When Nothing (But Everything) Is Wrong

Q. Hi Jordan,

I started reading your blog earlier this year and I love it. I just needed to ask you something. I’ve read your posts about your love life, past and present, and I’ve been reading and re-reading this post [about being “certain” in a relationship]. I relate to this reader so much…and I do have one question: How do you break up with someone who has done absolutely nothing wrong to you, but you just know you’re not supposed to be together?

I have been with someone for almost a year now and everything is fine. Just fine. But that’s all. I have always, always had this nagging feeling that I am going to wake up engaged, and I’m scared because I have no reason to reject a perfectly nice proposal. My boyfriend has never treated me poorly, we rarely fight, he loves me so much…but I am just lacking something, and I feel like I need to end this sooner rather than later because I know in my heart that this is not the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Have you ever been the breaker and not the break-ee when it comes to ending a relationship? I honestly know what I need to do…I just don’t know how to do it. Do you have any words of advice from experience of your own?


A. I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I understand that just because you can’t put your finger on what’s “wrong” with a relationship (and may not logically feel like anything even is), doesn’t mean that it’s “right”. That knowledge also doesn’t make it any easier to break up with someone you genuinely care about.

I was in a very similar situation when I first moved to LA: my boyfriend of several years (off and on) was my first love, but the fact that I remembered being overwhelmingly in love with him when I was 17 didn’t mean that I still was when I was 22. Which was tough to come to terms with. I wanted so badly to feel as in love with him as I used to, so much so that I spent months and months trying to convince myself of something that simply wasn’t there.

I couldn’t put my finger on what, exactly, was missing from the relationship…but I was terrified at the idea of ending up married to him. And that made no sense either to me or to anyone else in my life, because not only was he wonderful on paper (smart, funny, handsome, my first love), but we had also co-created a show together, and by breaking up with him, I wasn’t just losing someone who I knew I was “lucky” to have…I was also quite possibly losing my job, my friends, and the life I had pictured having.

But I broke up with him.

And – surprise, surprise – I lost not only him, but also my job, my friends, and the life I had pictured having.

And in a perfect world the next thing that would have happened would have been that I immediately realized that it was the right thing to do, and my life would have immediately opened up in extraordinary and previously unimaginable ways.

But that wasn’t what happened: what happened was that I fell directly into an intensely destructive live-in relationship with a person who created problems in my life that in some ways I’m still unraveling to this day, and spent several years in a deep depression. There was a period when I constantly wondered whether I had done the right thing, and felt so completely alone that I started to curse myself for my immaturity and weakness for having left someone who was at the very least a man who loved me very much.

Truth? I kind of lost it. I pictured myself back in the relationship, back in my job, maybe not great but certainly not alone and probably not so sad it hurt to open my eyes in the morning, and just about wanted to collapse through the floor at the mess I had made of my future. I convinced myself that our relationship had been perfectly fine (after all, it was difficult for me to put a finger on what had been “wrong” in the first place), and that I had just been a whiny, dissatisfied, impossible-to-please kid who thought there were better things out there when really, there weren’t.

Guess what?

There are better things out there.

With the glorious 20/20 of hindsight, I now understand what had been missing from that relationship. My boyfriend was many wonderful things, absolutely…but he also had a very specific image of who he wanted me to be that had very little to do with who I actually was. He saw me as the wide-eyed 17-year-old he had met many years before who thought every word that left his mouth was the be-all end-all, and wanted to put me in a glass cage where I would stay that way forever. With him, I didn’t feel capable of having my own friends, my own career, or my own life. I wanted those things so badly.

Every day, I felt like I was being held underwater; I could barely even breathe when I pictured the years stretching out before us.

And again, it wasn’t that he wasn’t great in many ways. Or that I didn’t love him, because I did. It was that when I was with him, I was not myself. I could barely even remember who that person was, it was so hard to see past what he wanted.

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I do really regret writing that post that you say you’ve been reading and re-reading – I want to be clear about that – because I feel like it suggested (or rather outright stated) that you should be absolutely certain about who you choose as a life partner before making the decision to commit to them. And I don’t believe that at all. Doubts are not only normal; they’re important, because they keep you examining things, and constant examination is how you grow and evolve.

Do I ever question my relationship with Kendrick? Yes. Of course I do. Even on our wedding day itself, I had a moment of panic wondering if I was doing the “right thing.” And I’m not saying that to “keep it real”; I’m saying that because choosing to spend your life with someone is a big deal (not to mention how much our society hammers you over the head with how you must get married and it must be to the perfect person, and not to mention ridiculous books like Marry Him that make you feel like you should settle for a guy who’s “good enough”). Of course you will (and should) question a decision that will (and should) affect your life so enormously, both before and after you make it. But when you do make that choice, you should know deep-down that you’re choosing someone who loves you for you and who you love for who he or she truly is in return. Because that’s a big thing to know.

I definitely don’t want to tell you what to do with regards to your current relationship, but it sounds to me like you feel fairly certain about things already. With regards to the “how”…there’s really no “good” way to end a relationship, especially not when the breakup is one-sided (as it sounds like it may be, if that’s what you end up choosing).

But honestly…that’s OK. Breakups are an important part of figuring out who you are and where you want to go, and when it comes to such enormously emotional matters, there is nothing better that you can do than to be straightforward with yourself and with your partner.

Be kind and be gentle, of course – but be direct. I think that when you make it your policy to be honest with yourself and with others, life can take some pretty amazing turns.

I hope that helps.

Lots of love, and Happy New Year.



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