You know that pit in your stomach when you know you have to end a relationship but you are dreading the moment?
Will the other person yell at you, cry incessantly, sit silently without uttering a word . . . . I suppose if you dated a certain popular songwriter, you’d also have to wonder if she will be penning a song about your relationship in the months to come. There is also the nagging question: “Am I doing the right thing?”
When I sat across from Valentine (“Val”) a few weeks ago at a quaint little French bistro, I had none of these concerns. I had outgrown her, and not only did she have a right to hear why, she needed to know why. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Val, we need to have a talk.
Val: [laughing nervously] A talk? When you say it like that, you make it sound like we need to have “the” talk.
Me: [looking down] Well, actually . . .
Val: Wait, you aren’t serious . . . we’ve been inseparable for years . . . decades even. You can’t possibly be breaking up with me.
Me: Val, please try to understand, it’s not you, it’s just –
Val: Whoa, hang on, you’re giving me the “it’s not you” speech? Hey, I’ve seen that Seinfeld episode, don’t try and give me that –
Me: [hands up in surrender] Okay, okay, you’re right . . . it’s you.
Val: But why?
Me: You really want to know?
Val: I think I deserve the truth.
Me: You’re right. [deep sigh]. Okay, here’s the truth: I like you. I’ve always liked you. From the first card I got from you in the first grade, I’ve known you could make me feel good. From the first time I tried one of your little heart candies that said “Be Mine,” I knew how sweet your company could be.
Over the years I’ve indulged in your chocolate, been warmed by your sweet cards, and enjoyed many romantic dinners. Being with you has always been exciting.
Val: [tearfully] It all sounds so perfect . . . I don’t understand why you are dumping me.
Me: The problem is, all that stuff is great, but that is all our relationship is. It’s just chocolates, dinner, candy, and cards. And the worst of it is – everything is scripted. You tell me to get Hallmark cards if I care enough to send the very best. You insist that I go to Jared (even if my wife really likes pink football jerseys), and yet you constantly remind me that every kiss begins with Kay (which is confusing since I’m supposed to go to Jared).
Most of all – you insist that it always be on February 14.
If it was just one of these things, I could probably get past it. After all, everyone has their little quirks. But a relationship with you is one day a year, and it’s all fluff and no substance. Like I said, I’ve always liked you, you could probably see I’ve even been infatuated with you, but I don’t love you.
Val: [looking indignant]. How can you say such hurtful things?!
Me: That’s just it Val, you talk a good game, but you’re like one of those big chocolate heart boxes on February 21st . . . empty. That’s why I can say these things to you. I know that deep down, it doesn’t truly matter to you anyway. You don’t want love either, and you know it. That’s why you are selling cheap romance.
Me: It isn’t enough for me to have annual romance in a pre-assembled, pre-scripted package of (1) a card containing someone else’s thoughts about my love; (2) candy in the shape of a heart; (3) jewelry guaranteed to prompt a kiss; (4) dinner at the obligatory “romantic” restaurant with 100 other couples packed in like sardines for the annual champagne special.
I want real romance in my love. First and foremost, I want real love:
- The love that wakes up early to make her coffee because she is going to need every last drop for the hectic day that awaits her.
- The love that hides a note in his briefcase telling him that she is proud to me married to such a hard-working man. And tells him to hurry home . . .
- The love that, instead of getting her a gift certificate for a massage from some random guy at a day spa, buys massage oil and welcomes his wife home to her own personal spa for a night of being pampered by his hands.
- The love that tells her friends what a good father he is, rather than complaining to them that he sometimes forgets to put the seat down.
- The love that drives his wife to her chemo appointments and, when she starts to lose her hair, shaves his own head and reminds her that she is still the most beautiful girl he’s ever known.
The thing is Val, it is easy to add cards, chocolate, jewelry, and dinner to a love like that. A love that shows up every day of the year. But it’s really hard–if not impossible–to add romance to a “love” that shows up every year for one night in February.
That’s why I’m ending it with you. I want something more . . . and the one I love deserves something more. And you can’t offer that.
I’ll see you around.