Dear Elline,

In high school, I had an intense crush on this girl, but she really didn’t pay me any attention, keeping things cool because, in her eyes, we were just friends. A year later, as soon as there was a beacon of hope and we started becoming a little closer… I found out she had a boyfriend. And when she broke up with her boyfriend, I was so excited to jump at the opportunity to tell her how I felt, and I did and… she just, friend-zoned me.

I waited my turn for a long time, until, honestly, I gave up hope. Yet, things took a radical turn though when I started dating someone else, because that’s precisely when she developed an interest in me. I wasn’t getting along with my current date either way, so we broke up, and a few weeks later, at last, I got to be with the girl of my dreams. 

It was so thrilling at the beginning. She and I bonded through music. She played classical piano, and so did I. I always looked up to her because her skills by far excelled mine. I was continuously in a competition with her.

In the first month of us dating, my family liked her, but slowly they started shifting their opinion. She started rubbing my family the wrong way. Maybe it was the difference in culture, the clashing type of humor or the conflicting wealth imbalance between our families. Perhaps it really was the fact that my family couldn’t accept that she had such a firm grip over me. But I’ll get to that later.

As a result of her insecurities and her feeling uncomfortable, she started pretending she was someone else in order to "fit in," even though we never made her feel like she needed to. I believe that if she had taken that pressure off herself, it would have made things easier for everyone, including her. Everyone would have loved her as much as I did, but, instead, she put up this façade whenever she spent time with my family. I knew so well the vulnerable, sweet, caring and honest side of her, but my family never got a chance to. As much as I tried to bridge that gap, I couldn’t. My family wasn’t too diplomatic either, and that made it hard. So here I was, in a blissful, balanced state whenever we were alone, but as soon as we were together with my family, the imbalance settled in.  

Shortly after that, she started asking me to choose between being there for my family and being there for her. So many times I would take my parent’s car without permission to be with her, I would not answer my family’s calls and not handle my responsibilities because I wanted to be with her. My family would blame all of my actions on her of course. But they were my decisions at the end of the day. I fought to be with her because I genuinely wanted to. Nobody forced me, yet they’d say that I had no character and that she walks all over me. Joining my family’s consensus was my little sister, who felt that my ex was taking me away from spending time with her. And there is truth to that; my ex was pushing her out of plans on purpose. I just didn’t realize this then. It was a very intense relationship for me. Your first love sticks with you, and you feel this urge to fight for it, no matter what.

We dated for a year in high school, but then I was accepted into college, and I had to move away. We kept our enthusiasm and positivity at the beginning, firmly convinced that we could work it out. But the side effects of long distance started to kick in just a few months later. I became a little jealous, and this added a tension. I think the jealousy stemmed from my family projecting their views of her onto me, saying she’s not a good girl, etc., and I know I was making her miserable because of it too.

During the long-distance, every chance I got, I’d go back to my hometown, and she would do the same to visit me. For a year, this back and forth. The problem you see was that I wouldn’t tell my parents that I was going back home. I would secretly take the bus, and they would see pictures of me on social media posted by my ex, and that’s how they’d find out basically. Of course, the stamps on my passport also gave it away. I realized then how screwed up that was, that I had to be two-faced. I like to genuinely be the same person with everyone I meet. That was when I realized she was never going to make me happy because I would always have to strenuously alter my personality depending on whom I was talking to.  

Thinking back on who actually helped me come to this realization, and it was my now current girlfriend. From the moment I met her in college, I respected and admired her character and genuinely connected with her. I wanted her approval and opinion regarding my ex so badly, firstly because I needed an objective evaluation separate from my family’s bias, secondly because I have always valued her views, and thirdly because it made me feel less lonely in taking a decision. She was the one who finally helped open my eyes. 

It was painful and emotional, but overall the timing was right, as I believe I broke it off before it became tougher. I cared so much about her, but our futures seemed more and more bleak, as the unavoidable tension between her and my family grew. I am very indecisive, so when I make a decision, I know it’s a real one.

Subsequently, we stopped all communication. At one point, 4 years after the fact, I reached out to her to express my condolences because her dad passed away. That moment gave me the relief of closure. I told her that it wasn’t that I grew out of love for her but that despite our efforts, it just wasn’t working out and we weren’t going to make each other happy in the long run. The only thing worse than not being with her was being with her. I was miserable after we broke up for a really long time, but I also know that I was really unhappy in the relationship as well.

Years after I reflected a lot on our relationship. It dawned on me how much resentment I was holding towards my family back then. I understood that forcing people to see the value of someone else won’t help and that I should let people see other people at face value. I learned to be honest with myself, to stay true to who I am. I was phony to my ex saying that I’m ok with the situation, and I was false to my family navigating the whole experience when the smartest thing should have been to be myself all along and not lose sight of who I am. This experience helped me build more character and recognize that it’s important to stand up to your family when they’re wrong but also stand up to your partner when they’re wrong. Also, I learned to deal with emotions head-on, not to postpone and let it build to the point where I can’t recognize myself anymore.

Kind regards,