So I mentioned that I saw my ex-boyfriend who I had not seen in 2.5 years while in California. What I did not yet mention is that he was my first big love and the first man to propose to me. I also failed to mention that the last time we saw each other we were completely in love and head over heels happy.
He was stationed in the Chicago area so I went there to visit him. We had an amazing Valentine’s Day weekend together until the last hour of the visit. Story time: So we’re in the airport parking lot and I am sobbing, like hot mess status, just a total wreck because I did not want to leave yet. I’m sobbing and sobbing and sobbing until BA BOOOOM, “Baby, I love you. Will you marry me?” The crying stopped, better yet, it came to a screeching halt. Is this really happening? I thought to myself. Hum dida hum dida hum umm omg Christie you NEED to say something right now. Just say anything, something, good God! “I love you very much but I can’t answer that right now,” I finally said. His faced dropped and my heart broke. What did I just do? I panicked. However, in true Sassarella form, I re-grouped, “I’m 20 years old, I haven’t even finished school, you move all the time, and most obviously…we’ve only been together for four months. I love you so much and I miss you while we’re apart but I just can’t answer that right now.”
We spent the next hour wandering around the airport. I was still crying and trying to act normally but I knew everything had changed. He was distant and cold. He was so hurt that he could barely look at me, which of course made me cry even more. I remember the Northwestern girls lacrosse team was at the airport and in line behind me at security. I remember them laughing at me for being so emotional but it was one of the toughest moments I had ever had to handle. I loved him and I didn’t want to leave him or Chicago but I also knew that this would be a tough hurdle to jump over. I wasn’t sure if we’d survive and clearly, we did not.
For the next month we fought like cats and dogs. Looking back I know he was just so hurt he couldn’t even stand it but instead of talking to me about it he just treated me like crap. One night while I was home over spring break I sat up and waited for him to call. I waited and waited and waited. He had gone out that night with his buddies in Chicago and I wanted the usual text, call, any form of communication to say goodnight and I love you. It never came. I was not nearly as headstrong back then so I called him first. He answered after my third attempt and I could tell he was buzzed. He was being a jerk and I told him to call me when he grows up.
The next night I was lying on the floor of my room (sanctuary) listening to Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” on repeat. By about the tenth or eleventh listen, I got up off the floor, found a big container that used to hold that flavored popcorn you send people on Christmas, and packed everything I could find of his or that reminded me of him into it. I stripped my room clean of anything that could be traced back to him. I had made a “(Blank) Box” and it was time to make the call. I broke up with him and he was completely shocked.
We spent the next week or so going back and forth between arguing and contemplating getting back together, which I suppose most couples do, but at the end of it I was just done. For the next year we didn’t speak a word to each other. He was stationed far away and moved several times so we didn’t see each other either. We finally made contact last summer and seriously considered seeing each other when my family decided to vacation near to where he lived at the time. I backed out and slowly pulled away because I knew that what seeing me would mean for him was not on the same page as what seeing him would mean for me. He was still very much in love with me while I was just testing the waters.
Seeing him last week in California was wonderful. At first I was excited then I was dreading it but afterwards I was very satisfied. We caught up on life and had a few laughs. I care about him in a nostalgic, at one time you meant a lot to me, and you are a good person sorta way. He was my first love and no one ever forgets that. I also left with the satisfaction in knowing and confirming that we are not meant to be together. If we met now, there is no way we would have even come close to getting together. I have changed too much and I have changed in large part because of him.
My relationship with him taught me that opposites can attract. He is a country boy in the military while I am…well you know what I am. I’ll never forget visiting him in his home town and sticking out like a Jersey thumb. On the same point, it taught me that there is a certain level of desired comfort in dating someone who comes from where you come from. Let me also say that maybe it’s not necessary to date someone who comes from the same background, location, or lifestyle as you do but it is necessary to date someone who can respect, appreciate, and be open to getting to know where it is that you come from. He was not.
It taught me to be more vocal in relationships. It was his way or the highway which I now know does not fly with me. There were things he did and said that really pissed me off but I can’t put all the blame on him because I was too afraid to say anything. I know what I like, what I don’t, what works for me, and what doesn’t but I was so afraid that we’d get into an argument that I often let him have his way. I think it’s pretty obvious that I no longer do that.
Our relationship taught me that long-distance connections are incredibly difficult to maintain. We didn’t get enough time together while he was around to know just how difficult being apart would be. We had our first fight, our first make-up, our first anniversary, our first holiday season….over the phone. I visited wherever he was as often as money and time would allow me to but it just wasn’t enough. For long-distance to work it takes a true commitment to communication, love, and support from both parties.
It taught me that if you want to ask a grown-up question then you have to be grown up enough to handle any answer.
Our relationship taught me, and I believe I’ve mentioned this before, that sometimes you have to break your own heart. I loved him but I was not willing to put up with his neglect, his habit of hanging up on me, his stubbornness, his lack of communication, and his often disregard for my feelings. He was not always this way, just that last month or so, but as soon as I pulled the plug he was willing to do all of those things. Sadly, it was too late. I knew I deserved better than what he could give me. So yes, he broke my heart but ultimately it was up to me to evacuate myself from the situation.
I believe that a person, whether a first love or a one night stand, comes into your life for a reason. He came into my life so that I could learn those lessons. He exposed me to areas of the country and a way of life that I would never have had the opportunity to be apart of. I have a deep appreciation and love for our armed services. He loosened me up and showed me a spontaneous, childlike side of my personality. He loved me in the best way he knew how and I will always love him for that. He is a remarkable human being and I have genuine respect and appreciation for him and the time we spent together.