Reporter's Notebook

What Was Your Most Memorable Breakup?
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Readers respond to the question with dramatic personal stories and the lessons they learned. To submit your own breakup story, email hello@theatlantic.com. (And if you’d like to include a song that most resonates with that relationship, please do.)

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When Someone Proposes to You Moments After You Cheated

That’s the crux of the second story below, but first a quick one from this Southern reader:

I’ve had a couple of memorable breakups, but the worst was when my ex-wife left me for her best friend’s husband—a guy she met while singing in the choir at church. And, yes, we’re from the Bible Belt, where people think that just because you go to church on Sundays, all sins are forgiven and they can smile in your face while one hand is in your pocket and the other up your wife’s skirt.

Now about that headline:

I was just two years out of college and still figuring out what I wanted to do career wise when the Great Recession hit. I had just wrapped up a year of AmeriCorps when the economy tanked in September 2008, so in a way I had prepped for poverty. I was also living at home with my parents and generally depressed.

Then I met someone. He was not a guy I would have considered my type. As a gay man, I thought I wanted someone who was masculine, strong, and unafraid (i.e., my opposite). He wore scarves, did yoga, and always wanted to talk about his feelings. Our respective situations (he was also living at home) are what brought us together and then inevitably drove us apart.

This reader tried to put his foot down like Wayne did with Stacy:

I had been in a relationship for about four years, unhappy for at least the previous two years. I knew that being with her forever was the “smart” call (beautiful, medical student, wonderful family) but we weren’t a good fit, and arguments flared up constantly. I believed that I “should” be happy but I wasn’t, and I beat myself up for being so horrible as to not appreciate what I had.

Nevertheless, I was miserable and finally got up the nerve to end things ... or I almost did. She made a death grip around my arm, told me I wasn’t leaving until we made up, and I caved after about an hour. This was our sixth or tenth breakup, and I couldn’t bear to go to my friends and say that I hadn’t followed through (I thought that telling some ahead of time would force me to stick with it).

That’s the bind that reader Laura finds herself in. After reading her story below, about her tumultuous relationship with Paul, I asked Laura if there’s a song that she most associates with the relationship, especially since she’s a musician herself. “There’s too much music, too many songs, too many pieces ... but one which particularly resonates just now is ‘Touch’ by Shura.”

Here’s how Laura responds to the question at hand: “What was your most memorable breakup?”

Yep, I have one for sure. Six years ago my husband left me, completely out of the blue, for my best friend. (She’s since run off with someone else’s husband; ours was the fourth marriage she’d wrecked in five years.) At the time I thought I would never get through the pain, but I did learn to deal with it.

After a couple of years, dating on and off but with pretty serious trust issues, I met a man, Paul, and we started dating. It was intense from Day 1, and despite the 150 miles between us, we spent at least two or three days and nights together each week. He spent a lot of time reassuring me of his love; that I could always trust him; that he would never do what my ex did.

Eventually we decided we wanted to live together, and the plan was for me to move to his town, as he had children (I don’t) in high school who were coming to live with us. I was pretty nervous about this move with no serious commitment, so, as it mattered so much to me, we decided to get married.

We chose a house, had an offer accepted, and I gave notice to my work. Then the bombshell:

For our reader series on memorable breakups, Michael has the most positive take yet:

Well, how about this angle: The best break-up ever.

During my senior year of college, I started dating a freshman. It was probably doomed at the outset, but we had fun. We dated steadily for most of the year, and visited each other (her home was about 300 miles from mine) over the summer after I graduated. I went off to graduate school in the fall, but she made a couple of visits during September, and I made the six-hour drive back to see her for my first homecoming weekend.

It didn’t go well.

This woman’s experience is similar to the reader who discovered her boyfriend’s sex addiction and string of affairs while checking his email:

Hi, here’s my submission to the breakup story thread. I’ve also attached a song [that most resonates with the relationship].

Tyler and I had decided to move in together after two weeks of dating. At this point, he had already told me he loved me, retrieved his belongings that were being withheld by his crack-addicted roommate in East Oakland, and showed up at my doorstep the next day with a queen-sized mattress and a Maine Coon cat named Mona. As a 20-year-old living in San Francisco, somehow this all made sense.

It was only after he had developed a drug addiction and couldn’t hold down a job that things started to get complicated.

These two entries for our ongoing reader series are bookends of sorts—one at the end of a long marriage and the other just before one. This first reader has a grim anecdote, which she frames as “the final breakup”:

My husband was dying from Lewy Body disease—think Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined. (Robin Williams made the right decision when given the same diagnosis.) He was in a nursing home. As he lay stretched out on the hospital bed, I gently caressed his forehead and forearm. His last words to me before death: “Stop petting me like a fucking dog.”

This next reader goes into much greater detail over her “pre-emptive divorce” to a manipulative Mormon fiancé:

I had a breakup of my own in that city two summers ago, but it wasn’t anything as dramatic as this one:

At 15, I went to do a year-long exchange program in Argentina for my junior year of high school. I ended up in a stiflingly strict home in the suburbs, where I wasn’t allowed to go out much. My one reprieve was a part-time job in the center of Buenos Aires working as a teaching assistant at a private English language academy. It was there that I met B.

She was one of the other teaching assistants, having done a year at U Michigan. We became friends, but she was 23, so my schoolboy crush seemed like a non-starter. But something did start (a story for another time), and it was every bit as wonderful as you would imagine a 15-year-old boy to deem an ongoing romantic relationship with a 23-year-old woman.

The only trouble was that the whole thing was shrouded in secrecy. I could only see her on the two days each week when I went to my job, and I couldn’t tell ANYONE.