How Relationships End

It’s strange.

Relationships all end differently but most have some exact point where it ends – the last time you talked to them. I have a few ex-girlfriends who subsequently ascended to permanent friend status, or the majority with whom I touch base periodically; but, there are an unrecorded number – the short stint girlfriends especially – with whom decisions are made and it all ends, abruptly.

One girlfriend I was with for a year, and I, broke up right after a day and night at Disneyland. There were just a few, incidental things that informed our decision to break up: a ridiculous squabble about the placement of a hand towel, and another regarding me getting a drink during the day – feeling stressed out about the crowds and commercialism. For our own reasons, we both knew we wanted to be done. Looking back, she was cute and great for the most part. The goodbye was dramatic – we had lunch and looked at each other one last time, when she looked back before disappearing forever into the airport.

I never talk to the only girlfriend I ever lived with, which is strange because our breakup was the most amicable and sexual. We knew the date I was moving out – the date our relationship of several years would end – and we had sex right up to the last day. And never again.

Then the stupid breakups that have nothing to do with the other person, like when I moved to another state after college and the relationships with a few girls I was close to, just ended for no other reason.

And, I’ve had one who broke up with me – the one where the decision isn’t mutual – the one that breaks your heart. It hurt worse than any physical pain I’d ever felt. There is a fairly well-known study from Stanford (I’ll let you search) that showed emotional pain from such a break-up is indistinguishable in the brain, from physical pain. Getting my heart broken gave me empathy for the girls I had broken up with. I’m not sure a guy learns empathy, or how to love even until he’s had his heart broken.

In general, I’ve errored on the side of ending relationships as soon as I saw a sign that a girl wasn’t the one – instead of waiting until there were any major conflicts or drama; it makes for a lot of people to think back on, wondering “what if” the timing had been better – what if I had stuck it out. It’s sad that we must move on from lovers, in order to find new ones. A lot of good memories and romances get archived.

This breakdown would not be complete, I guess, without mention of the people we keep breaking up and getting back together with. When we’re young, it’s probably because we can’t decide if we hate them, or if they’re the one. As we get older, it’s probably because the sex is awesome, otherwise, we no longer have the time or naivety for such games.

It’s hard to break up. It’s costly to lose the part of you that only that person knew, to shelve the part of them that you knew, and hardest of all, to cancel the unique entity that was you both together – the unrepeatable, irreducible essence of where both of your minds and bodies intersected.