After four years together, Lauren and I have decided to end our relationship. That sentence was hard to write.

The realization that we needed to part ways came to light on a Thursday during a late-night drive back from Knoxville. I felt the need to open up to her about my feelings and was surprised when she reciprocated some of the same feelings. By the time we reached our downtown apartment, the air was cleared and a preliminary decision was made that our futures did not include one another in a romantic capacity. Since that discussion, Lauren has decided she will move out of the apartment, and both of us have agreed we need some space to deal with the relationship’s demise. We are both OK.

Yeah, it sucks. I’m probably more depressed overall than I’m letting on to anybody. Lauren is more terrified about living alone than she would likely admit. I’ll never forget how she helped me deal with my father’s death, the countless hockey games we attended and the weeklong trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is nobody to blame. This is not anyone’s fault, and this is the best time for a multitude of reasons. But it still sucks.

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A week after our decision, I thought it would be healing for both of us to lay everything on the line, everything from the small annoyances to the larger issues we noticed, all of this with the hope that we can both make life changes for the better or, at least, be aware of the issues at hand. This is the mature thing to do, right? Following that (very difficult) discussion, here are four things we didn’t do right and one that we did.

Arguments
Lauren and I never had a real argument about anything. We both agree now, in retrospect, that we should’ve had more fights. Both of us are pacifists by nature, wanting nothing but calm and tolerance. Confrontation is difficult for both of us, so we just backed down whenever an issue came up. Those tiny issues became catalysts for larger issues until, inevitably, our base level of existing was uncomfortably distant. We could fake it well because we didn’t know we were faking it; the distance was now our lives, and neither of us had the initiative to broach the topic for fear of hurting the other. The big takeaway we hope to take into our next relationships is the ability to “air it out.” In other words, leave nothing unsaid that needs to be said at any point, regardless of consequences.

The future from the start
I met Lauren when she was 22 years old, and I was her first relationship. I was 26 at the time, and the start of the relationship was slow. I was her first date, first kiss and first boyfriend. All of this “newness” kept us from talking or even thinking about our future-together or apart. And it turned out that both of us want completely different things. The biggest area where we were off-base was regarding children. She wants them, I don’t. There was compromise, but both of us knew this issue was the biggest difference. We didn’t talk about it at all, though, and we absolutely should have. It should be noted that neither of us has any regrets about the relationship. We only regret that we weren’t honest with each other where it counted. Both of us knew the conversation would most likely end the relationship, and so we never had the conversation.

Living together
If we’ve learned anything by living together for the past 1.5 years, it’s that we either need more space than a tiny apartment can provide, or we shouldn’t be living together. After combining our collective stuff, we had way too many things and not enough space. Clutter was an issue. But our lifestyles became an issue, too. I enjoy sleeping late on the weekends and staying out late. We live downtown, and I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it. Lauren, on the other hand, lives by the phrase “up early, in early.” We were never able to compromise on this to a satisfactory level.

Walls
There are walls we build up around our hearts so that they don’t get broken. It’s sort of the last line of defense before naked vulnerability. Some of us never recognize these walls exist until they get broken; some of us have walls that are so hard they might never get broken. Lauren and I have different walls. Her wall is an exterior wall. She is hesitant to let people in, but when she does, they’re in. I was one of the lucky ones who broke through. Lauren never got to my wall. It’s possible that nobody ever has. My wall is small, sturdy and surrounds the very deepest point of my heart. There are no exterior walls. People are invited to enter, but only to a point and never enough to truly get me. We both want to work on breaking down our walls.

Breaking up
There has been no animosity with this breakup. Our romantic relationship may be over, but a friendship still exists. We are both glad we didn’t screw that up. In my experience, an acrimonious end to a loving relationship is one of the worst things to deal with. The fact that we could sit down and have a conversation like this is a nod to the respect we have for each others’ well-being. We are not each others’ “the one,” which is fine. I think we both knew we weren’t from the start. But our trust and respect for each other remains strong. The future for both of us is bright.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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