I Walked Away From The Perfect Man

Illustrated by: Michaela Early.
Welcome to Unprofessional Advice. With zero professional experience and a complete lack of credentials, I'll take on your issues with compassion and humor (and I'll keep it anonymous). Got a question? Email me.
Dear Kelsey,

Recently, I called off an engagement that has been years in the making. I seriously walked away from the perfect guy. Women stare at him with open jaws, and I catch major shade. He is smart, articulate, well-versed in pop culture, and honestly the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful human being in the history of the world. He wanted to offer me the world. The wedding of my dream, a house in the suburbs, and probably the most good-looking children (besides the Beckhams, unfortunately — damn those jawlines!) to ever pitter-patter the earth.

So what’s wrong with me? I just don't feel the spark of what used to be there. I've tried this "rekindling" that has always been suggested to me, but after a while, I got tired of the damn flame going out.

I have been accused of being selfish and ungrateful. How can I be so careless as to let such a perfect specimen of a man get away? How can I throw everything away to join the hordes of soulless, uncoupled women? (At least, this is the vibe I catch). Is it wrong to want to be my own person? I have hurt him, my family, and my friends. And on some level, I'm hurt too. We've been together so long, I've forgotten what it was like to be alone. But mostly, I sort of feel relief.

But the temptation to crawl back is always there. Life was so easy, and I was so comfortable. But I know that going back is not the answer. I rack my brain for a solution to repair all the relationships that have been a result of collateral damage (my parents barely speak to me, and I've lost a lot of friends in the process).

What do I do? I fear that time is the only solution here, but the lingering threat of loneliness is more than I can handle.

Please Help,

Millennial Lone Wolf


Dear Millennial Lone Wolf,

I don’t know you — your age, your personal history, etc. But upon reading your letter, I couldn’t help but make two immediate assumptions. First, you are young. And second, you are growing up.

I suppose those are both relative terms that could technically apply to anyone. But when I envision you, I see a woman standing at the intersection between young adult and adult — full stop. For some of us, it happened when we realized, maybe we didn’t want the career we set out for in college, so we went to grad school and started on a new path. For others, it happened when we stopped taking money from our parents and felt the slightly scary freedom of truly supporting ourselves. But we’re all familiar with this crossroad, because we’ve been there, too.

What’s wrong with you, you ask? Nothing. Everything. You’ve just taken a wrecking ball to one of the primary structures in your life. Even if your fiancé weren’t allegedly perfect (more on that in a sec), this was a person you were planning to have in your life every single day, and to build a family with. Whoever he was as a person, he had an important role in your story, and in walking away from him, that story has inevitably, irrevocably changed. Of course it’s disruptive, to say the least — change always is. But when the dust settles (and it always does), I think you’ll see both your ex and yourself in a clearer light.

On to Mr. Perfect: He’s super hot, I get it. Sure, he has other attributes (Thoughtfulness is great! Being well-versed in pop culture? I mean, sure!), but it seems like most of what you saw in him was what you could literally see. At least, his physical attractiveness seems to be the primary reason you feel crazy for breaking up with him. Given that, I have to wonder if perhaps you were with him for superficial reasons in the first place — and maybe something inside of you finally woke up and realized that.
Illustrated by: Michaela Early.
Attraction is important in relationships, don’t get me wrong. You can’t know the inner workings of people by looking at them, but if you like the way they look, you’re more likely to go up to them, introduce yourself, and start the process of finding out. Especially at the beginning of a relationship, you need that “spark.” Over time, you develop intimacy, shared experiences, trust, and other things that bond and attract you to this person. But the spark, by its very nature, is designed to go out. And if you haven’t found something deeper by the time it does, well, the relationship might be over.

The good news is you haven’t done anything wrong. Most of us go through this process dozens of times in our lives. As you point out, it’s really hard to walk away from a relationship in which everything looks great on paper. But just because you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong doesn’t mean it’s right. You don’t need a reason. You didn’t want to be in this relationship, so you did the right thing by leaving it.

Speaking of the way things look, let’s talk about those “hordes of soulless, uncoupled women.” Normally, I’d drop a third-wave feminist nuclear truth bomb on you for that one, because yikes. But you’re in a vulnerable state right now, so I’ll just say that is a very judgmental and fearful assessment of single womanhood. I imagine when you’ve been single for longer, you’ll understand that uncoupled women are not desperate, wild zombies wandering the earth in search of a warm body.

But I realize there are a lot of deeply rooted societal norms that are sending you that exact message, and perhaps that’s why your friends and family are saying that as well. The fact that they’re being so unsupportive (to put it mildly) is appalling. But, you know, that’s a lousy fact of adulthood: People disappoint us — even those who love us most.

Remember, though: The dust will settle. You, your ex, your friends, and your family will all eventually get back to normal. For you, it will be a new, more honest normal, and truthfully, I’m excited for you. You’ve just taken a risk, and you’ve done it for the right reasons. Whatever mistakes you’ve made in the past, this wasn’t one of them. Yes, people have been hurt, and you should own your part in that. Yes, you have been hurt too, and you will be hurt again. You — and every other adult — will make a million decisions in your lifetime, and some of them will be bad decisions. But this isn’t one of them.

You’ve cleared out something that wasn’t working in your life, and while your slate isn’t totally blank, there’s a lot more space to write on it now. What are you going to do with it?

Be Brave,

Kelsey

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