The long goodbye

Last week Facebook announced plans to help users deal with breaking up with someone. The idea is simple – it’s easier to get over them if we’re not exposed to them all the time, so when we split up, Facebook will give us the option to filter their posts out of our timelines. Sweet.

But it relies on us being public about our lives, on FB at least. The filter is only going to be presented to users who change their status from “in a relationship” to “single”. Those of us who don’t share every detail of ourselves will have to go through it the hard way: muting, unfriending, possibly blocking the other person.

Years ago, the then boyfriend and I had a shared dislike of Facebook’s already bothersome tendency to get overinvolved in its users’ lives, and we wanted to protect our privacy a little without relying on the unclear jargon of FB’s privacy policy.

So we decided to delete our relationship status. We were still together – although the people who didn’t know us all that well sent lots of concerned messages asking if we were okay, wanted to go for drinks and occasionally slagging off the assumed ex. When we did break up, we posted special updates saying it was over, it was mutual, and we were fine.

The Chap and I were never public knowledge. We had our reasons. The day he said he’d told his mum about me – “she wanted to know why I was always attached to my phone” – was one of the happiest I can remember. Ironically we only started to be a pair really publically in the month or so before I decided to sabotage things.

Then, not long after we broke up, an article appeared in my other Twitter timeline about ghosting – vanishing completely from your ex’s life. Real ghosting is horrible. There’s a world of difference between having to mute or unfriend each other in order to get through the day without torturing ourselves, and being wholly cut out of existence from every sphere of their lives.

There are situations when it’s necessary – getting out of an abusive relationship is the most obvious. But for most of us, ghosting is harsh and unnecessary, a quick way to escape the messy reality of untwining entwined lives and experiences. Dealing with all that hurts because we care.

That’s been a shock to me. I have never cried this much over someone – over a man – in my entire life. One of the reasons this break-up has been so painful is because the relationship was in full flush. It hadn’t fizzled out as a result of familiarity, and my better handle on my mental health meant that even when I was ill earlier this year, I was present, aware of my needs and wants, still sensual if not sexual.

In past relationships I wanted out, recognised that whatever I might have had with a partner was gone, or damaged as a result of the depression. I just couldn’t do it until the relationship was at absolute crisis point.

I didn’t want out this time. I loved him with all my heart. We were both fragile, wounded, sensitive, and alive and passionate. We just fell foul with our timing.

That lack of deep passion on my part when things have ended in the past has meant I’ve felt able to be friends with several of my old partners. If I loved them still, it was in a very different way – and sometimes I wasn’t capable of caring that deeply for them. Unsurprisingly some of them weren’t keen on remaining friends back. Of those who were, I’ve drifted away from some, but at least one is still my friend in a not-often-in-touch-but-able-to-pick-up-where-we-last-left-the-conversation kind of way.

It hurts like hell that with The Chap I know we can’t go back to being friends. I feel far too much; he feels… something more but not the same thing. I have a whole theory about what happened, why it went the way it did, but this isn’t the place for that.

And that feeling something more, so deeply, it’s made ghosting seem almost attractive.

I have the most amazing brain. It’s sharp, it’s fast, it’s adaptable. It’ll hit me with what feel like intuitive flashes that often turn out to be the result of it joining the dots before the rest of me has realised there are any dots in the first place.

My heart, my gut, they’re much slower. They haven’t had anywhere near the practice at working things out, and it takes a very long time for them to process. They’ll recognise that something feels wrong, but it’ll take them ages to work out what it is, or how to work through that feeling, and then to recover.

Every time I’ve started to feel like I’m recovering, he’s reappeared. He asked last time if there was any point in our staying in touch, and I pointed out gently that it wasn’t me that kept making contact, that I would get in touch only when I felt ready.

He was back again this week. When I asked why he admitted he didn’t know, wondered if maybe he was looking for “absolute closure”. Over a couple of hours of messaging, we actually talked about a lot of the things that had gone wrong, that had affected us, did some useful clearing of the air.

A few hours later he messaged me again, expressing further regret. Despite the air clearing… my focus for the day had been wrecked, I could feel my gut churning, I knew my healing process had been set back again. I knew I’d be crying again, just like when it first hit me, when I got home.

So I asked him to please let me go, to learn to live with happened – which, as I didn’t say, was what I’ve had to do. I wished him well. I asked him to let me be, to let me heal. I said goodbye.

4 thoughts on “The long goodbye

    • Timing has never been our friend. Neither of us helped matters, but timing made things much more difficult.
      At this point it’s hard not to nurture the hope that when the timing is right there’ll be another chance – but I have to tell myself that won’t happen.


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