Dear Em & Lo,
Four months ago my girlfriend of three years ended our relationship. She gave me generic reasons: “It’s not you, it’s me; we’re too young for such a serious relationship; we have a lot to experience.”
Finally this week I got her to drop her guard and open up to me. Her reasons were valid and I had no problem with them. We did have a communication problem, we swept big issues under the rug only so we wouldn’t argue, etc. I noticed she used words like “cared,””liked a lot,” and would only occasionally use “love” when she referred to me.
So I asked her, “Were you ever actually IN love with me?” I’m paraphrasing her response but it went something like this: “People throw around ‘I love you‘ all the time — and that’s okay because I’m sure they do — but my ideas have changed so much on love. I just think that when you tell someone that you love them, then you should want to marry them. Obviously you and I never got married or even came near it, so it would be unfair to say that I was really IN love with you.”
Besides now thinking that the past three years were a complete waste of time and being crushed, I now question what I believe. I know that I was deeply in love with her and I would have bet my life on it that she was too. I don’t know what love is anymore. What’s your definition of love?
— Heart in a Blender
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Your ex-girlfriend — let’s call her Fuckface — is an evil demon who has a piece of coal where her heart should be and who definitely doesn’t deserve someone as nice, sensitive, and extremely good-looking as you obviously are.
There now. Feel a little better? Good.
We think FF’s philosophy of love is flawed: Just because you are no longer together doesn’t mean what you had when you were together wasn’t genuine or real. Plenty of couples are “in love” at some point but don’t end up married, for any number of reasons: too young, different career paths, one wants kids and the other doesn’t, religious differences, 3,000 miles between them, mistakes made that are unforgiven, a disdain for the “institution” of marriage, differing libidos, communication problems, extenuating circumstances, the list goes on. Ever seen Once? Or even The Breakup? There you go.
Even if FF truly feels this way and believes it with all her coal, you might think it’s a smidge mean-spirited for her to be so brutally honest — especially when it’s clear you were in love with her. And sure, some people in this situation may have felt inclined to bend the truth a little just to spare their ex’s feelings (akin to the automatic “no” answer to “Do these pants make my butt look big?”).
But dude, you were asking for it. Literally.
The reason she dropped such a bomb on you is because she wanted to finally get you to drop it. After four months, why are you still pushing her to open up about your past relationship, especially when she seems to have definitively moved on? No good can come of this — as you’ve learned the hard way. You wanted the truth? But you can’t handle the truth! She wasn’t actually trying to be a fuckface, she was just speaking her truth. And if you’ve been clinging to some hope of reconciliation, despite signals to the contrary from her, then maybe she feared that admitting to once being really in love with you (whether it’s the truth or a kind white lie) would give you more false hope. Perhaps she was a bit harsh so you’d finally get the point, let go, and move on too.
And you should move on, but not by losing your faith in love. You say that you know you were deeply in love, and that’s all that matters. You do know what love is. Even though your ex has worked hard (kind of at your prodding) to taint the memory of what you had, don’t let her! Cherish the good times you had together, and try to learn from the mistakes you both made in the relationship. So that when you do fall hard again — and you will — it’ll be with someone who who believes in a thing called love too.
All of ours,
Em & Lo