I’d been dating a girl for the past ten months. I had a few crushes in middle school and high school, but this was my first serious relationship. This was the second girl I’d ever kissed.
This was the girl I lost my virginity to. This was the girl I almost married and had a child with (not a logical decision, but the result of inexperience and elated emotions).
There were times during our relationship that I experienced tremendously powerful feelings for her. I frequently thought about how I could spend the rest of my life in Vietnam with her.
Or even better, how I could create a life where I could continue traveling and she could come with me.
After the first three months of our relationship I was down to my last $1,000 and had to head back to the United States. Once there I worked my ass off for 2.5 months to save over $3,000.
I debated giving up the digital nomad lifestyle to head back to college. I didn’t want to, but it was so much more practical to do so. I just didn’t know how to make money online.
Well, I knew the theory of it, but I wasn’t executing properly. I got caught in the trap of trying to make passive income while I slept, rather than establishing a base level of cash flow first. Yet, in my heart I knew what the right thing to do was.
I had to take what Elliott Hulse refers to as the “Call to adventure.” I knew that there was a very real chance I’d fail and be unable to sustain myself in Vietnam.
Yet, I also knew I had to give things at least one more effort before leaving the love of my life and heading to a mediocre state school like the rest of my peers.
My girlfriend at the time was the biggest motivator to do so. The thought of her moving on was what ultimately pushed me over the edge in returning to Asia rather than going to college (or at least spending several more months working in the U.S, before traveling again).
I knew a girl can’t hold on forever, so I had to be quick. I knew that every moment I was away, it became more and more difficult for her to hold on and another man had an opportunity to sneak in.
That’s what gave me the blind courage to head back to Vietnam with a few thousand dollars and no idea how I was going live after it ran out. After 2.5 months in the U.S, I got cheap flight to visit Tokyo for a few days before heading back to Saigon, Vietnam.
I can still remember walking out the doors of the airport in Vietnam. I heard her call my name. I saw the tremendous joy on her face. Her eyes shined, almost in disbelief that the man she fell in love with had finally made it back to her.
I was just as happy. It was a scene from a movie. After all the adversities and nights spent thinking about each other; we were finally back together.
It was time for the lights to fade into the darkness. The curtains would close, the credits would play, and we’d live happily ever after.
At least that’s what I thought. Of course, the universe doesn’t always give you what you want; It gives you what you need.
At first our relationship resumed as if I’d never left. For the first month or two, we were both tremendously happy. Yet, things slowly degraded from there. I grew more distant over time. I was frustrated by what I perceived to be her relative inability to grow alongside me.
This was one of several factors that led me to the realization she was not the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I also craved freedom and didn’t want to commit to a girl long-term yet.
It seemed important to date other girls first to gain a clearer perspective on what was most important to me.
I tried to repress these thoughts at times, but they stayed lingering in my head. Of course, things continued to grow worse. How could they not?
Any relationship is doomed when a partner has one foot in the relationship and the other foot out. Yet, I kept trying to believe that somehow things would change.
I wanted to believe that perhaps through osmosis my drive and determination to improve myself would rub off onto her.
I wanted to believe that the first girl was special, and that spending my entire life with one woman was better than any alternative. Driving every rationalization, however, was my underlying fear of change.
This was the only girl I’d ever had sex with. This was the only girl I’d ever been in a loving relationship with. I did not know life abroad without her.
I kept putting off the breakup. What finally spurred me to take action was a conversation with my uncle.
I told him I knew on an intellectual level that I should break up with her, but that I just hadn’t done it. I explained to him that I had one foot in the relationship and one foot out.
He said, “Well it seems to me you’re not being very honest with her, and you know… Whenever you’re not being honest with someone, you’re really not being honest with yourself.”
That was it. A few days later I saw her and broke her heart. I cried too because it was difficult to let go, but I knew it’s what had to be done.
I tried to be gentle, but I was a bit too soft in breaking up with her. This resulted in additional pain for her because it left her with the impression that our relationship could somehow be salvaged.
I’ve now given you more than enough information on my relationship and breakup. What I think would be much more valuable for you, however, is the knowledge I’ve acquired from this.
I’m clearly no relationship expert. I’m not a guru talking down to you right now. Simply consider this a letter to my past self. Pieces of wisdom and advice I would give to a younger Cameron.
In The Beginning
Many of the problems that will occur during your relationship are the result of not setting boundaries or expectations at the beginning of the relationship. This is to be mostly expected in your first relationship as you don’t know exactly what you want.
In your first relationship you’re likely to be illogical and run with your emotions most of the time. This is not a character flaw. It’s the result of you having a lack of relationship experiences you can reference.
With that being said, do your best to avoid this to the extent you can. Also, try to resist making grandiose plans for the future with your partner. Making these plans can be lots of fun.
If you’re in the honeymoon phase, they are likely to be just as lovestruck as you are (especially if your partner lacks relationship experience).
Yet, making these plans can create unrealistic expectations for the relationship before you truly know whether you’ll be able to commit to it.
Before The Breakup
This phase begins once you have serious thoughts about ending a relationship. Not everyone has this phase in their relationships. You won’t have this phase if your relationship lasts forever and you never question whether you’d be happier without your partner.
This isn’t likely, especially from your first relationship, but theoretically it’s possible.
It’s also possible to never have this phase if you’re content for the duration of your relationship, but your partner chooses to end things.
The biggest piece of advice, especially for someone in their first relationship is that you’re going to doubt your decision. The longer the relationship, the more you’ll doubt things as well.
You’ll ask, “Will I be able to find someone else? (If you have more confidence in yourself it may be, will I be able to find someone else as good?)”
When a relationship has problems it’s easy for you to rationalize that things will somehow get better. This is because you’re afraid of the unknown. You’ve grown accustomed to the stability your relationship brings.
It’s natural you want to preserve that stability even if it guarantees you’ll remain in a mediocre or toxic relationship. Realize, however, that the ending of your relationship is almost a foregone conclusion if it’s something you continually revisit.
This is because there’s at least one fundamental incompatibility between the two of you that is causing you to repeatedly consider breaking up.
Don’t be wish-washy. Don’t sugercoat things. Breaking up gently and leaving the other person with hope is the easy thing to do. It seems like you’re trying to protect the other person’s emotions, but you’re actually being selfish.
You’ll rationalize the reason you are leaving the other person with hope is because you don’t want to hurt them. Yet, the truth is you’re doing a gentle breakup because you want to avoid the discomfort of telling your partner the cold truth.
Any uncertainty you have around your decision will also manifests itself in sugarcoating things because you want to leave yourself the possibility of coming back to your partner if things don’t work out.
Be noble. Tell the truth. Tell it exactly how you see it. You don’t have to be mean, but it is your duty to be honest. This is what you’d do if your partner’s feelings were truly your first priority.
After The Breakup
Cut contact from your ex. Get rid of anything they’ve given you that has sentimental value. Block their phone number. Block them on social media. Delete old text messages. Delete old pictures. If you think you’ll regret deleting things, at least archive them somewhere you won’t see them.
Get out there. Socialize. Maybe you need some time off from the opposite sex. That’s fine. Catch up with your friends and family. Don’t mistake taking off time from the opposite sex as being self-indulgent and taking time off of life.
Being self-indulgent after a breakup leaves you highly susceptible to depression. Self-indulgence drains your self-esteem and is unattractive. Even if you’re not ready to be hitting up the opposite sex, take care of yourself.
Hit the gym. Eat clean foods. Read new books. Make time for your hobbies. Meditate. Consider diving deeper into your professional life (while being careful of falling into workaholism if you have the type of personality that could lead to it).
Different people take different time to be ready to be intimate with the opposite sex. For some it’s therapeutic to get out there right away, for others it makes them sick.
Be self-introspective. Consider consulting with someone close to you whose advice you value. When you’re ready, get back out there.
Once you get out there, treat the new people in your life with a clean slate. Don’t compare them to your ex. You’ll want to do this. You WILL do this. But, try to minimize it to the extent you can.
When you compare someone to your ex, you’re prolonging your recovery. You’re reinforcing the reality that he/she isn’t here anymore, rather than moving on to a new reality.
You’re also being unfair to the new people you meet. Just because your ex didn’t live up to your expectations does not mean you have to be jaded with other members of the opposite sex.
If you go out there jaded your interactions will align with your attitude. You’ll reinforce your jaded reality.
You can’t generalize. All members of the opposite sex are not the same. But, if you go out there making generalizations you’ll find that people often live up to the expectations you set for them.
- Set boundaries and expectations from the beginning of your relationship.
- Realize you will follow your emotions and act illogically in your first relationship. Be aware of this, and use your awareness to minimize illogical behaviors to the extent you can.
- The stability a relationship brings is seductive even if the relationship isn’t what is best for you.
- If you repeatedly consider breaking up with your partner, the ending of the relationship is all but a foregone conclusion.
- Don’t sugarcoat things when you break up with your partner. You’re not protecting their feelings. You’re being selfish. Be noble and tell the truth exactly how you see it.
- Cut contact from your ex and get rid of everything that reminds you of them.
- After your breakup focus on the fundamentals: Diet, exercise, meditation, socializing, work, etc
- Get out there when your ready, but don’t make comparisons to your ex. Doing so only prolongs your recovery. Also avoid making generalizations about the opposite sex as these tend to be self-reinforcing.
Maybe this post is a bit different than the stuff you’ve read from me in the past, but I think there’s some real gems in here. I’ve learned a ton from this breakup. Hopefully reading this has helped you if you’re young and going through something similar.