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He Cared About Me, So I Broke Up With Him


By the end of the week, I had spent $390 on the blanket. Silly for a jobless person who lived in a married couple’s spare room. I folded it carefully and tied it with a ribbon and emailed David: “Can we talk?”

He agreed to meet me by Lake Merritt.

We sat on a towel by the water a few blocks from his apartment. The handmade blanket rested in my lap, and I fidgeted with the loops, glancing up at David and back down. My breath still catches when I picture his face then, hurt and certain and skeptical. He waited, silently, while I tried to put a sentence together.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have had a conversation with you before breaking things off.”

“You’re right,” he said.

“I’m afraid I made a mistake,” I said, looking away.

My words were jumbled as I tried to explain that when faced with the potential for a healthy relationship, my body and mind panicked. That instead of feeling comforted by a loyal partnership, I felt disgusted and afraid. I said I was talking to my therapist about it and that I think it was because what he offered was unfamiliar. Until that point, my closest relationships had been marked by uncertainty and loss, and they felt, perversely, safe.

He nodded, patient. And then explained that it made sense to him. He had listened to my stories of past relationships and, after I broke up with him, got a book by Dr. Robert Firestone called “The Fantasy Bond.” He thought that I might be seeking to recreate the trauma and uncertainty from earlier years.

Dr. Firestone says that instead of questioning their circumstances, children blame themselves for their pain. Not only do they blame themselves, but they also begin to expect loss and loneliness. Faced with a new version of adulthood, my worldview had become threatened.

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