One of the first things I did after breaking up with my boyfriend was to reinstate podcasts in the bedroom. Before we moved in together, I had liked to fall asleep to episodes of shows he didn’t care about, like WTF with Marc Maron. I also enjoyed being lulled by ASMR videos, which I had introduced him to but were not his cup of tea. Chatty podcasts didn’t help me get to sleep, but after causing turmoil in two lives by ending a long-term relationship, I particularly didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts in that big bed. So I started playing media from my smartphone all night, every night. The sudden increase in free time meant that I could subscribe to new podcasts and catch up on older episodes that I’d missed. Since I couldn’t sleep anyway, I started binge-listening.
I also binged on slight and comforting TV shows, even ones that I’d seen a hundred times already, like Friends and Gilmore Girls. It felt like a huge relief that I could once again watch “my shows” without self-consciousness or compromise. As most people do, I had made small shifts in my lifestyle and schedules to accommodate my partner, even more so after we moved in together. Over time I began to resent those—although I regret none of them now—and had a gnawing feeling that something was fundamentally wrong in our pairing. If we were right for each other, I thought, I wouldn’t have this growing sense of self-protectiveness. I didn’t want to work at the relationship anymore, so I decided to stop.
He is planning to move out soon, and I can already picture the scenes as if from the lonely third act of a Hollywood romance: me sitting alone with a glass of wine in front of the fireplace, me talking to the cats because there is nobody else around, me generally looking wistfully around the townhouse that I rented because it was good for us and not necessarily for me. Except for the cat thing, I would slot nicely into the stereotypical lead male role: the perpetual bachelor(ette) who is emotionally reticent, uncommunicative, and commitment-phobic. That’s how I see myself through the eyes of the men I’ve broken up with, anyway.
Everything I’ve been feeling lately could be tweaked to fit that narrative. There is comfort at being back in charge of my time and my immediate environment. (Read: control freak.) Relief at no longer having to make the tiniest sacrifice for somebody else. (Read: too selfish to love another person.) Sadness and regret about ending a relationship that was often happy, with somebody I still care about. (Read: we are meant to be together and I’m just too scared to accept it.) Are these interpretations borne of Hollywood bullshit, or do they reflect reality? Why is it so important to me that I can piddle away my time in the insignificant ways of my own choosing?
Because I want to share my life with someone, I’ll keep searching for deeper answers to those questions. I know that I’m capable of self-sabotage, but I also believe that I’m capable of true love. So I pick up and move forward with hope.