to a newsletter, but after the visceral reaction I had to reading this issue (and a slightly tearful escape to my office’s bathroom), I felt I compelled to reach out. I wanted to share with you all what I wrote to Leslie in hopes that someone reading might find it useful or comforting.
I’m going through an eerily similar (albeit different because all couples are!) experience and am a few months ahead of you on the journey. I broke up with my boyfriend of 8+ years after meeting at 20, moving in together at 22, and sharing countless happy adventures with this wonderful person. I was told by countless friends that I “had it all,” a caring, supportive boyfriend, an enviable career, and a newly acquired MBA. But deep down I think I’ve always known that something wasn’t right despite everything being perfect on paper. I buried that feeling deep down in my gut because that feeling didn’t fit with everyone’s expectations of me… or even my own expectations of what I, myself, should want.
I felt the same way about marriage as you described feeling about having kids. Why wasn’t I feeling this giddy, excited feeling about the possibility of taking that next, logical milestone? It helped that my boyfriend and I never talked about actually getting engaged, only the concept of marriage as this far-off, bygone, inevitable conclusion. I got good at dodging people’s questions about the subject. “Do you think about getting married?” They’d ask. “Oh yes, many times.” I would answer back with a smirk. Secretly, it just made me sad that I wasn’t more moved by their intrusive questions. It should have bothered me, but I started to trick myself into thinking I was this sort of renegade for not being one of those girls dreaming about a white dress.
But deep down I think I’ve always known that something wasn’t right despite everything being perfect on paper.
A year ago now, my boyfriend started to look for a new job and I was surprised when he said he was looking at jobs in California (we lived in DC). He looked more excited than I’ve ever seen him when he started pursuing listings, but made it clear that he didn’t expect me to uproot my life and move across the country if I didn’t want to (but very much hoped that I would want to go with him). I genuinely supported his decision wholeheartedly and I knew that he needed this change for himself. What I didn’t say at the time, was that I also needed a change, but I wasn’t sure it was location. A part of me feels ashamed to admit it, but I felt relieved. Maybe if we lived on different coasts I would have clarity of mind to realize I missed him? Maybe this was the make-or-break situation I needed to force my hand to deal with a difficult situation that I did not want to confront.
We did long distance for eight months and I honestly gave it all I had to convince myself to stay. It almost became part of my personality to say that I liked the distance and “this is what we need to do” to be ready for marriage. Again, my gut was punching me to wake up.
And as I’m sure as you’ve realized by now, living on your own can be awesome! I started to spend more time with friends and family, re-discover old hobbies, and most importantly, remember who I was before I was one half of a couple. Living apart was the best decision we could have made and it helped me immensely to understand what needed to be done for me to not feel like I was failing myself.
When I did finally reach my boiling point and I knew that I had no other choice but to end our relationship, it was the most difficult, heart-wrenching day of my life. As sad as it was, I was relieved—and slightly shocked—when he reacted with kindness and sympathy when he saw how much I was struggling and only wished that I would be happy even if he had to let me go. People show you who they really are in breakups.
One of the most difficult parts of these situations is the feeling of disappointing others, especially when there is no obvious animosity or major flaws in your partner. You know in the back of your mind people are thinking, what more could she want? Having followed you for so many years, I know that the person you likely feel you have most let down must be yourself. Maybe you feel like you should have tried harder, or listened to your gut sooner, or not done X, Y, or Z. The truth is we are all doing our best every day to make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time. I know you are still trying on how living alone feels, but I think you should be damn proud of this step. You’re taking the bet on yourself and you will never regret choosing you. One thing I can guarantee you would regret is if you never tried.
I’ll leave you with two phrases that my girlfriends said to me in the dreaded conversation when I broke the news to them. I wasn’t ready to hear either of them, but I think about both of them every day.
1. I’m so proud of you
2. I’m so excited for you
I’m proud of you for being incredibly brave in doing something that goes against your nature and courageously sharing your story with others. I can promise you that countless women likely read your newsletter like me and had strong reactions to seeing their own stories in yours. You are not alone and your feelings are not unique.
I’m so excited for you to re-discover all the best parts of yourself that you might have forgotten. I’m excited for you to feel gratitude for the outpouring of support you will undoubtedly receive, it will make your broken heart feel maybe temporarily healed. And you might not like this—but I’m excited for you to feel hopeful for a future that isn’t laid out by a series of checkboxes or milestones. You don’t know what it looks like, but instead of fearing that unknown, embrace the art of the possible.
I can happily say that three months on, I am in a much better place. Of course there are days that I am sad and disappointed, when I miss having a partner to talk to about the mundane parts of my day and split the dishes. But I honestly don’t regret a thing, it feels like I am slowly coming back to life and finding myself again. My ex and I are still on great terms, we text about our favorite music and TV shows without expectation of reconciliation and I’m hopeful that maybe we were always just better off as friends.
I also must warn you, you might temporarily lose your joy from cooking when it’s only for one person. It comes back, but don’t be mad at yourself for spending too much on Uber Eats and buying that $13 Whole Foods prepared meal! Believe me, the relief of not having to clean pots and pans while you are trying to watch “Love Island” makes it all worth it :)
I wish you and Jonah all of the best and hope that my story helps you at least marginally process what you are going through. You are not alone and I’m so grateful to you for sharing your story.