I have a friend who I love dearly, and for good reason. She is funny, sassy, clever, quick with a one liner, and we spent most of our early twenties turning into adults together. I have frequently referred to her as my heterosexual life partner, and thus far in our lives she has been, even through various moves to different states and countries on both our parts.
But there is a recurring theme in her life that drives me absolutely nuts: it takes her 5 or 6 times to break up with a serious boyfriend who is just not a match for her. For the last several years it’s been the following pattern with anyone serious:
Friend: I met a guy
Me: Ooh! Tell me more.
Friend: He’s just a guy, it’s not really serious but he’s pretty sweet. We’ll see how it goes.
**Couple of Weeks Later**
Friend: I think I’m starting to like this guy. He said/did (enter sweet thing here).
Me: Awwww he sounds sweet! (Insert inappropriate question about guy here [I can’t keep the dialog 100% authentic since my dad reads this])
Friend: You’re a pervert. But yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I don’t really want anything serious.
**Couple of weeks later, Facebook status changes**
Me: Oh I see we’re FBO now?
Friend: Yeah he’s great (proceeds to list great qualities)
Me: Sounds like a keeper!
**Several months to a year later**
Friend: I don’t think it’s working out, we’ve been fighting a lot about X or Y, there’s no reasoning with him, I’m trying to make it work because I love him though.
Me: (Offers some sort of relevant advice). I’m sure you guys can work it out.
Friend: It’s been amazing!
Friend: (Sobbing) I can’t handle it anymore.
Friend: I ended it.
Me: I’m really sorry babe (hugs and ice cream)
Friend: We’ve decided to give it another try.
Me: Despite X and/or Y? Do you really think that’s going to change?
Friend: We had a serious talk about it, I think it can change
Me: Great, I really hope it works out for you guys
Friend: (Sobbing) It’s not changing
Me (in my mind): Shock! I never saw that coming!
Me (out loud): I’m so sorry babe, probably better to just call it and find a better match
Friend: I know (sob)
Friend: We decided that if I make sure I do X, and he makes sure he does Y, we can sort out our differences.
Me: (raises eyebrows) Good luck!
Anyway, I could probably continue this dialog a few more times around (depending on the ex-boyfriend we’re talking about) and it would be more or less accurate. To be fair, this hasn’t happened with every guy she’s dated, and she is not a perpetual monogamist either. But the last few serious relationships have slowly stuttered out of existence in this manner.
I’ve taken the understanding path: “I’m so sorry hon, I know how difficult the end of a relationship is and I’m here for you, whatever you need.”
I’ve taken the angry path: “I’m sorry friend, but are you fucking kidding me? You know the definition of insanity, right?”
I’ve taken the ‘I’m not your mom but I don’t approve’ path: “You’re an adult and can make your own decisions, but I’m disappointed.” [Stole that one directly from Mama Brown’s playbook, thanks ma!]
What shits me the most about the whole thing is that I know this woman better than almost anyone in the world. I know she is smart, and tough, and doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit. Unless she’s in love with him. Then it’s a bullshit free-for-all, and she rolls around in it until she can’t breathe, then stands up and shouts, “Hit me again, Johnny!”
And the only thing I can think to tell her is all the trite crap you can read in “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” and “He’s Just Not That Into You” and all the other books that have been published to pry money out of the hands of heartbroken women everywhere. “If it didn’t work then, it won’t work now” and “People don’t ever really change that drastically” and “They’re always on their best behavior for the first six months, then you find out who they really are. That means this is who he really is, and it sounds like he sucks.”
Unfortunately, despite her sass and her mental toughness, her fatal flaw is blinding herself to the realities of the person she has fallen in love with. As someone who loves her, this is infuriating and difficult to cope with.
So when I heard (not directly from her, of course, at this point I think she probably knew I would hit the roof) that after months of finally being free from the last one, she was back with him, I hit her with both the angry and the Mom responses, then stormed over to my blog and laid this out.
So here’s my final word to both my dear friend and anyone else who reads this blog looking for love advice: Loving someone does not mean you need to blind yourself to their faults. Loving someone means you put their needs first, and that they should put yours first. And if at any point that other person puts him/herself and his/her own bullshit before you, loving them is not a good enough excuse to stay. You deserve more, and it is out there, if you can stop holding onto the past and can look forward.