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A Very Long Story About a Very Tough Five Months

April 28, 2011

Our wedding is a little more than two months away (HOLY SHIT), and I can’t wait to marry Mr. Panther. I mean, I’ll be honest—a great deal of that is because I am so sick of all the pressure and just want this wedding to be DONE—but also, I love this man and I’m ready to start our lives together as a married couple.

Mr. Panther and I have a great relationship. Sure, we fight and scream and threaten to kill each other from time to time, but that’s normal, right? Right?! Regardless, our relationship is solid. I’ve never had a moment of doubt. I knew from the first time I kissed Mr. Panther that I wanted to spend my life with him, and that has never changed. Mr. Panther feels that way now, but he wasn’t always as certain as I was.

When Mr. Panther and I met, I was 19 and he was 20. Just babies.

Mr. Panther was starting his third year at music school. He’d had a handful of serious, long-term girlfriends. I was beginning my second year of college. I had … been around. I’d had several long relationships, several more short relationships and a fair amount of hook-ups. I think he was used to low-maintenance ladies, and I was used to getting my way. We were doomed.

At his school, Mr. Panther had a solid group of crazy friends. He’d just moved into a big apartment with three of them, and they were throwing parties every weekend and working on music until 4 a.m. on weeknights. I probably should have seen from the beginning that it wasn’t great timing for him to start a serious relationship, but one doesn’t look for these things when one falls in love. We met, we were crazy about each other, we started dating. Now, like I said, I’d been around, but I had no problem with commitment. With his long-term relationship experience, Mr. Panther didn’t either. When we got together, we were together. He was completely committed in his mind, but he just couldn’t commit as much time as I wanted him to.

I was madly in love with Mr. Panther, and I wanted him with me every minute of every day. We would make plans for him to come over in the evening, and he’d show up two hours late. I’d sit there waiting, and my fury would build with every passing minute. I’ve always had a fairly bad temper, but I had such strong feelings for Mr. Panther—they took it to a completely new level. When Mr. Panther would finally show up and I was able to confront him with all the rage bottled up in my chest, the world would shake. I must have seemed like a crazy person to him, but I felt completely justified. In one epic occasion, when I was working in an office down the street, Mr. Panther was supposed to meet me for lunch. When he was 10 minutes late, I started calling. I kept calling for the next two hours. He never picked up and he never showed. He had completely forgotten and was playing soccer with his friends in the park. That was not good.

Our fights got worse and worse, and one summer morning, after we’d been dating 10 months, I called Mr. Panther from my vacation house on Cape Cod and something seemed very, very wrong. At first, he was hesitant to open up, but I kept hassling him until he admitted it.

“It doesn’t feel right to say ‘I love you’ anymore,” he said.

I was in complete shock. I was supposed to stay in Cape Cod for another few days, but the vacation was over for me. I sat on the beach with a roll of toilet paper and stared blankly out at the water, tears streaming down my face, until my mother and MOH Alisa put me in the car and brought me back to Boston. I knocked on my roommate’s door (groomsman Easy, as it were), asked him for a few of his Ativan pills, and got in bed. That night was Fourth of July. I lay in my bedroom in the dark and listened to the fireworks, and wondered how long it took to die of a broken heart. Sounds melodramatic, I know, but this was the worst pain I’d ever felt.

A couple days later, Mr. Panther drove up to Boston (he was at home in Connecticut for the summer) so we could talk. He cried as he explained that things had gotten so seriously so quickly, and he was scared. He didn’t know what real relationships were supposed to be like, and he couldn’t help but feel like our explosive arguments shouldn’t be the norm. He just needed a break to figure things out. Would we get back together? He didn’t know. He hoped so. He slept over that night, and in the morning, we said goodbye.

For the next few weeks, I tried to cope. I went out with my friends, drank a lot, and had an inappropriate rebound hook-up that I immediately regretted. I tried to maintain optimism that Mr. Panther would be back. I continued to spend time with Mr. Panther’s friends, who I thought had become my friends. One night, I was standing in Mr. Panther’s kitchen with one of his roommates and another friend. The roommate said to the friend, “Who was that girl that Mr. Panther had here this weekend?” then shot me a guilty glance. I immediately went in the other room and called Mr. Panther. We had been talking as if we were friends for the past few weeks, so I tried to keep it casual.

Right off the bat, Mr. Panther volunteered, “So, I met someone.”

“Oh? That’s great. What’s she like?”

“Well, her name is Cathy [name changed for privacy],” he said cheerfully. “She goes to BC. She likes to play tennis and sing karaoke.”

I paused. I had thought our break-up was bad, but this was worse. All the hope I’d had for our reunion was rapidly leaking away.

“Are you crazy about her?”

I had to ask. I was a masochist.

“I don’t know. I think so.”

Our conversation deteriorated from there. I went home and sobbed to him on the phone about how he’d implied that we would be getting back together, and he couldn’t keep me hanging on while he was with someone else. I screamed and forced him to tell me that there was no hope, it was over forever, he had moved on and I should, too. I thought I needed closure.

As time passed, I quickly found out that closure wouldn’t do me any good. In the past, when I’d had tough break-ups, I’d felt better as time passed. I never felt better about losing Mr. Panther. It only got worse. One night, I went to a party at Mr. Panther’s apartment (against my better judgment), and he was there with Cathy. I walked around the corner to go to the bathroom, and they were standing in front of it kissing. I literally walked right into them. I turned around and left, dragging my cousin (groomsman Jamie) and his girlfriend with me. On the way back, we stopped at a convenience store (any Boston fans of Cappy’s out there?), and I ran into a guy from my music theory class.

Image of Cappy’s via

His name was Enrique (not really—name changed for privacy again), and my cousin’s girlfriend loved him immediately. She invited him back to our apartment and pretty much shoved me into his arms. By the end of the night, I was making out with him, and a week later, we were dating.

I liked Enrique. He was fun to be around and he made me laugh. Of course, he was no Mr. Panther, and I still cried myself to sleep every night, but I tried to ignore that. I still hung out with a few of Mr. Panther’s friends, and one day, my cousin Jamie told me a story about how one of these mutual friends had said to Mr. Panther, “I like Miss Panther’s boyfriend.”

Mr. Panther had said, “Miss Panther has a boyfriend?!”

“Oh, yeah,” mutual friend said. “He’s really cool. He’s from Puerto Rico.”

“He’s from Puerto Rico?!” Mr. Panther was impressed by my new boyfriend’s exoticness, I think. Muahaha.

I loved this story, I’m not going to lie. Mr. Panther’s girlfriend wasn’t around much, but I was always with Enrique, and we had a few encounters with a solo Mr. Panther. I hoped he was jealous.

After I’d been dating Enrique around six weeks, things started getting a little too close for comfort. I had always intended my relationship with Enrique to be casual, and I’d told him so. But when he informed me that he was going to marry me, I knew I had to get out. I had no intention of marrying Enrique. I didn’t want to be with anyone but Mr. Panther, really. I just hadn’t accepted that yet.

So, I broke it off. The following weekend was Thanksgiving, and I drove back to Connecticut with Jamie and his girlfriend. Shortly before we left, Mr. Panther called Jamie and asked if he could get a ride back up to Boston with us at the end of the weekend. I thought this was very strange. I knew Mr. Panther’s parents were always happy to give him a ride—they wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. My cousin’s girlfriend immediately started speculating.

“He broke up with Cathy,” she said. “He must’ve. He wants you back.”

I refused to even consider that possibility. I couldn’t get my hopes up. But when he showed up at my home (my cousin and I both lived in the same two-family house), I had to accept that something was going on. He immediately strolled into my side of the house and started chatting with my mom as if nothing had ever happened. The nerve on that one! My mom says she’ll never forget the way he stood next to her at the stove and inspected her casserole, with no indication that he had any inkling how many horrible things we’d been saying about him for the past five months. When my cousin and his girlfriend went to his house to eat dinner, he stayed at mine and ate with us. It was bizarre.

At one point, I checked my phone and I had a text message from Jamie’s girlfriend. It said, “he broke up with her. he told us while you were talking to your mom.” I took a deep breath and tried not to react. A few minutes later, Mr. Panther asked if I wanted to go outside for a cigarette. (We were both smoking back then—we don’t anymore, though!)

We went outside together.

“So, how’s Enrique dealing with you guys breaking up?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure how he knew, but I brushed it off.

“He’s OK, I think,” I replied. “How’s Cathy?”

Mr. Panther sighed.

“Well, we broke up.”

[It came out later that she had actually dumped him, but Mr. Panther swears that he would have broken up with her eventually. *eye roll*]

We continued the awkward small talk for a few minutes, and soon, it was time to drive back up to Boston. Mr. Panther and I sat in the back seat with a giant tub of turkey soup between us, and I tried not to give away how nervous I was.

When we arrived, instead of going back to his apartment, Mr. Panther parked himself on our couch. And there he stayed. Inexplicably, he slept over that night—not with me! I have some dignity!—and kept coming back every day for a week. At first, it was under the guise that he was hanging out with Jamie, his girlfriend and I. But one night, he texted me to ask if I was going over to a mutual friend’s place, as planned.

I told him that I had planned to go over for a little while. He responded and said he couldn’t go, but was wondering if I wanted to hang out afterward.

I knew this was the turning point. He was asking me—just me—to get together one on one. The tension had been palpable all week, and it had to break at some point. When he arrived that night, he asked if I wanted to watch my “Sex and the City” DVDs. Now, we all know that no straight man is going to willingly watch “Sex and the City” with someone they aren’t trying to get with. Come on.

By the next morning, we were pretty much back together. We took things very slowly, because we were both freaked the F out, but after a month of turmoil, we made it official, and that was that. I had calmed down during our break-up, and he had learned to appreciate our relationship. We’ve been together ever since.

Weird story, huh? I can honestly say that those five months were some of the worst of my life, but strangely, they were also kind of fun. I was trying so hard to keep my mind off Mr. Panther—I forced myself to go out, make new friends and party as hard as I could. I made friends then that are still some of my best now. I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but losing the most important thing in your life really makes you appreciate the other things.

Another weird thing: Almost five years later, I’m still not over our break-up. It’s still painful to think about it. When I reminisce about the moment that Mr. Panther told me he had met a girl who liked to play tennis and sing karaoke, I can still feel that tangible ache in my chest. I later met Cathy in a bar, and she was incredibly nice. She drunkenly told me, “I brought a picture of you to my hairdresser so I could get your bangs! You and Mr. Panther are so much better together than we ever were! You’re meant to be together!” Well, duh, Cathy. She was a sweet girl, though, really.

Our wedding will fall on Fourth of July weekend this year, on the five year anniversary of the weekend we broke up. I didn’t realize that until now. It’s a little strange, but maybe our wedding will act as an exorcism. Maybe the new memories we’ll create will erase the painful ones. But probably not.

Our break-up was awful. It was terrible and excruciating. But it was necessary. And we’re stronger now because of it.

Did any of you break up with your fiancés or husbands before you were engaged? Do you feel it ultimately helped your relationship? Are you over it yet? How long does it take, anyway?

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