When I was younger, I was terrible at leaving relationships. There could be blaring air sirens and a light flashing "Run! Run!" above a guy's head, and maybe a year later could I pull together the emotional resources to say,"Bob, I don't think this is working out. I've lost hope that I could ever mean as much to you as your My Little Pony collection." This is no exaggeration. In high school, I spent more than a year trying to please a guy who physically fought with me. As I've previously admitted, I stuck to a man who demeaned me over a Subway sandwich.
Obviously, I had a problem with low self-esteem.* But I also had a problem with simple inertia. To break up with a guy, you have to commit to hours of raw cross-examination. "What went wrong?" "Why can't we fix this?" "Can't we try harder?" You spend days wracked with doubt, wondering, "Did I do the right thing? What if this is the only guy who'll ever love me?" And, the worst part, you feel bathed in acid for hurting a man you deeply care about, despite his flaws. So, I would put off and put off and put off the inevitable. Consequently, I gave away years of my life like dinner mints.
Yesterday, I was looking over a diary that I hadn't opened for several years, and I came across two back-to-back entries that made me both laugh and cry at my younger self.
June 16, 2001. ....Which reminds me of Vronsky**. We're still dating. We have been monogamously together now for 2 1/2 years. It's hard to believe considering that the progress of our relationship seems to have been stalled at the early stages of development. The state of our relationship -- it's slow development -- was fine with me until recently....Suffice it to say that I finally came to the point where I feel I need to look at the relationship with Vronsky not only in terms of the fun and immediate comfort we take from one another, but also in the terms of a real future prospect....I feel as though I should start working now at finding [the right] man.
March 21, 2004. ....I told Vronsky today that I need a "break" from the relationship....Vronsky, though he loves me deeply, is not convinced of the belief that we will marry one day. While I have many doubts of Vronsky and doubts of the whole institution of marriage, I found his position startling and disappointing. I felt as though I have been pouring gallons of love in a paper sailboat. And whose fault is that? Only a fool would think a paper sailboat was seaworthy, that this relationship had the fortitude to sail into eternity....Let me sum up all the moron tax captured in those passages: My relationship with this man stopped developing after the first few months, and yet I continued to date him. It's not until about two and a half years later that I realize this relationship isn't going anywhere. I then wait an additional 34 months before I can bring myself to break up. Oh! Doesn't it make you want to bang your head against something?
*For those of you who might feel concerned, rest assured that the pendulum has since swung the other way. These days, my self-esteem has evolved into something like a wombat -- plump, cute, and a little surly -- and life has been better this way. Good men like wombats.