I felt abandoned again last year. Heather was spending less and less time with me, even though she had more time than ever1. I started cooking for myself, learned how to cook for her, took on as many chores as I could handle, but assuming additional responsibilities never seemed to translate into any meaningful time together; it seemed like she was pulling even further away.
Then she stopped checking in entirely. Months passed without a question of how I was doing or feeling. She would later admit that vanity, perfectionism, and insecurity made her panic and freeze up. Even though she could tell I was unhappy about our relationship, it was easier to hide from the monster she felt like and avoid facing the pain she caused.
I just wish I wasn’t the one who paid for that cowardice, especially when I had already reached my breaking point a year earlier. There was no desire to communicate on my end when it felt like she no longer cared, and knowing that this would make her even more distant — like some kind of negative communication feedback loop — was terrifying. I asked my therapist for advice, and he brought up the idea of a healing separation.
This was a great suggestion. Feeling resentful of Heather when she couldn’t meet my needs meant I had fallen back into the mindset of thinking she was responsible for my happiness. Some time apart is exactly what I needed to gain some perspective on the relationship and reset those expectations. Some time alone would also give me a chance to heal, so I could eventually be a support instead of a burden during the times my partner is unresponsive or unreliable.
I was pleased to know that this would be an opportunity for her to do some growing on her own too. The last time she was single was at 18, and she rarely took the initiative to prioritize her own interests. The last thing I wanted was for her to lose her identity to another relationship. And she was so used to having someone around that being alone could cause an anxiety attack; exactly the kind of thing that she could only work on by herself.
We agreed to re-evaluate where we were and how we felt at the end of the year; three months seemed like a proper length of time to be apart from the most important person in our respective lives. Chores would be divided between us. I agreed not to pursue romantic interests outside our relationship until until we worked out our issues2, and she agreed to start her own therapy. Despite how difficult things had gotten, I felt somewhat secure in the knowledge that we still cared about each other and wanted the same thing — that is, for the relationship to work and to eventually re-unite.
- When she first started working, not having a driver’s license meant a four hour commute by bus each day. The pandemic gave her all that time back. [↩]
- Not that I was particularly interested in dating anyway. [↩]