I have been keeping a secret from you for some time, and now I can finally tell you.
I am on a plane from Athens to London, a bit thirsty, recovering from a cold, sitting next to the window on Isle 22.
I had a few days off in between jobs, so on a complete whim, I decided to book tickets to go to Greece. I booked them on a Friday, and by Monday I was sitting at a dining table across my dad and his partner, biting of a slice of bread when I said to them: ‘I have two important bits of news for you. The first, I got a new job’ I said, and they smiled and congratulated me and asked me a few questions about the new job, and where it is, is it closer to home, is it more money, etc, etc. Then they paused and looked at me for the next part.
‘The second‘, I gulped, fixing a smile on my face, ‘is that I broke up -well, break up sounds so harsh– I am no longer in a relationship with S’. Their faces dropped, and their eyes met briefly before flickering back at me. ‘What do you mean?’ They asked.
And here is what I meant: I am no longer in a romantic relationship with my partner of 10 years. We love each other, but we are not in love with each other anymore. This did not happen in a day, it happened gradually, as did the break up. It is weird to call what we went through a break up though, because nothing broke – this gave me a better understanding of the much ridiculed conscious uncoupling term popularised by Gwyneth Paltrow. We were not a couple anymore, but we are still G and S, soul mates, co-travellers, connected human beings with ten years behind them and a deep love for each other. We are family, and even though we are not together as a couple, we are a couple of best friends.
It all happened really amiably. We were at a park, walking, and we both knew that something was not going right. We knew that first when a friend mentioned that after ten years you either get married or break up, and we both joked that breaking up sounds more likely than getting married. That evening we both picked it up at home; why?
We then spent a few weeks reevaluating our relationship. The romantic ‘take your breath away’ element had long disappeared, and was replaced by a lovely intimacy and familiarity that wrapped us like a warm blanket. We both found though that sometimes this blanket became suffocating, and even though most of the time was great, it was not enough.
So we thought of everything: taking a break, opening our relationship, going to couple’s counselling, getting married, breaking up, pretend nothing happened and keep going – and we went on to try a few things; sitting on the park bench, we looked at each other’s eyes, and be both knew. It was over. My eyes filled with tears, and soon we were both hugging tighter than we ever had, and were crying into each other’s arms – even at our breakup we were there for each other (and as I am writing this I am welling up again).
So, we picked ourselves up, went back home, and kept living our lives together, just not as a couple.
Telling our friends was a bit of a nightmare. Initially we would start the discussion with ‘we have something to tell you’ which would be greeted by ecstatic ‘OMG you are getting married‘. So, we changed this with ‘there is something you should know’ (same response), ‘something has changed in our relationship (did you get married?)’, and finally ‘guys, we are no longer together‘ (that seemed to do the trick). The responses ranged from shock and awe, to tears and anger. ‘How can you guys not be together? This is unacceptable‘ they would ask, as we would end up comforting them for our own breakup.
We made it clear that there is no side choosing, no hard feelings between us, no animosity or pain or grudges. There would be no trash talking or Celine Dion & tubs of icecream needed (although always welcomed).
Soon, S started dating (it took me a bit more time, simply because dating scares me a bit), and we would spend our evenings dissecting dates, and as soon as I started seeing people as well, comparing the cringiest dating moments (I win every time). This of course was a bit hard to swallow for some of our friends, as they could not understand how we were not jealous of each other. A friend during a coffee starting bashing S for telling me the details about his date, and being insensitive. I corrected her, and said that I am not jealous, because we are no longer together. We had not been together that way a long time before we broke up. Our relationship had turned to friendship and we were not admitting it. Of course there are moments that are prickly, but they are like that because they are firsts; after a while it becomes normal. Of course I want S to find a partner, and I genuinely hope he finds someone that appreciates how amazing, kind, and loving he is.
So, there was one thing left to do. Tell my parents. Telling them I was with S was a battle in itself, now I had to tell the I was no longer with him. I wanted to tell them first before I wrote about it here, because I did not want them to find it out on a blog. I did not even want to tell them on the phone. I wanted to tell them in person, so that they can see that I was ok. Greek parents have a tendency to fear the worst, so they would have imagined I was a nervous wreck, sitting in the dark drinking from a bottle and listening to love songs on repeat. Me being there with a bright smile showed them that this was not the case.
Telling my dad was difficult, however telling my mum was surprisingly touching. I always knew my dad loved my partner as a son (something that made me tell him about our relationship a lot easier). However my mum surprised me when her eyes watered as I told her. ‘You know I always loved you two together’ she said, and I had to really hold myself from crying as I said ‘I know'; because I didn’t. So after a few more moments, she realised I was ok and we moved on. The next day she called my brother in a state of panic and demanded to know the truth about our breakup – some things don’t change.
So, here I am telling you. The cat is out of the bag. I am single again. After 10 years. S was my first boyfriend, my first true love, and my soulmate and now he is my best friend. The last time I dated there were no apps, no Tinder or Grindr or Scruff, there was no swiping right or woofing to a profile. Now there is; and I am getting to grips with it. I want to date. I want to discover myself. I don’t want to jump into another relationship. Yes, a little part of my is broken, and the faith in another relationship is shaken. If I could not make it work with S, then who am I going to make it work with? However I know this is a part of me that is hurt, and my goal is to nurture it back to trust. Learn from my mistakes in this relationship, and not repeat them in the next one.
Do you want to know another secret? I am enjoying being single. Maybe because I have been blessed to still have S in my life, as he is truly there for me and I am there for him; but for now it is interesting to see how I am as me, instead of us.
The journey continues. Thank you for walking down this road with me.