There were five notable phases of my first love.
These phases marked the way my feelings changed for another human being. Let’s call him, Mr. First. My feelings swayed not violently but quietly. They crept up on me in the middle of the night and bit me in the fucking face.
Phase 1: I can’t get enough of you.
We were like magnets. Never not wanting to be holding hands or kissing. We fucked like wild maniacs. It was the best kind of love. The kind that felt like a frenzy, a sugar rush, a high. I felt like I had fallen down his rabbit hole and he, mine. We were so happy to have found something out of the stars. Being who I am, I knew it couldn’t last long. I like to think there’s something wrong with me, almost like an excuse for things getting dull after a while. It could have been too much too soon, like we were meant to fall apart.
Phase 2: Why am I getting sick of you?
I started becoming irritated with every little thing that he did. He could tell. He would confront me, and I would just make up excuses: a bad day, a fight with my dad, a depressive episode. I wasn’t being honest, and I wasn’t being fair. I couldn’t admit that I just wasn’t happy anymore.
Phase 3: Uh-Oh.
It started with a wave of constant fighting. The first breakup. The second breakup. The period of silence. The reconciliation. The “let’s make this work again.” And finally, the third breakup. The one that counts the most.
Phase 4: Acceptance.
The loneliest phase by far. The period of relationship remorse. I missed him. I really missed them, but I knew this was what I had to do.
Phase 5: Relapse.
But, I’ll get to that.
* * *
There are moments in life that we can’t forget, no matter how quick they were.
I had just told my first boyfriend that I no longer had feelings for him. This time I meant it. No bullshit, no sugarcoating — just the plain and simple truth. We were standing outside my apartment building, sweat dripping down my neck. I told him, “I’m just being honest. I can’t lie to you anymore.” All he said was, “I appreciate that,” before walking away. It feels quite permanent now. We haven’t spoken in almost a month.
In those few seconds, I was forced to answer a question I had asked myself when I started doubting my feelings for him: what are the consequences of falling out of love? I could give you the short answer: pure heart ache — but the short answer doesn’t do the pain justice. The consequence of falling out of love is that you’re forced to lose yourself for the sake of whoever’s heart your protecting. Let me tell you this, you aren’t protecting your own. Not at the beginning, anyways.
When we talk about relationships, no one really talks about how it feels to be the murderer of one. For a while, that’s how I felt. I knew that if I broke up with Mr. First (for real) I would be responsible for breaking someone’s heart. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to hold onto that burden. Beyond that, deep down, I knew I’d rather be alone than be with Mr. First. When we first started seeing each other, I was the one who was head over heels. I was the one who stalked him at the beach just to see if he was there. I was the one who longed for him. More importantly, I was the one who wanted it to end. And in the end, I was the one who had changed the most.
In the whole year that I was involved with Mr. First my feelings for him would change immensely for no particular reason at all. For the record, that’s the worst kind of change. The kind you can feel but can’t pinpoint for the life of you. It’s the worst because it’s coming from the heart not the brain. You’re permanently cast in a state of wonder, knowing you’ll never get that satisfactory answer you really want. All you know is the feeling that something isn’t right anymore.
It soon became clear that it was unrealistic to be stuck in Phase 1 forever. Phase 2 hit me four months into our time together.
After spending months tip-toeing around the fact that I had gone from full blown infatuation to melancholy, I told him I was questioning our relationship. He wanted to know what he had done. To me, the answer was simple; I had fallen out of love. My feelings were responsible, not him. But he couldn’t understand that. How are you supposed to tell someone that? How are you supposed to look someone that you love in the eye and tell them you don’t want to kiss them or hold their hand anymore? That the very thought of continuing to do so makes you feel like you’re cheating on yourself, cheating on your own feelings?
The truth is, after all the complication, all the fighting, all the sighs — the kissing and the hand-holding seemed like a hobby that we hadn’t touched in years. Actions that had turned into old tennis rackets or roller skates dusting in the corner of an overstuffed closet. Of course we used to be good at those things, in fact, we were the best, but somewhere between the pain and the discomfort, our old hobbies died. We were simply shadows of ourselves trying our hardest to repair what had already been permanently broken.
Phase 3 was the hardest. The first breakup wasn’t official. It was fucking messy. All the fights, all the crying, all the screaming wore me down. It wore down Mr. First, too. Through it all, I’ve learned that I’m not a bad person for wanting something different, something new. Not necessarily a new guy or a new boyfriend, but a new direction. I’d been spending so much time caught up in a relationship that I was unable to enjoy the time I had with myself. It felt unnatural, not being able to let go of something I knew was toxic. I would find myself crying in bed at night. I was stuck in a battle between myself and my love for another. Growing up, you’re told love always wins. At this point, love was winning, but I was also letting love beat me down.
My moment of undiluted clarity came when I realized it was too hard to be with someone who I felt like I was always pretending with. That takes a toll on you, pretending to feel the same way for the sake of saving a heart. I didn’t want to lose feelings for Mr. First. It would have been so much easier if I hadn’t. It was too late though. I had let my love for him morph into a version of affection where I was too scared to hurt him. I put that fear above all of my other emotions.
We were both tired and broken. He was trying to fix it. I was trying to end it. We all have our own methods when it comes to dealing with love. At the end of the day, it’s hard to admit that no matter how close we get to the skin of another, we will never fully understand everything they feel. Maybe that was our problem. We had gotten so close to each other, but we refused to recognize what the other really needed. As I watched Mr. First walk down my street, I realized we shared some of the best memories of my life. I loved him and will always love him. I only hope he feels that way, too.
Phase 4, acceptance feels uncomfortable at first. I knew it was over but there was still that longing to send a text or call him. I found that everything I saw somehow reminded me of him. I was forced to recognize that I was now alone, but that’s okay because the memories we share with the ones we love help get us through that loneliness. Whether it’s the people that make us smile or the people that make us cry, they both make us a little stronger. Mr. First made me smile and made me cry. In a way, he was a part of making me into me, so I’d like to thank him for that.
* * *
Now that I’ve made peace — or at least I’m trying to — with what happened, the final part of breaking up has found me: Phase 5. Relapse comes when you start finding yourself craving love again, as if love hasn’t already broken you down enough. Maybe that song is right; we really are addicted to love. The drug-like, pulsating, sex-dazed, intoxicating type of love. Now it’s different because you don’t have that person you let go of anymore. You’re on your own again. All you have is a few glances from strangers on the street. The promise of something that tastes a little different than the drink you had before. Hopefully this time, it isn’t as bitter, maybe it’s sweet.
It’s kind of funny; we go through all of these stupid phases of love just to get hooked again, and trust me, you will.