Thursday, August 21, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

by Jenny Gardiner

Thirty one years ago this summer, I had my heart broken for the first time. I was in high school, and my boyfriend, my first love, departed for college, leaving me behind to wallow in tears as he launched into a new life in a new town, with new friends, worse yet, new girlfriends, and no me.

I remember with clarity the pain and the tears and the fact that there was no way to get out of it: I had to forge through the hurt and become a new version of me, a little tougher, a little more mature, having been fortunate to have had such a wonderful relationship and trying not to be bitter about being left in the dust.

My boyfriend at the time did the right thing in breaking up with me---it wouldn't have been fair for him to have embarked on this new life with baggage left behind. It didn't make it any easier knowing that, though.

I'm feeling the heartache once again. Only this time it's vicariously through my own teenaged daughter, whose unexpected vacation friendship with an adorable young man blossomed into so much more. And because of the late nature of the relationship, from its inception it's been a countdown of sorts until he departed for his college, far away from here.

They've made a different choice---they are going to try to maintain the relationship, a tact made easier with text messaging, IM'ing, and webcams. I wrestle with whether this is a good idea for either of them, but I respect them for whatever decision they make, and hope it is for the best and holds neither of them back.

I try to latch onto hopeful stories about relationships that somehow last through lengthy separations, knowing the odds are against them remaining together. I was heartened recently to hear that a friend's son, who dated the same girl in high school and part of college, then broke up, reunited with her a few years out of college, promptly got engaged, and will be married soon. My husband's best friend's mother was widowed unexpectedly a decade ago, and is now betrothed to her high school sweetheart. These things can happen, I tell my daughter, hoping not to dash her hopes.

More than likely they'll end up like me and my old boyfriend. Once I graduated from college we went out on a date. But that magic just wasn't there for me any more. I'd grown and changed and wasn't interested in reviving what had been.

Ironically, after all of these years, he and I have become friends again. I guess being an author and having a name somewhat in the spotlight enables long-lost friends to find one easier, and through a series of funny circumstances he got in touch with me a few months ago.

I'd like to tell my daughter that maybe some day, if she and her boyfriend don't make it through this transition, perhaps they can become friends again. Maybe even more. I actually find it comforting to have re-befriended someone with whom I was so linked in my past. We exchange stories about our kids, our lives, our careers. We'll never be what we were, but a friendship mellowed with age is often a much nicer outcome than it otherwise could have been.

I know my girl has got a lot of heartache to come. This is compounded with the fact that she's a junior, and we're not so inclined to send her off to visit him at college at that age. But in the meantime, I'll hold onto the romanticism of their long-distance young love. And if nothing else, hope for them both a friendship that will withstand the test of time.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Jenny, watching our kids put their hearts out there can be so hard because we know what can come, don't we? My younger son had his heart broken this summer, and it was so hard to see.

I think you're right though, it's part of growing up and can end in so many surprising ways.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Thanks, Judy. It sure is the season of heartbreak, isn't it? Speaking of heartbreak, I'll be traveling to take my son to school today, so my replies might be sporadic depending upon when we finish up there (and if I can see through my tears to type ;-(

Amy Nathan said...

I followed you here from Backspace! I think there is much more we go thru when our kids leave the nest than we ever anticipate. My son just started his junior year of high school...and my daughter starts high school next year. It's only around the corner for me...

Stay strong!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Hi Amy! thanks for coming over here! Hope you are well. Yeah, my advice for you is a lot of wine....Right now I'm settling for whine, however ;-)

Angie Ledbetter said...

If only we could take our kids' hurts and heartbreaks away...but, on second thought, then they wouldn't turn into loving, mature adults like we all did. Hang in there, Mom. I know lots of instances where first love came back around and was even better.