I always believed loving someone meant being willing to change for them. But at the same time, I also believed that loving someone meant not needing them to change at all. I could never reconcile these two things, even though I’d hear one or the other as advice in books or movies or from other people often enough.
But a whirlwind romance that swept over my life in a single year and had me what felt like a step away from the altar, made me realize just how these two beliefs could, in fact, both be true. And while it’s not a happy ending, maybe that just means it’s a lesson that’ll never leave me.
When I turned 28, I decided it was time to buckle down and start looking for a relationship that I could be in for the long haul. My older brother had already married and had a kid by the time he’d reached that age, and I could tell my parents wanted the same for me.
So for a year or so, I only dated girls I thought I could actually see myself having a serious commitment with, and not just a good time for the immediate future. Let’s just say the pickings were much slimmer than I was used to.
But then, just a couple months shy of 30, I met her.
At first glance, we couldn’t be more opposite. I like sports and working out, she considered a five-minute jog to the nearest bakery enough exercise. I like jazz bars and low-key gimmicks, she tried to drag me to dance clubs and big concerts every other week. I’m ridiculously close with my family, she moved away from her hometown for college and had barely bothered to visit her parents since. I am, admittedly, a bit of a control freak. She was a free spirit. In other words, she was perfect.
I had never clicked with someone so fast before, and all our differences just made our interactions interesting. It felt like we disagreed over everything, but that just meant the sexual chemistry was off the charts!
Things progressed quickly between us: I went home with her on the second date, had moved nearly half my clothes into her apartment after a month, and had introduced her to my family shortly after that. My family absolutely loved her, and no dinner or party would go by without my mom or one of my million titas asking me when I was going to pop the question! Everyone loved our romance of opposites attracting, and was pushing for us to take the next step.
Even I was caught up in it, which is why it took me so long to realize that all our fighting wasn’t just playful bickering between clashing personalities. That for all that chemistry between us, once the initial attraction settled, we were hopelessly unsatisfied with each other.
When we met, she was 26 and for all her bohemian ways, was already thinking about marriage, too. We went into our relationship with the hope that this was it, the commitment that was going to see us to old age. And I think it was that hope, that desperation, that made us cling to what we had, even when it was clearly unhealthy. Even when we were making each other miserable.
Our arguments were often because she was criticizing me and my choices. Not to say I never found fault in her, but perhaps because I so wanted to make us work, that I was willing to go along with whatever she wanted just to keep us together. I was scared that the reason she’d become so disapproving of the things she once said were charming about me was because she was getting stifled under my normally controlling nature, and was acting out.
She didn’t like the “stuffy” way that I dressed, and called me pretentious when I wore blazers for nights out at the bar, so I started buying more jeans and t-shirts. I was always at the gym, she said, and I should spend more time with her instead of being vain, so I cut down my tri-weekly session to just twice a month. My barkada was too rowdy and I turned the same when with them, so I stopped hanging out with my friends and started hanging out with just hers. I was too high-strung, too arrogant, too much of an elitista, she would always tell me, and I needed to get back down to earth, and so I tried to do just that.
I see now just how much I changed without my noticing. I like to believe I’m not a particularly stubborn bastard, and willing enough to better myself if the opportunity arose. I’m all up for personal growth, after all. And I know that a lot of the things she wanted me to change were for my own good, and honestly, I’m grateful for how she confronted me over some of my more negative traits. I came out of this entire situation a better person, overall, and largely in thanks to the things I agreed needed to change about me.
But the fact is, she wasn’t happy about just those changes. She wanted me to revamp nearly my whole life, and I felt like I was losing myself trying to keep her happy.
There was no startling point of clarity, no eureka moment, no sudden epiphany that made me realize that I couldn’t stay with her. I simply felt myself getting more and more drained, believing less and less the truth of her I love you’s. Because how could she claim to love me, when it seemed like she didn’t like a single thing about me anymore?
I broke up with her one completely ordinary afternoon. The spark that made our first meeting and those first few months amazing was completely gone. And while she tried to fight me over my decision to split up, especially when I explained my reasons, I just couldn’t understand anymore why I use to enjoy arguing with her so much—it just felt too much like spite, by that point.
My family were disappointed we broke up. They hadn’t noticed things had gotten so bad because I hardly spent any time with them those months my relationship started falling apart. Which is one more thing I’m disappointed with myself for letting happen.
Nowadays, I’m trying to find my old self again. A lot of things got lost in the past year—my close relationship with my friends and family, and my self-confidence.
I was willing to change for the girl I loved, but it took nearly losing myself completely to realize I needed to be true to myself too.
Happy birthday, Madge!
Listen up, bros!
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The car was crushed like a tin can