I stay in relationships that aren’t working and need to learn to let go - Alexander Brown

We had just finished Pretty Woman when I realised it was happening.

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

My girlfriend had come over after I’d returned from being away for work in a week we spent barely talking.

We enjoyed sushi, beer, and a beautifully heartwarming romantic comedy about a prostitute.

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But in hindsight, I knew. Our legs were touching, but our bodies were opposite ends of the sofa, a distance of lovers turning friends, if anything at all.

Turning towards her hoping to fill the space between us, she told me she was taking the suitcase I’d borrowed home tonight and wouldn’t be staying.

My reaction was as embarrassing as it was physical, with my mouth going dry as my arms began to tremble.

I started to argue like an Apprentice contestant trying to save themselves from the sack, albeit with considerably more ugly crying.

We can get better, we can fix this, let’s keep talking and say it’s not for definite, let’s not decide today.

Hugging through tears, we agreed we would talk and always be there for each other, and this did not have to be the end.

But I knew, and had known for months this was not a relationship I could salvage.

Our time together had collapsed into dinners without laughter, box sets in silence, and lying awake staring at the ceiling wondering when it would get better.

I had been miserable, lonely and frustrated, yet continued believing I could save it in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, and the advice of my friends.

Yet in that moment I felt physical loss, sick, and unable to breathe.

The next day however, I woke up feeling nothing less than euphoric.

Having spent so long trying to save something, planning trips, surprises, flowers and literally any other gimmick I could think of, I felt nothing but relief.

I did not feel failure, I did not feel loss, I felt a weight had been lifted, I no longer needed to spend emotional energy or time talking to friends asking for advice on how I could possibly fix it. I felt free.

That’s not to say she isn’t brilliant, bold and beautiful, but it did not work, and it’s for me to think about why knowing that wasn’t enough to end it.

Because this isn’t the first time this has happened. I have stayed with partners who gaslit me, took my money without intention to return it or simply didn’t make me happy.

Concerned friends have asked me if I like to fix people, or what is it about my personality that makes me believe things will always get better.

Do I have an idealised view of romantic love, where I believe the nostalgia of the beginning transcends my own experience, like I’m approaching the third act where a reference to a private joke will be enough to make us both feel better.

Or is it just overconfidence and overcommitting, feeling too much or wanting too so ignoring all the reasons to walk away?

I am dating again, willing to be hurt again, but more importantly content to walk away when I should.

I’ve spent enough time fighting for love, now I’m ready to just let it happen.