To have to constantly choose between my need for autonomy and you felt deeply unfair.
Recently, while cleaning out my closet, I came across our photo taken on our day trip to the zoo and couldn't help but smile. There you were, the man I was so head-over-heels in love with that I was willing to fly to another hemisphere, heart in hand. There I was, the woman you said you planned to marry and had asked to move across the world with you to take it on together.
Looking at that photo you'd never know that we would break up six weeks later in an ending that was so sudden, painful and drawn out that it would take over a year to get over you. OK, a year and a half.
At the time of our breakup, nothing made sense. We had been so madly and wildly in love and so sure about one another and then it just all came to an abrupt end. I felt deceived and played, utterly shattered by the cold and cruel way you cut me out the moment I made it clear that my opinions and feelings about things as important as my boundaries, comfort, career and life direction, would never dissolve them in order to appease you.
You claimed you had my best interests at heart, but your way of "protecting" me felt utterly suffocating to my individuality. You seemed to know what was "best" for me down to what I wore on nights out with girlfriends I loved but you weren't so keen on.
At first, I chalked it up to two people getting to know one another's friends and boundaries, but soon it became clear that it wasn't about you needing to know them, but to accept and respect them. It was exhausting to have to explain myself every day and to have to constantly choose between my need for autonomy and you felt deeply unfair.
When I asked you not to make me choose the last time, you aggressively told me I didn't love you. I had shown you that I did in every possible way. I was planning to leave everyone I knew and a job I loved to move across the world (literally) just to be with you. You refused to acknowledge this. It was your way or no way, and your desire quickly turned to disdain when I finally drew a line and told you I couldn't take it anymore.
A day later, you called with a "sincere promise" to change. You understood where I was coming from. The stress of being apart had gotten to you. You apologized and loved me. We were going to work this out. I was so happy to hear the "real you" in those conversations, but in the weeks that followed, it became clear this change wasn't something you were willing (able?) to take on.
Everything I said and did was wrong. It was worse than walking on eggshells. It felt like I was walking on glass every time a conversation took that inevitable turn where my innocent comment "proved" I did not care enough. The more I spoke up for myself, the more I had to. You went from calling and texting me constantly to giving me one word answers and eventually the silent treatment.
My calls were increasingly ignored, only to be returned through texts that swung from kind to cruel. I began to feel you were punishing me for drawing a boundary, and when I told you this, you didn't deny it.
Though you seemed to take off a mask and expose a true self that I couldn't see through my rose-colored glasses, I couldn't stop hoping that love would lead us to a place of understanding and fairness. What I didn't get was that what you felt for me wasn't love, but desire. You wanted me, but loving me would require respecting me and acknowledging where you ended and I began. You told me that no one would ever "love" me the way you did. Looking back, I hope that's true.
What you felt was a desire for ownership and control. I was so blinded by my own selfish need to be loved by you, that I couldn't see just how very wrong we were for one another.
I couldn't understand why (or how) you turned so cold, so suddenly. I see now that the calls and texts I sent trying to "make" you understand and "convince" you to speak to me were an extension of my own need to prove to myself that you were the person I thought you were and also a serious lack of self worth that I have thankfully since addressed.
I had a terrible time admitting that I had allowed you to deceive me with your far-fetched promises, stories and excuses. It was even harder to accept that I had deceived myself. This admission exposed a somewhat desperate desire for love that was difficult to swallow.
Deep down, I knew that you were not the man for me but the need to not have been wrong about us became a slight obsession. Then, of course, there was the chemistry I felt with you; it was so deliciously seductive that I ached for it almost compulsively. It was like a powerful drug, which in and of itself is a sign.
The chemistry we felt is not sustainable, and the longer it lasts, the more chaotic it feels. Like a never-ending fireworks show, what started out as beautiful started to slowly drive us insane. We were destined to fail.
Looking back, I'm not exaggerating when I say that I cried a million tears over you. It felt that every waking moment was filled with reminders of the joy we felt in our beginning, which only carved out more of my heart when having to face the end.
Once, while walking out of the grocery store, the manager asked me why I was looking so sad. My eyes filled up with evidence of a pain I could not contain. "You know, tears are expensive," he said, handing me a tissue. "Do not pay so heavily for someone not here to wipe them and make them go away." His wise words seeped into the cracks and stung in the moment, but have brought me endless comfort in the years that have passed.
In the time since we were together, I have come to realize so much about you, me, life and love. When someone truly loves you and wants to be with you, they will respect you. They will appreciate and accept the person that you are.They will fight for you, not with you. You certainly won't need to fight them for them.
The truth is that you didn't value us or me to do the work to make that possible, and that's OK. Shaming or being angry at someone for not wanting to be with you isn't fair. More than that, it's a sign that your ego has hijacked the situation.
In reality, you saw what I didn't at the time and it was that, for a myriad of reasons, we weren't going to be happy in the long-run. You'd never have been happy with my independence and I would never find joy in being controlled.
Deep down, everyone wants and deserves a partner who is willing to work with us, compromise and have their back. You weren't willing to do that for me, and again, that's OK. That doesn't make you bad or me unworthy; it simply just is. There were men before and after you who didn't fight for me and men I didn't fight for. This is a part of life and it aids us in finding the one who is right for us.
I want to thank you for doing the right thing, even if it left me feeling wronged. In doing so, you taught me valuable lessons in love. I learned how to love myself more, how grateful I am to be able to love at the depths I do, and how essential it is to find a partner who values love, and is open to receiving it and giving it back.
I have learned that sometimes, we will meet partners who will test our love for ourselves in ways that will leave us confused and others who will love us more for keeping our boundaries intact. I have learned that sometimes, forgiveness isn't as necessary as time, and that your inability to forgive me for not being the person you tried to mold me into has nothing to do with me.
I have heard that you've found happiness with someone now, and that truly brings me joy. I hope she has opened your heart enough to make you want to be a better man for her and work with her in every way — through your respective insecurities, fears and for her and your relationship. I hope she makes you want to give as much as you take and that you can trust and accept her gifts of love, friendship and kindness without reservation or resentment.
That's when you know it's really worth fighting for.
Brenda Della Casa is the Author of Cinderella Was a Liar, The Editor-in-chief and Digital Content Strategist at Preston Bailey Designs and a Huffington Post Blogger. She regularly speaks on the topic of Digital Content, Social Media and Digital Strategy. Facebook: BrendaDellaCasa, Twitter: @BrendaDellaCasa, Instagram: @BrendaDellaCasa.