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How To Break Up In 2017

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Well, this is not the post I expected to write. Originally, I’d planned out a whole post about butts and the new year. I’d even started typing it up. It was going to be great!

And then… other things happened.

I was visiting my partner for the first time in a few weeks, and we were cooking dinner, and the hollandaise sauce was a disaster, and then, suddenly, we were talking about breaking up.


[Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone saying, "What?"]

I don’t know.

There is something so painful and soul-tearing about breaking up with a person who you love and with whom you’re actually well-matched. But sometimes, even when you do everything right, things don’t work out; needs aren’t met. And that’s where we were. So we sat down and did the thing that, for the past two years, we had been certain we would never do: we broke up.

I don’t have a really great history with breakups. In 2014, my boyfriend of three years broke up with me after I moved to New Hampshire for him. I proceeded to get shingles and scream at him over the phone and then never speak to him again. The boy I dated after him left me for California and I cried for longer than we even dated (which was, admittedly, only a month). I have never, ever learned how to truly be friends with a partner after a breakup. And I’ve never had a reason to do so–all of my exes are people who I was interested in romantically and sexually, but could never imagine being friends with.

This time, it was different. I wanted to stay friends, but I didn’t know how. Also, there was a snowstorm and it was late at night and I had to stay with my partner until the morning.

We did a lot of crying. We did a lot of shaking our heads in confusion and murmuring, “This sucks.” And we did a lot of caring for each other–and I thought, during the moments when I wasn’t screaming into a pillow or turning my partner’s room into a saltwater bath: it’s 2017. America is a scary place for queer people. Even if we have to break up, we don’t have to stop being kind to each other.

[Animation: Jake the dog from "Adventure Time" shedding a tear from his right eye.]

It was maybe the hardest night of my life.

And we didn’t.

When one of us shied away from the work of figuring out what a post-relationship friendship looked like, the other was firm in saying, “We are in this together. We will do this work together, right now.”

When one of us–let’s be honest, me–hid under a desk and wept uncontrollably for what seemed like hours on end, we sat with each other and did not attempt to backtrack on our breakup or pretend that things did not feel awful.

When one of us began to feel lonely, we took a break to contact our friends, other partners, and therapists. We scheduled time with our support networks.

When one of us got hungry, we ate. When one of us–me again–seemed to be avoiding hydration, we drank water.

When one of us (okay, fine, me again) limply attempted to disappear into the snowstorm, the other said, “I love you. Even if it is only for me, stay here and stay safe.”

When one of us said, “I don’t know how to be friends with my exes,” the other said, “Let me show you how.”

When one of us became angry, the other became understanding. When one of us grew spiteful, the other grew caring. We made room for these emotions; we did not avoid them.

[General Leia Organa hugging Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens]

Sometimes it’s painful even when you do it right. (Rest well, Carrie. I miss you.)

I don’t know where things go from here. Hopefully I don’t get shingles again. I miss my partner–my friend–so intensely that it feels like my inside are going to fall out of my stomach, and it’s only been a day. But I do know that we started things off right. And that’s just it: it doesn’t feel quite like an ending. It just feels like something new–painful, but not wrong.