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First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

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 His Drug Addiction Drags You Down

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.

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.

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:

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 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.

That’s the metaphor used by the second reader below. This first one points to a different kind of persistent pain when describing his most memorable breakup:

It wasn’t the phone call to my English-language teaching girlfriend “temporarily” living in Lyon, France, that started (and essentially ended) with “I’m staying.” And it wasn’t the disembodied rupture of my first relationship of true love that made the breakup so hard. It was the never-ending grief-bombs I found in my next three apartment moves over the next two years—tiny little notes from her falling out of my belongings … “an ocean is nothing!” I’d rather have found a dead roach.

Our second reader’s story:

I met him when I was 23. I was young, relatively successful in my career and had six months of living in NYC under my belt. He and I were brought together in a cozy bar in Chelsea thanks to a few OkCupid messages.

If I allow myself, I remember every detail of that night.

This reader is pretty candid:

I only had a few serious relationships prior to my marriage to my husband, but one breakup in particular still leaves me with a sense of guilt and need for atonement.

That’s what this poor reader went through—but eventually the feeling came full circle:

My girlfriend and I had gone through college in Wisconsin together for four years as a couple and lived together for two of those years. Nearing graduation I asked her to marry me, to which she said yes, and then I moved to DC to start working, while she took a trip to Europe with her younger sister that was a graduation present from her parents. I had a bad Spidey sense about that situation, but work beckoned, and she was to meet up with me in DC after her trip.  

She got back and called me from Wisconsin at 11:00 one night saying that she had “met a few guys” on her trip and decided that she needed to be free and would not marry me. I replied “Hold on … I’ll be right there!”  

Over the weekend, prompted by examples of memorable breakups from readers in the TAD discussion group, we asked readers to submit their own stories. The first comes from a woman who prefers to stay anonymous, and her brief story is enough to give anyone nausea:

I was with a guy for almost five years, four of which we lived together. We had the conversation about settling down, having kids, etc., and started taking steps towards that, but he soon began acting strangely and our relationship started to dissolve. It felt like sand slipping through my fingers; no matter what I did, we couldn’t seem to get to a good place.

We decided to separate but stay friends in the hopes we would reconcile. Unfortunately, we were stuck in a lease together, so we had to cohabitate for four months.

Never do that.

That’s the question a reader recently posed in TAD, the nickname for a discussion group launched and moderated by a handful of Atlantic readers and former members of the Horde. Here’s Lizzou:

I’ll start. I had just finished uni, dating a boyfriend of three months. I’m living in NoVA and he’s back home in WI. He calls me late one night, drunk and crying: “My mom says I’m too young to be in a relationship and she doesn’t like Italians...” (He was almost 22 years old.)

My reaction:
1. Tell that b*tch of a mother you have that I’m f*cking Sicilian, not Italian. And, are we living in the 19th century or something?
2. Can you call me back when you’re not drunk so we can have an adult good-bye conversation?

He never called me back. I was fine; he didn’t break my heart or anything, but I was just soooo pissed off at how he broke with me. Now I think it’s hilarious.

Anywho, it spurred me to get a teaching job, sell my car to finance airfare and student loan payments for a year, and move to Slovakia three weeks later. Best decision ever.

She got reassurance from another reader: “You dodged a bullet—and avoided an Annie Hall family dinner!” Like so:

Speaking of New Yorkers:

My most memorable breakup was when I was living in NY and dating a lawyer. I moved in with him and two months later discover he had a wife and two kids. That was fun.

Still mourn that apartment.

This story is pretty bleak:

I was very young, 20 or 21. I had been living with a guy for about six months. We were relatively happy but I was changing. Growing up. He could feel it. He asked me to marry him. I waited for him to go to work. Packed my stuff. Wrote a note on scrap paper and hung it up with a refrigerator magnet:

“Sorry. I love you but this isn’t a forever thing.”