Thoughts on why I left

Thoughts on why I left

Thoughts on why I left

Dear Sean,

When I broke up with you, you said it was because I was scared to make myself happy. I think that was part of it.

My fear lay in other places, as well. I was afraid by committing to you longer, I’d a)waste your time by preventing you from finding someone who felt more secure in a relationship with you or b)end up marrying you without being completely sure we could last. I was daunted by my family’s strong feelings against you and was terrified how my doubts multiplied every time I was away from you from an extended period of time. I was getting restless and starting to check out other men. I often voiced my concern to you that I wasn’t sure if you were the last man I’d ever date. That concern was central when I decided to break up with you. My doubts resurfaced when my close high school friend called me on New Year’s, sounding disappointed that I had a boyfriend. I started thinking about other options of men.

I was also afraid that I couldn’t make friends on my own while with you. I feared that I became too dependent on you for my social life, and that I was just using you for warmth in my bed and an assured date at events. That was a shallow assumption that wasn’t completely valid.

I worried that I was settling with you. While I loved the time spent with you, I often felt like we clung together and really didn’t preserve our independence. I felt was building my life around you (my fault, not yours), and I was compromising what I wanted to do to stay with you.

Hearing about your plans for a career in producing music made me proud to have such an ambitious boyfriend. It also made me nervous. That career could prevent you from seeing your partner for long periods of time, and I don’t like to live separately from the man I love. I need someone with whom I can spend much of my time, which worked when we dated, but might have not as our lives advanced.

I found myself picking apart your faults and starting to get annoyed with traits about you I once found endearing. Those long texts you sent throughout the day were thoughtful, but sometimes I found myself rolling my eyes at them. My sister said you seemed clingy. I knew my irrational annoyance would most likely increase over time, unless I sought to temper the underlying issues behind that annoyance. As I told you so often, I needed space. Perhaps I took my need for space too far by breaking up with you.

I was also growing more uncomfortable with you continuing to spend time with another woman who repeatedly told you she felt romantically toward you. I know you acted in completely good faith, but it made me queasy to think about her flirting with you and you being oblivious to it. It hurt me that you came up with a nickname for her, and you made her laugh just as much as you did for me. I know those are immature emotions — she was the one who was attracted, not you, and you have the right to spend time with whomever you want. I think it cut me so deeply because I could imagine her with you. I found myself thinking that she could be a better match for you and love you more fully. She could be less critical and analytic about the relationship.

In social situations, I felt stifled sometimes. You often became so nervous in groups that you became increasingly louder. I felt drowned out and awkward and stuck nodding and smiling, perhaps cracking a joke to diffuse the tension. I know, most of the time, people were laughing. Sometimes that laughter was legitimate. I admired your skill to crack the wittiest puns and accurately imitate people, as well as improve people’s days. Other times, the laughter happened because people felt awkward and wanted you to calm down. I felt in a squeeze because I didn’t like to see you humiliate yourself — maybe I cared too much about the opinions of others — but I also didn’t want to temper you, to push you to censor yourself to someone calmer you weren’t.
I knew you said you’re ultimately a quiet person. After a year with you, I agreed. Sometimes your thoughtfulness scared me. I felt, although you denied it, you became too self-deprecating, and I didn’t know how to get you out of it. I knew you eventually pulled yourself out, but over-thinking still really wore on you.

I made some lasting friends while dating you, but it worried me that they were all mutual friends with you. I felt like I was becoming your extension and not my own person, and that I was being perceived as a flat character, Sean’s girlfriend, and not as myself. I felt like some of my friends I had before the relationship stopped hanging out with me because they felt uncomfortable around you. Of course, you didn’t have to hang around constantly, but I really wished for an activity where I could include all the people I cared about without making anyone feel uneasy. This especially applied to my family. I wanted so badly for you to feel comfortable around them and vice versa, because I was so close to both of you. But it definitely didn’t play out that way. Family acceptance was one of the deal-breakers for me, among many factors obviously.

I also felt uncomfortable with you in public. You would yell a goofy message to crowds of strangers, and I would scuttle away awkwardly. I wish I could have embraced that as one of your quirks. Maybe I was too judgmental and too eager to appease everyone else; maybe I was right and more socially perceptive. (I think, probably a combination.)

I also began to consider that I was probably not mature enough for a serious relationship. I wasn’t treating you well enough, and I wasn’t trying hard enough to show you how much I loved you. I was allowing you to do all the work, to write the letters, giving the gifts, make the phone calls and text messages, etc., and all I was doing was responding with a “thank you.” I wasn’t loving you completely enough. Using your wording, my heart wasn’t beating nearly as hard as yours when I was around you. And when away from you, I didn’t miss or think about you enough.

When it comes to the breakup conversation, I said that I felt increasingly platonic toward you and I lied. I spoke to you as cruelly as I could, in hopes that remembering them would make make you miss me less. I know I broke up with you, but I will still be jealous as hell if/when I see you with another woman. However, as you said, you deserve to make yourself happy. That right is one I cannot interfere with. I still find myself looking at your photos or laughing at something I remember you saying. Mostly though, I’m crying. I’m thinking I made the worst mistake of my life. I definitely hurt a man with an infinitely good heart and beautiful mind. I still love you. My family doesn’t understand why. They say, “You dumped him. You can do better. There’s millions more men out there.” But I chose you, Sean.(I know you, my fellow grammarian, don’t appreciate sentences starting with “but,” but I feel it necessary.) You didn’t judge me, you were attentive, you made me laugh, you made me think. I felt so alive around you, and you inspired me. I started to make a list of “firsts” I experienced with you in my journal, but I stopped after realizing I was up way too late at night.

You are still one of my favorite people, but I fear I won’t be able to be close with you again. By breaking up with you, I violated your trust. Being friends is going to be difficult, and I don’t know if we can do it in a healthy way. I fear we’ll have to get over each other completely before even considering that, and I am nowhere near that point. I can’t sleep at night, and I’m crying every day like someone died. I feel like I made the right decision for now, but I hate how much I hurt you and I hate how I have to cut you out of my life and I hate that I still love you. I have thought much about getting back together with you but don’t consider it a healthy option right now. I broke up with you because I was doubting a future with you. What could soothe those doubts if I started dating you again tomorrow? I don’t want to date you again because I feel lonely or miss having good company, and I do not want a relationship with you to happen simply to stop current heartbreak. I don’t even know if you’d be capable of loving and being in love with me again. It wouldn’t be fair of me to ask. You have said you shut yourself off to people you used to be attracted to who do not feel the same. I feel so empty to think you may soon look at me and feel nothing. To think it’s because of my actions is excruciating.

I made a deal with myself. Our breakup was recent, so I’m not going to talk with you for two weeks, to give us both time to recover and think. In a month we can hang out, if it is fulfilling/beneficial for both of us, but I don’t want to force anything or reopen any wounds. In two to three months, if I still haven’t moved on, I’ll reassess — although it’s highly likely I screwed all chances of any future romance with you. This is only allowed to happen if I want you for you, and I resolve most of my reservations that led me away in the first place. But I cannot place you with this expectation. You need to be free to be truly happy, without me, the woman who broke up with you, tying you down with the possibility that I might want to get back with you in the future. So as much as I hate it, please consider this the end. I really want you to be happy, Sean. In keeping an open heart, I hope I can too.


  1. I think you did the right thing leaving Emily. That break-up pain never gets any easier though does it 🙁

  2. Emily 5 years ago

    Thank you, Rachel.

  3. Alice 4 years ago

    Did you guys ever work it out? If not, how did you move on?

  4. Emily 4 years ago

    We didn’t, but we stayed friends. Partly because I sent him a link to this letter, which showed that I ended it thoughtfully, not just for the shallow reasons as he assumed. I moved on by grieving for a couple months, staying very busy and holding off serious dating for awhile (although I started dating casually about a month later). It also helped to have a critical friend who knew him well (unlike my parents) who could point out his faults in a humorous way, and we could have complaint sessions about him. It made me feel justified in my choice to break up with him, which I needed badly. Additionally, it helped to not spend time around him, at least when the split was fresh, because I’d a)get really sad and b)want to kiss him, which would be inappropriate because I wasn’t in the right mind to make a rational decision. More than a year later, I’m glad I didn’t. The last thing that helped me get over him was becoming infatuated with someone else and dating him casually alongside other people for a few months. I’m lucky he’s still around today.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *