Meeting Up With My Ex: Conversations in Maturity
© Illustration by INJECTION - Matthew Rawlinson
I haven’t seen him for five years, do I still want closure or am I just curious?
They say you never forget your first love. They also say you never really know what love is until you’ve experienced heartbreak. “They” will say many things that you won’t like or agree with, but sometimes they’ll still be right.
My first proper relationship was full of clichés (what else was I supposed to relate to other than teenagers in movies?), high expectations and lots of questions about my feelings all the time. There was the routine of calling or texting before going to sleep, the constant “what you up to?”’s throughout the day, saying: “I miss you” to each other when we’ve seen each other just hours before and getting into arguments over silly things. We even said: “I love you,” before I was sure I knew what it was.
When I finally realized that it was “love” it was because we had broken up; a break-up that was full of blame, full of swearing and full of hurt. I had moved to a different school, and we lived far away from each other, so all of this happened over text. A part of me had hoped that the words said were just angry words said over texts that could be taken back. I was wrong. Someone’s Snapchat story the next day showed that he was very happily occupied with someone else, where rumors made it all the way my way that he took her on a date that day - the day after we broke up. And while teenagers are notoriously dramatic people, and this may feel like an exaggerated story; I’m pretty sure I fell apart a little bit. I couldn’t stop re-watching that stupid Snapchat video and I was crying and I finally knew it was “love” because it hurt so damn much.
The dramatic story escalates: I was sad and mad and confused, and just as I was moving on - right on time - I get a call from my ex telling me that he’s sorry and that he loves me and whether I can forgive him (I did warn you this story was full of clichés). But, unlike in the movies, I was too angry to even consider having a meaningful or productive conversation with him. I thought I needed space and distance and saw no benefit to rehashing the past. I assumed I would get to hear imperfect excuses and insincere apologies.
I think we first got back in touch two years after this happened, just before we started university, and had very sporadic contact until recently when I asked him out of the blue whether he would be interested in meeting up again. There was not a single or particular reason why I asked this question. It was just a feeling; an instinct. I also secretly wondered what I would feel after finally seeing him again after 5 years. Five years is a lot of time to grow and change as a person: we both had gone off to university and had adjusted to a new city with new friends and new expectations.
When I finally did see him again he told me I hadn’t changed at all. We hadn’t seen each other for 5 years and I could not understand how he could think that. But perhaps I am how he remembered me to be or even what he imagined or hoped I would be like. I never asked what he meant by that.
Our reunion had different stages of expectations and emotions. The first was definitely awkwardness. I picked him up at a train station and that first day was just spent navigating how I would introduce him to my friends and trying to find a common ground to start from. The first several conversations we had were spent on small talk, and while we hadn’t explicitly discussed sleeping arrangements, the first time we were properly alone was when it was time to go to bed. The awkwardness morphed into tension, a tentative curious kind of tension, that then settled into a not-entirely-unfamiliar sexual tension. I’m still not sure whether I was surprised by that or whether we had inadvertently planned it so.
There was an implicit and subtle acceptance of this tension; an acceptance that we could not fill five years’ worth of conversation, but that we did not have to, and suddenly the awkwardness dissipated. The first question that left my mouth was about whether there was overlap. Because I had heard, coincidentally only months before not years, that there was in fact overlap between him and this other girl. And of all the things I could’ve said or asked, these were the first substantial words that had left my lips. And when he said no, I believed him and that was the end of the matter.
It surprised me how non-emotional I was when we finally did talk about our relationship and why we really broke up and how easy it was to have that conversation. There was no awkwardness, no accusations or blame on it being anyone’s fault, and of course, there was no real sense of sadness. And while I did not seek closure through this conversation and though I was at peace with what happened years ago, it was reassuring to have a fresh perspective of our break-up; to have understood the full context around it and to know that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I was relieved because that meant that my first real relationship wasn’t a failure.
And while this was not a conversation we ‘had to’ have, it was a good one. Five years is a lot of time to grow and learn more about who you are as a person. The conversations we had about our relationship allowed us to understand ourselves from a more mature perspective - to understand why we behaved in the way we did in the dissolution of our relationship, and to, in a way, understand ourselves better: I feel like I understand myself better, and for this, I am grateful.