How do you know when a relationship has ended? There are obvious moments: When one of you asks for a divorce. When you realize that you are happier when you arrive home to an empty house. When you stop caring about his opinion because it is always so negative, or critical, or judgemental.
But a hundred tiny moments come before those big moments. Some are identifiable landmarks. Others are cumulative.
In my case, I began by putting the other person first. Every time I chose myself instead, the relationship developed a crack. Those small cracks waited for the bigger events to fissure and spread.
The first cracks and the first landmark evolved together. While he was away at basic training, he wrote and sent a “Dear Jane” letter which he followed with a request to destroy it without reading it. I did. A few months later, he proposed by phone. I planned the wedding. When he got home, he visited a childhood friend and cancelled the wedding – also by phone. At the time, I was unaware of any connection. I called it cold feet and panic. We were young.
A few days passed. Driving home with my parents, I simply knew he was at the house waiting. I told them and, when we got there, he was. My grandfather had refused to talk to him, so he was napping in his car. I talked to him. I was 21 years old. I agreed to wear his ring and to keep talking. All this resulted in the wedding he planned and I flew to Louisiana for. He forgot a bouquet and none of my family or friends could attend.
He shaped the circumstances, but I was always the one who chose and acted. I wound up with the responsibility.
I didn’t have to forgive. I didn’t have to say, “Yes.” I didn’t have to leave home.