By Samantha Hawkins
One of the most freeing, most enlightening self-discoveries I ever made was the realization that I don’t owe it to any man to stay with him purely because he is a good guy. For too long I lived under this false belief that I had to have a legitimate reason to break up with a guy. As if my only exit out entirely hinged on him either dumping me or doing something categorically unforgivable, like stepping out on me, putting his hands on me, calling me out of my name, etc. As if my only just cause for getting out of a relationship that wasn’t personally fulfilling to me was if he gave me a reason to call it quits; thus giving me license to leave him. It was this unhealthy mode of thinking that led me to perpetuate a nearly traumatic relationship with a man with emotional baggage, trust issues, and a very inhibiting form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He was, by most standards, a good guy. He never mistreated me or neglected me; although some days his struggles with his condition made him seem particularly insensitive toward my feelings. He was always faithful though, and on his best days, he showered me with all the love and attention he was capable of providing. I enjoyed his company and he made it very obvious how much he enjoyed mine by giving me his full attention whenever we were together (even going so far as to hide his phone so we wouldn’t be interrupted while watching television). He’d text me “hello babe” every morning and “goodnight babe” every night without fail. Throughout the day he’d message me just to know how I was at work, or send me some hilariously random gif, in case I needed something to put a smile on my face at that moment. I could talk to him about anything and he never judged me.
He was my first real boyfriend, and while he made me happy most days, some days I felt alarmingly uncertain about what exactly he needed and wanted from me. I was still scared about taking on a serious boyfriend with as many underlying issues as he had, and this paired with my insistence on keeping him a secret from my family left me feeling punch-drunk and confused. There was also the issue of me trying to juggle this brand new relationship and my full-time college studies. The solution to my dilemma was simple: break up with him. I attempted to do just that, twice in fact, and both times he essentially chose to throw a self-loathing pity party over the phone. He called me “selfish” and he launched into a mini tirade about how I had apparently “led him on.”
Both times I tried to end things, he wound up turning it back around on me, and I backtracked. I thought I was in the wrong because I wasn’t willing to stick it out with him. Surely, he was right…I was being unreasonable and plain stupid to leave a guy who was practically devoted to me and intent on keeping me as a fixture in his life. He was a good guy. Why would I want out?
His strong reactions to me expressing my desire to part ways made me feel like I was betraying him in some way. So instead, I continued to betray myself by staying with him. I justified it in my head by telling myself that I was “lucky to have him” and by rationalizing my growing dissatisfaction as “me being scared of commitment.”
Over the course of your dating life, you will meet good guys. You’ll even meet great guys. Hard-working guys. Dependable guys. Faithful guys. Guys who make excellent boyfriends and may one day make terrific husbands and fathers, too. But that doesn’t automatically make them perfect for you. You don’t have to fall madly in love with the first decent dude who comes your way. Even if he tells you he’s fallen madly in love with you. It is also entirely possible to date someone for several months and suddenly realize that you aren’t quite on the same page with them. Not every good guy is going to win you over, and that’s okay. Sometimes you may go into a new romance thinking you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into until you realize that you don’t. Or you discover that you just aren’t ready or willing, and that’s okay too.
Don’t ever be sorry for choosing to say goodbye; be sorry for every minute you delay saying goodbye if that is what your heart is telling you to do. In my experience, if you find yourself looking for a reason to bid the man you’re with adieu, then he’s probably not the one for you. If it constantly feels like your relationship with him adds more confusion and anxiety to your world than clarity or peace of mind, then he is very likely Mr. Wrong, regardless of how well he might treat you. The right person will just feel right. If you decide that it’s just not working out for you, you don’t owe him or anyone else an explanation as to why. It’s your life to live and your mind to make up. Staying with someone for any other reason than love isn’t actually fair to them, but most importantly it isn’t fair to your own heart.
I made it to just eight months. That’s how long it took me to realize that I didn’t need to have a reason to break up with someone I no longer wanted to be with. My reason was me, and only me. I didn’t want to force myself to make room for him in my day anymore. I didn’t want to struggle with suppressing my fears, doubts, and lingering concerns about him anymore. I didn’t want to lie to his face just to make him feel good anymore.
I was tired of staying with someone purely because he hadn’t done anything to me. I decided that me wanting out was really all the reason I needed. The third time was the charm. I was so over it, over him, and over his guilt trips. I told him face to face that time that I was breaking up with him. When he asked why, my response was “Because this just isn’t working for me any longer. You’re a good guy…but this isn’t about you, it’s about me. My heart just isn’t in it anymore. And I have to do what is best for me.”
The deed was finally done. And honestly, I’d never so sure of anything in my life.