A double downer. What else would you call a meaty subject that’s hard to stomach?

This scenario keeps playing on repeat through my mind and I don’t know how to turn it off. My only hope is that by committing it to paper it’ll enjoy its new life in print and stay out of my head. It could be a book, a screenplay, a TV episode. For all I know someone’s already made the text or it’s even a common trope. In all honesty that happens. I remember when I thought man, grating cheese is easy enough, but it’s a bitch to wash a grater. Wouldn’t it be better if there was just some hand held one sided cheese grater? Someone else clearly thought so too. Then the other night I was thinking would it be possible to have some kind of cap or sheath for circumcised dudes? It could cover the tip of their penis in order to encourage increased sensitivity. Once again, not the first person (NSFW obviously. We’re talking about penises here).

Anyway, the idea that I can’t turn off is about a couple. Outwardly everything seems fine, but in reality one of the partners is intending to break it off. Things aren’t working out and haven’t gotten better. They’ve given the relationship time and hoped that the erroneous issues would magically resolve themselves. Hasn’t happened and they’ve resolved to have the hard conversation. Out of nowhere, tragedy strikes. Death of a loved one? Some kind of personal illness or injury? Job redundancy? Something emotionally damaging occurs and the partner who was ready to dump can’t go through with it. Whatever form the text takes, this is the hook.

There’s so much juicy internal conflict. It’s an awful situation for anyone to be in. It’s nobody’s fault, but what personal responsibility exists in this scenario? Is the more humane thing to stick around and help through the hard times, then take your leave once they’re approaching normalcy? What do you owe the relationship? The other human you’ve been romantically enmeshed with? How do you feel about yourself? About how your views define your own self-acceptance? Is it emotionally dishonest to pretend that everything’s alright when in actuality you’ve checked out of your desire for this person? While affection surely resides, how does it feel to be driven by a sense of duty without the resonance you formerly shared? Is it fair to you? Fair to them? What would the right call be? Could you even talk about it with friends, knowing that societal scripts paint you out to be the monster? Is there hesitance to leave the relationship being branded the villain? Does this image management come into play? Or is this story a Sliding Doors piece? Would it split to alternate timelines whereby the breakup happened at the worst time or when the dust settled? Is there a right choice here?

It’s challenging, because even thinking about this scenario makes me feel emotionally fragile. I put myself into both sides, the person leaving and the person in crisis. I think about how loathsome I’d feel having to think about what’s best for someone who was struggling, when I was struggling myself. I think there’s a black humour to the situation, because it no doubt happens all the time. The concept was sparked by a conversation with a friend and my love of the film Force Majeure.

It’s not an entirely foreign situation to me either. Years back I was in a long term relationship that I had decided was reaching its expiration point. I thought it over, tried giving myself time to see if my doubts would abate, if it was just a short, confusing phase. It wasn’t and it became difficult to focus on anything else. I resolved to break it off, difficult as that was to do. It’s not like I’d stopped loving her, but I knew what we had was dwindling. Thing is, I’d come to this conclusion right before her exams. I knew that if I broke things off it’d affect her emotionally and dash her end of year results. So I waited until after the exam dust had settled. My views hadn’t changed so I had that tough conversation. We were both emotional wrecks and I questioned how she would’ve dealt with her exams had I sat her down beforehand. Not well, I figured.

I related this to a girlfriend years afterwards. She scoffed and said that if situations were reversed, if I wasn’t 100% engaged with her she’d want me to break it off regardless of the timing. She’d rather deal with the fallout than be unwittingly living a lie.

You folks know how this one goes, right? Things didn’t work out, I decided to break it off. Of course, this was a few nights before her big exam. A few days later she sent a litany of angry emails telling me about how much of an asshole I was, how did I have the audacity to do it right before her exam (which she consequently failed)? Resisting the urge to write back to someone who clearly needed to vent, I thought to myself but I was doing exactly what she told me to do. How am I the asshole?

Is there a correct choice? Or is the overriding lesson that it sucks to no longer be wanted regardless? You’re always gonna be the villain if you’re ruining something that people thought of fondly.


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