I’ve been putting off writing about this because I’m not really sure what the best way to go about this is. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know I was in a long-term, committed relationship…
We were together for just about 10 years, and we were engaged for five of those. I think that’s telling, that we were engaged for half of our relationship but we never got married. Money was an issue, and we could never justify paying for a wedding. When we got engaged we never really felt the need to rush into marriage anyway so for most of our relationship this seemed fine. Reflecting on everything now however I think if we were meant to be together we still would have gotten married- we probably would have eloped despite the totally unnecessary drama I’m sure would result from my family learning that it happened, or we would have just gone to City Hall and planned a celebration later when we were more comfortable paying for it, but we didn’t. I’m sure there are people out there who have long engagements for whatever reason and it all works out and is totally fine, but I don’t think that’s me.
I guess I should back up though and give some context…or just get right to the point. I’m really not sure. I do want to say that we’re adults and it’s 2020. We had our issues, we tried to fix them, and it didn’t work. I’m just writing about this because I guess it feels therapeutic in a way to do so and because in terms of my writing we’ve had a very public relationship and ignoring that this major life change happened when so many people have watched our relationship unfold feels strange. In any case, I’m not writing this to make him seem like a horrible person or to make myself seem like a victim or anything like that.
In terms of my writing and social media, I think most people have this idea that we had a nearly perfect relationship. (Some of the reactions I’ve gotten from people who have known us personally seem to mirror these expectations as well.) It’s a kind of alarming concept to me that so many people seem to think we had absolutely no issues…we certainly did. I’m not going to go into what exactly these issues were here because it’s really not anything I’d feel comfortable sharing (at least not without discussing it with him first, but I don’t see the need to write a giant tell-all of everything that’s gone wrong with our relationship). I will say though, I think every relationship has issues. This is just my opinion here, I’m no relationship expert or anything (clearly!) but the fact that so many people seem to think our relationship was legitimately perfect is mind-blowing to me. Even a total soulmate situation would come with issues (again in my opinion). We’re all human, if there are absolutely no problems I think I’d be more concerned.
In reflecting back, I think our problems started in the beginning, but we didn’t know about them. I was 17 years old when we started dating. I don’t remember what I was looking for in a guy at that time in my life but the mental list of priorities my high school self had probably wouldn’t even come close to what’s important to me in a relationship now. And again, this isn’t a knock on him. Obviously something was there between us at some point, and I’m sure the things that don’t fit my mental checklist of things I need in a relationship as an adult are all things that will totally appeal to someone else someday.
We went to the same high school but we didn’t know each other at all. I was a huge nerd and guys (at least from the school I actually went to) largely didn’t talk to me unless they wanted to cheat off my tests or try to coerce me into doing their homework or something. When I met him at work, he was an older, attractive guy who I never would have had a chance with in high school…what 17-year-old geek wouldn’t be into that? Of course, as an adult I realize this is a horrible foundation for a relationship (and I mean “older” in a high schooler’s mindset, it’s not like he was old enough to know better either- we were both super young).
He had just gotten out of a one or two year long relationship, and before that he had been with the same girl for most of high school. We never thought of it like this at the time, but to some extent I was probably a rebound. If that was the case though, I don’t fault him for that. And when we started talking I was dating someone else. I wouldn’t even count a month-long thing in high school as a relationship now, and I wanted to break it off with the guy but he was a hard one to track down and it took longer than I would have liked for that to happen. So the two of us had gone almost immediately from other relationships to being with each other, something that as an adult you may want to question more and ease into slower than we did, but we were kids.
From the beginning we honestly didn’t spend lots of time together. While we did work together while I was in high school it’s not like we had tons of time to get to know each other at work. And he had two part time jobs at the time, so between his schedule and my still being in school seeing each other long enough to actually have a lengthy conversation about anything meaningful or even go out and do things besides a quick dinner or Starbucks trip here and there was difficult. And again, I don’t fault him for that (or either of us for that matter). We were kids, we didn’t know how all of this worked, and reflecting on it now I don’t think we made enough time or put in enough effort to really get to know each other in the beginning before we jumped into something more serious.
Then he turned 21 and with that came newfound stress of him being able to experience things that I couldn’t for a couple of years. I’m not sure any of this really matters for anything in terms of the relationship, but it was a bit of a stressful time because of non-relationship things that were happening in my life, so throwing into the mix that we were seeing each other less while he went out with other friends who were of age probably didn’t help things. (Not bitter about this or anything, in fact I don’t blame him at all…just stating the facts.)
When I went away to college, he stayed in our hometown. It was only about an hour away but our conflicting work schedules still hardly ever worked out and it felt like we were in an actual long distance relationship at times, and that was stressful. We got through it obviously- we were only a year or two into at this point, but it wasn’t always easy. If I could talk to my younger self I’d probably press the importance of making sure something like this is totally worth the sacrifices you’re making to make it work. I’m not sure that would have changed anything, I’m stubborn as hell, but it’d be worth a try I guess.
The summer before I graduated college was really when I became the workaholic you see today (or saw…that’s actually something I’m trying to get a better handle on for a number of reasons following this break up. I guess I’m on all that “new year, new me” nonsense. That’s probably another post for another time…) Summer 2013, I still have my planner from that year for some reason, I had a total of four days off for the entire summer. I worked a retail job and at three museums in addition to my freelancing. All of this work was during the day, and my commutes ranged from 15 minutes to 2+ hours depending on the job. I was exhausted all the time but I never really processed how I was feeling at all. Instead, I spent whatever free time I could staying up late and trying to make seeing him with our opposite schedules work wherever I could, and it was a lot. But senior year was looming over us and I knew that after graduation I was planning on moving to Orlando. We had no concrete plans to live together or anything at that point, and I assumed it would be long distance when that happened, but for real this time. So I put everything I had into work and making our relationship work despite the odd schedule conflicts.
During my senior year of college, we both applied to the Disney College Program. My entire application process wrapped up in two weeks, a timeline which is pretty unheard of in the DCP community. I took the web-based interview almost immediately after submitting the application, had my phone interview a couple of days later, and was accepted within a week. He applied the same time as me and never received an invitation to take the web-based interview. When application season ended and he was ultimately rejected, he told me to go without him and that we’d make it work.
We did make it work, I think…maybe. I’m not actually sure. At the time anyway we thought we were making it work. We did everything you’re supposed to do when you’re in a relationship with someone who lives thousands of miles away. We texted and called each other whenever we could, though admittedly I never felt like it was enough on my end. The Disney College Program keeps you pretty busy and balancing that with his work schedule at home was incredibly difficult. I did try to stay in touch as much as I could, but in reflecting on it now I can’t help but wonder if I should have put in more effort on my end.
He came to visit me for a week a month into the program, and when he did, he proposed. We got engaged at my favorite spot in what was then my favorite park (by the now-extinct fountain behind Spaceship Earth in Epcot. If you watched Boy Meets World this was the spot where Cory and Topanga got back together.) We were engaged on the second day of his week-long visit and then he was gone and I had another few months ahead of me without him in Orlando. The highs and lows during this time were totally confusing. Going from the high of getting engaged to the low of being long distance again was probably one of the weirdest emotional moments to process, and I’m sure he felt the same way. He probably felt even worse to be honest, because at least I was in Florida (during the worst New England winter in recent history I might add) doing this internship that had always been a dream of mine. I’m sure it was a much worse feeling for him being in our hometown.
He applied for the spring program while I was there in the fall and was accepted, so I extended my program and stayed for another semester with him. Well, not with him technically. We were both doing the program but we didn’t live together. You could only live with your partner in company sponsored housing if you were married, so we both lived in separate apartment complexes with roommates and basically had to follow similar rules that would have come with living in a dorm (again, the highs and lows of being together for six years at this point and being engaged coupled with not being able to go to each other’s apartments outside of dorm-like visitation hours was surely difficult whether we consciously realized this or not).
He worked on Main Street U.S.A., and as an intern that meant lots of late nights. Late nights in the theme park industry are late. There were nights where depending on the park hours he would essentially work overnight, going into work to start his shift as late as 5, 6, or 7 pm and sometimes not getting out until well into the following morning. I miraculously ended up with a role that had me working essentially 9-5. I had the occasional double in which I’d work an 8 pm and/or 11 pm show on the other side of the park, but for the most part I was at work in the morning and just getting out of work when he was going in. On top of that, we seldom had the same days off- in fact, I think the most time we spent an entire day together was probably when my mom came to visit so we both requested time off specifically for that.
Understandably, this added a lot of stress to our relationship, and some pretty serious issues came out of this. But in thinking about all of this now, the issues weren’t because of our opposite schedules (that had been a constant theme of our entire relationship), I think they were the result of us not being right together. Things wouldn’t have gone south to the extent that they had if this whole relationship was right- if we were meant to be together we would have figured out how to get through it all. (The issues are not the scheduling conflicts alone by the way, that’s just the catalyst that led to some of the larger problems we had as a couple. I’m not going into all of the feelings that led to our breakup just for our own privacy…I want this post to give a glimpse at where we were at during different stages of the relationship but at the end of the day the core problems between the two of us are not anything I’m comfortable sharing, especially not without his knowledge so I hope that makes sense…)
By the time that program ended, it was summer 2015 and we had spent six years getting to know each other wherever we could and we were finally going to be able to have a more conventional relationship in terms of seeing each other more often and figuring out what direction we were taking as a couple. And for that summer and even into the following year, everything seemed fine. Sure, we fought…probably about all the usual things like money and what we were doing for work, my stubbornness I’m sure, and whatever else most normal couples argue about. Despite my being a writer though, I’m actually an extremely private person. (If you told me I’d be writing a post like this a few years ago, I wouldn’t believe you). So I understand why so many people thought of us as a totally perfect couple with absolutely no issues until this breakup happened. I’m sure there were plenty of times where we would have had some mild disagreement but other people were around so I’d shoot him a “don’t go there” kind of look and we’d deal with it later in private. It makes a lot of sense that everyone on the outside looking in would have thought we were totally fine.
And we thought we were totally fine for a long time…for our entire relationship in fact. Despite everything when issues arose we tried to work through them. We never saw whatever we were going through as a reason to not be together. That summer I needed a job, bad. I had hoped freelancing full time would have worked but I took too much time off while I was interning in Disney and it was difficult to get back into, and I had started the process of researching for my history book. I was all over the place and having a hard time getting into a routine with anything. I ultimately took a job I totally hated that made me into a miserable, depressed person (because I needed a job), and that whole situation put a lot of stress on any relationship I had, not just with him but with my family and friends.
When I left that job and found myself severely underemployed again (but regaining my sanity) it felt like we were back where we had always been, only it was seven years later. I worked at the same museum I worked at early in our relationship and tried to pick up as many hours as I could there while balancing my freelance work. I wasn’t overworking, in fact I didn’t have enough hours and that’s why it took me so long to move out, but he was working opposite hours at other jobs for businesses that we were open late. I didn’t think of it like this at the time because we were so into going through the motions of everything you’re supposed to do when you’re starting your life out after school but really we were in the same place we’d been this entire time…in our hometown just trying to figure out our own stuff while also trying to make this relationship work. And that’s the root of where things began to go wrong for me- I had spent this entire relationship trying to make things work for both of us, when I had never felt like I’d fully made things work for myself. I worked so hard throughout college and shortly after and I wasn’t even sure who I was as a person because so much of me was entwined in this relationship…a fact which again, is not anything against him- it’s a point against the whole concept of jumping into a relationship for the wrong reasons when you’re a kid and simply sticking with it without evaluating your own needs as a person.
The next year we moved in together, and with that came a whole new set of stress that we had never had to deal with as a couple. I remember feeling like we’d spent our entire relationship trying to get more time to know each other and now all of a sudden we had it…but we didn’t know what to do with it. Before we knew it his job took us back to our opposite schedules, and months would go by where we wouldn’t see each other awake. I’d be asleep when he got home from work, and out the door to my day job before he woke up in the morning. It still wasn’t his fault, or my fault. We were just doing what we had to do in terms of work, and I think if the relationship was right we would have figured it out and we wouldn’t be in this position now.
We kept going through the motions like this until this past summer, when I really began to do some soul searching for myself, not just within this relationship but with my life in general. I’m not sure what kicked all this off, but I think it was him turning 30. (And I hope I write this part well because I don’t want to seem like I’m making things that he was probably feeling himself all about me…) But he turned 30 and began to reflect on his 20s, feeling like he hadn’t accomplished enough. I did the same. I thought about goals I had set for myself when I was younger and how many of those I had actually achieved. To be fair, I actually did achieve a handful of major goals I’d set for myself (completing the Disney College Program, publishing not one, but two books, and getting my degree) but these goals are all work-related. In my own reflections, I began to feel like I hadn’t really done anything just for myself that I wanted to do. I wanted to travel, and I did travel…to Florida…upwards of five times a year because I needed to for work. I couldn’t use my vacation time from my day job for anything else. I know social media FOMO is the worst but during this time of reflection I couldn’t help but think about all of these posts from other people who were traveling to all different places and I hadn’t done anything like that, despite the fact that I had been working 65+ hours a week for at least three or four years and should have felt comfortable treating myself.
Then I thought about my writing. I wanted to write for fun so badly. I used to write for fun all the time, but once I realized I could make money from it I was roped into that and became a kind of crazed workaholic. And between working so much and balancing my relationship with my own needs, it didn’t seem like getting into the mindset or having the time to just write for fun was something I’d really be able to do anytime soon. These kinds of reflections continued, basically throughout the summer until I had some kind of mental plan in place for how I’d get to do more of the things that were important to me while still making everything else continue to work. During these reflections I began to think about my relationship, and my mind started to wonder what we were doing. For so long it seemed, if not our entire relationship, it seemed like we were just trying to find time to make it work. And now we had the time to make it work (since he had quit his job with the late nights by this point) but nothing seemed different. We’d be together more, but it didn’t necessarily mean I felt any closer to him. I’m sure we were conscious of this at times and we tried to fix it, but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to spend time working on myself too. It began to feel like I didn’t know who I was outside of this relationship- it was the one thing that had remained constant for the past 10 years, and it started to sink in that maybe I had missed out on some kind of personal growth or something.
By the end of the summer, our landlord dropped the news on us that she was moving into our apartment and we’d have to move out. The news came after he had sustained a rib injury while I tore my ACL only a week later (which I didn’t actually know was the extent of my knee injury for a while because I put off getting it looked at for weeks- don’t do that, if your knee is messed up get it checked out…) We had lucked out with a caretaker apartment the entire time we lived together so our rent was extremely cheap, and if you don’t know what rent is like in the Boston area just be thankful about that because it’s horrifying. We were faced with the task of finding a more expensive apartment while his job was still up in the air or moving back home. We ultimately ended up moving back with our parents (separately).
While the move was obviously not ideal (no one wants to go from being engaged and living with your partner to moving back with your parents) we just felt like we were doing what we had to do…which to me became the theme of the relationship in general. I didn’t often find myself thinking of times when I was completely comfortable and happy with how things were going, but rather we were always working towards getting to that point. And if after 10 years I still wasn’t at that point, I started to seriously question if this was the right place for me to be.
Non-disclosed issues aside, we ultimately broke up because I wasn’t feeling it anymore. I certainly was at some point, I wouldn’t have stuck it out for so long or agreed to marry him someday if I wasn’t. But somewhere along the way I think I lost track of myself and things that I need to get out of a relationship (which again, is not anything against him as a person). I’m sure somewhere out there is someone who is looking for exactly the qualities that he has to offer, but at this point in my life I just want to catch up on some personal growth I feel like I’ve missed, and I have a more thought out idea of what I need to have in a long-term relationship. I can’t overstate how difficult of a decision this was though. I’m aware that it may not seem that way in this post (and when I talked to him about this there was a point where he felt I was just giving up on us, which is a totally justified way for him to feel). But at the end of the day, I felt like I had spent so much time working towards something that I thought would ultimately feel a lot different, and if it didn’t feel totally right after 10 years I just don’t think it’s what I should be doing anymore.
So after over 4,000 words, there you have it. If you’re scouring my social media looking for the dirty details or gossiping trying to figure out what major event caused this fall out, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But at the end of the day I just didn’t feel like this was right and I had to act on my gut, and without going into specifics that I don’t feel comfortable sharing that’s the most explanation I can really provide. I hope for me personally going through this fairly publicly (and in terms of how this is going to go while we unravel our lives together in front of family and friends) that this will lead to me feeling more comfortable being more open in my writing. I’ve always shied away from writing too much about my feelings for fear of judgment and because I tend to feel easily overwhelmed and sort of suffocated when people get overly involved in various aspects of my life, but I’m hoping that writing more things like this will help me change some of that.
It is weird being single for the first time in my adult life. It’s a huge adjustment, and the reactions I’m getting from family and friends are ranging from avoiding the elephant in the room altogether to a strange kind of “I knew it!” mentality, and I’m not sure any of it is totally helpful to be honest. My friends are pretty supportive, and I’m hoping that if my Disney friends are reading this there will be some understanding for why this happened and why things will probably be different from here on out, especially on Castle Party. We’re hoping to stay friends by the way, and at the very least we’re adults and are being totally civil, but things are definitely different and I’m just hoping this post cleared up any confusion.
I have absolutely no idea how to end this, so I guess that’s it! This was one hell of a learning experience and I think we’re both excited to see where things go for both of us from here, and I really appreciate everyone who’s reached out during this time and everyone who’s still reading my stuff even when it’s an almost 5,000 word post of me trying to process my feelings or whatever this is. 💕
(I didn’t proofread this and honestly don’t feel like reading it again- excuse the typos!)