There’s something appealing about an old, run down house. The roof may be caved in, the stairs leading up to the abandoned, dusty bedrooms may have collapsed. The job to make it livable may seem daunting, maybe even impossible. Yet, you’re standing there, looking at this mess of an establishment and all you can see are some grey shutters against a fresh coat of white paint, large windows spilling light onto a giant mahogany table in your dining room, a home for you and your loved ones. All you can see is its potential.
When my boyfriend told me he had experimented with other guys in college, I was taken aback at first. Of course this type of curiosity is normal but it was brand new to me. After dozens of questions and countless late night conversations, though, I began seeing the situation differently.
Here was this vulnerable guy, still toting around these mixed-up feelings, reluctant to share this information with me, but chose to. Here was this generous, thoughtful, passionate guy who wanted to make it work with me. It was now my responsibility to reaffirm his attraction to females. He was my fixer-upper.
I did everything in my power to make him want me. The romantic dates, the family dinners, the trips, we did it all together. To someone on the outside, we were crazy about each other. We did have so much love for one another, but his attraction towards me always felt a little forced. So I bared down and tried even harder. But I couldn’t shake the thoughts of him potentially losing all allure for the things I couldn’t change about myself.
As summer grew to a close, I could feel him starting to pull away a little bit. I met his resistance with all the love and understanding that I could muster up. But it wasn’t enough.
At the end of September, he came out to me. That was an unbearable day. Part of my life, what I believed to be the best part, was over. I could no longer picture him waiting for me at the altar, or holding his hand when we named our first child together. Her name would have been Lola.
Though the circumstances were quite different than in most traditional breakups, all the components for a really good heartbreak were there. The most important one being that the person I loved did not love me back.
The issue with coping with this type of breakup is that I blamed myself for not being able to “fix” him.
Whether you’re dealing with someone with a troubling childhood, self-esteem issues, or who lives in denial, it is not your responsibility to change them. Relationships with an individual like this can be a huge gamble because maybe they view you as the one thing in their life that will make everything different. Maybe they look to you as their sturdy beacon of light. That’s what I was for him. You never know if the pressure will become too much for you, or if your light just won’t shine brightly enough for them.
When your light isn’t bright enough, it doesn’t matter how much they wanted to change or how awesome you are. It’s just the impossibility that you could single-handedly undo all the hardships they’ve been dealing with for so many years before you came along.
And that’s OK because nobody needs “fixing.”
The harsh reality of my situation was that I was not “the one” for the person I felt I should spend the rest of my life with. It wasn’t an issue of me not being able to “fix” him. We just didn’t fit, for obvious reasons. He will go on to make someone the happiest possible, and vice versa.
In more traditional breakups, it hurts to see him or her on the arm of someone new after you invested so much time trying to “fix” them. Maybe you helped them become an even better version of themselves by advising how to better handle stress or how to communicate issues before they become tantrums. Or maybe they fought you the entire time and ended up leaving you for someone who you don’t think will reinforce healthy behavior. Whether the former or the latter applies, you both are whole, unbroken people who simply did not work for one another. You just have to learn from the situation and “keep it moving,” like he always used to tell me.
We all want the bad boy or the jaded girl. We want to kick down their walls and live happily ever after in a trendy loft apartment in Manhattan or on a small farm in Kansas. But that’s not life — or at least that’s not life outside of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Life is gritty and confusing and people are strange and unpredictable. I’m not going to sit here and advise against making an offer on that dilapidated Victorian home and working to transform it into something worthy of appearing on HGTV, because I’ve been there.
But if you come up short of your dream of eating Sheppard’s pie at your sun-soaked mahogany table, it’s not your fault for not being able to complete the intimidating task. It’s not the house’s fault for being too much of an undertaking.
Sometimes the market just sucks, honey.