'I Still Love Him, So I Rarely Progress to Second Dates'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

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:

Although he loved me, and wanted still to live with me, he didn’t want to marry me. This was 15 months ago. Devastated at first, I withdrew, but quickly realized I’d rather live with him unmarried than not have him in my life at all.

So it was all back on, and I continued with the house purchase. Two days after contracts were exchanged, he broke up with me. At that stage I had no choice but to move, as I would have lost thousands (tens of!!!) if I’d withdrawn.

So, I moved. To a town where I knew no one but him and his friends and family. Where I had no job. To a house I didn’t know if I’d be able to afford.

After a few weeks, he came to see me, and we started seeing each other again. His children knew, and were delighted, but he was telling other family and friends that I wasn’t in his life.

The next crunch came when two of his friends, who knew we were together again, came to my house and told me he was seeing someone else and introducing her as his partner. When I spoke to him about it, he said it was “nothing serious” (really????), and that he still loved me.

She dumped him a few weeks later, and we started seeing each other properly, with everything out in the open with his friends and family. At the end of October last year, we decided we did want to stay together. He told the children, we started making plans ... then four days later he texted me and said basically he didn’t love me and didn’t want to be with me.

There were a lot of outside influences. They don’t exonerate his behaviour, but it has gone some way to helping me understand it. People say that, although you can love many people in your life, there is a special someone for everyone ... and Paul is mine.

It’s been six months now since he ended it for good, and a year since I moved here. It’s been the worst year of my life. I get through the days, but not much more.

The breakup of my marriage has taught me one thing: I will get through this. I don’t know how, or when; I just have to hang on and hope.

I have dated a couple of times ... but I still love Paul, so I rarely progress to second dates. I wonder at this stage if I will ever stop loving him, if I can ever sustain another relationship. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone, but the only person I want has made other choices.

Meantime, I am here, doing my best to get on with things. I am a musician, and have begun performing and conducting again. I’m in a musically vibrant town on the south coast of England, and for now I will immerse myself in that. Until the pain eases.