He told me that he could picture us getting married one day. He brushed his beard against my cheek, his wet lips grazing my ear, and was smiling as he said it. We were sitting intertwined on his black leather couch after we got home from a friend’s birthday party. He had drank quite a bit throughout the night - a few Johnnie Walker Black’s neat. I could tell he was feeling more relaxed and happier than usual.
I laughed it off and didn’t take it too seriously. We had been dating for almost two years at the time and I wasn’t trying to make any sudden, big moves just yet. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if he was my “forever” guy. I was also always skeptical of marriage. I’m content just being with someone. I don’t need a piece of paper to validate that commitment; my own heart and words solidify my intent.
I knew what I loved about him: the way he would let his guard down and laugh from the bottom of his stomach, his unwavering generosity with everyone he met, and the rare look I received when he was thinking of how lucky he was to have me. But I was even more sure of the things that concerned me: his inability to match my desire for deep, meaningful conversation, how his money brought him his only sense of self-worth, and how I sometimes felt invisible and lonely around him.
For a while I had been blindsided by the adventure money can bring. Lavish dinners with expensive champagne, spontaneous getaways overseas, unexpected gifts after fights, and the grand surprises for holidays and birthdays. As exciting as all of that was at the time, there was always this underlying complacency and overarching feeling that things just weren’t enough. I didn’t know what my enough was, but I kept searching for it in him knowing fully well I would never find it. My heart was longing for love he couldn’t give me and a spark I kept hoping would suddenly appear.
Yet, when he said that he could picture us getting married one day, it still offered some warmth; some false idea of, maybe this could work out in the long run. (Insert montage of small wedding, romantic honeymoon, nights out with friends, trips to Europe, and endless surprise gifts).
For brief moments when things were going well between us, I chose to believe in this future version of us. This go-to reel my mind would play after a great night out together or during one of his genuine, deep belly laughs, didn’t include the gap lurking between us. The ample space that stood between being a couple now and married forever.
There was always this flip flop of emotions I was juggling. On the rarer instances, I imagined an unrealistic happy future together. During the more frequent occasions, I’d sit next to him watching TV and wonder when my last time sitting on that couch would be. I was enacting a script that was bound to end with a breakup, but still hoping the writer would scribble in some last-minute edits or the leading male role would have a major shift in character. I was the definition of the blind leading the blind, except I knew what it was like to see.
The night we broke up, I remember standing in his doorway and hugging him with more emotion and affection than we ever shared during the two years we were together. I left his house and drove straight home, crawled into bed, and cried until I fell asleep. I only remembered our sweet moments and the qualities that I loved about him. I kept replaying the romanticized version of us and didn’t allow my mind to drift to the moments of doubt and confusion.
When I woke up the next morning, I kept thinking, This is it. It finally happened, like you knew it would. Yet still not believing it happened. The overwhelming sadness I felt the night before was lightly threaded with a sprouting sense of freedom and optimism for the new. It was just a seed at that point, but I knew it would eventually grow into something better and more suitable for me. I guiltily checked my phone to see if I had any missed calls or texts from him, hoping that his name would be lit in a rectangular box on the screen. We both didn't reach out in the middle of the night though.
Entertaining my heartache, I opened my photos and scrolled through our two-year history together. Weekend getaways, small daily highlights, celebrations with family and friends, intimate moments with just the two of us, and I saw that even in our “best” times, I still wasn’t as happy as I could be. Each photo displayed the better moments of our relationship, but also a girl who wanted something more. I always knew that there was something else waiting for me, I just had to be ready to move on.
The last photo I looked at before turning off my phone was of the both of us at a Fleetwood Mac concert. I was leaning back into his chest, he was kissing my cheek, we were laughing, and I thought to myself, if it's possible to love someone when you know it's not right, how much better will it feel when the right one comes along?