Black and White bench

What It Means When We Break Up With Someone We Love

This piece was originally published here (with the title “Clarity”), and is being re-published in The Manila Survival Guide with minor edits. It was nominated in the 2011 Philippine Blog Awards for “Best Single Post of 2011”.

It had been a few weeks since I last had any contact with Chad. If I’m being honest, I was actually making it a point to avoid any type of communication with him since our relationship was, well, less than perfect at the time. Not that it was ever perfect mind you; in fact, I would have settled for normal if I could. If I had to describe our relationship in one word, I would use “toxic”. It was characterized by passion and unmitigated infatuation, but there was no real substance to ground us. The perils of youth one could say, although that saying assumes only the young are capable of doing stupid things. I have far too many examples of stupid things adults do to disprove that point.

Car in field

It’s always difficult, I think, breaking up. Most people assume it ends with a discussion, with the parties mutually agreeing to stop seeing each other. Sometimes there are tears, or harsh words, or things thrown, but the common idea is that the break-up happens at that one point, as if something as important as breaking your heart or the heart of someone you love could be so easily and neatly summed up and discarded in a half hour. As if the relationship you just had with that one person was nothing more than a footnote in your otherwise perfectly normal life.

But the idea doesn’t take into account the slow deterioration, the unraveling of passion, the almost imperceptible, but unmistakable, disintegration of affection. If the relationship wasn’t working in the first place, the cracks will show, and the lovers will grow distant, and things will start to fall apart. But the initial process is barely recognizable, until at some point the couple, or one-half of the couple, realizes they have become strangers to each other, or that they are at a place they never thought they could ever be before. And breaking up, especially with a person you truly love, is rarely just a one-time deal. It’s a process that takes a while to stick.

In Chad’s case, I guess you can say that we didn’t really break-up, since there was nothing to break in the first place. What relationship we had was in one of those gray, blurry areas that mimicked all the symptoms of a “real” relationship, only that it wasn’t. We can be postmodern about it, and say that it had no label, and it would be true, because what we had was really, well, undefinable. I hate admitting it, because it makes the relationship seem so trivial, but it was true, and maybe it really was as trivial as it seems.

phone booth black and white

So I think I was already starting to settle back into my usual routine, with sudden pangs of pain here and there (it is impossible to just walk away from a person you love I think, even if you know it’s what’s best for you), when I got a text message from him. It started with the usual pleasantries (How are you? I miss you. What have you been up to?) and ended with an invitation to meet. I didn’t reply, because I didn’t know what to say. I knew what I wanted to say and what I needed to say, but the gap between what I wanted and what I needed was oceans-wide. So I waited. I figured I didn’t need to decide right then.

It was midnight when I replied. And though it broke my heart to do so, I told him what I needed to say, my head slowly, but inexorably, dismantling the fantasy of the conversation I wanted, dreamed to have.