How I Knew I Wasn’t In Love

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*This is an archived post from my last blog Smile, Sugar. I have lightly altered it, but it is mostly unchanged from it’s original writing and posting in summer, 2016.*

Christmas Time, 2013

I hadn’t bought my boyfriend a Christmas gift yet. Lights were strung through the neighborhood, Christmas trees were glowing in windows, and every radio station was playing some rendition of Jingle Bell Rock. Christmas was quickly coming – how did I not have a gift yet? I didn’t have much money, so I was struck trying to find something that was honest yet affordable. I mmm-ed and ahh-ed about it for a while, and suddenly I thought I had the perfect idea: I would tell him I love him.

We had been together for coming on three years and hadalready talked about moving in together, getting married, and what kind of engagement ring he would get me. Saying I loved him was more of a technicality at that point. I mean, I had to in some way, right? I just hadn’t fully fallen in love yet. That was all. But it was time to say it – I had to. I got the cute idea I would make a list of all the things I loved about him and end it with my declaration.

My boyfriend told me he loved me after four months, and my response was a startled shriek before walking off to my mom’s car. From then on, he would tell me he loved me and I would say I know. It was how we ended our phone calls, it was how we walked away from each other, it was our happy, cookie-cutter, rehearsed exchange.

He said I love you, I said I know.

I love you.

I know.

I love you.

I know.

But… I didn’t.

I gathered up my laptop and settled into the couch in my living room, ready to put together the list of what I loved about him, but I sat there, staring at the blank page, a scowl set on my face as the little black line in my word processor blinked, waiting for me to pour out my feelings.

I thought of what I wished I could put, what I wanted him to be like, what kind of boyfriend I could have. I thought of the little things he did that ground on my nerves slowly. I thought of the things he did that drove me insane and the things I outright loathed. I thought of the times he made me cry and the things he did that devastated me. I thought of the things I was never willing to speak up about because it wasn’t fair for me to ask someone to change.

A bitter blackness pooled in my belly. I already knew I didn’t love him, but it was in this moment I realized I actually… disliked him. Every time I imagined telling him I loved him, my heart would pound and my vision would get fuzzy. My skin felt too tight, there wasn’t enough air, I was suddenly in chains. Every particle of my being rejected the notion. I enjoyed him and we had great conversations, but our relationship was a desperate husk of what should have ended after six months. We just sort of hung on.

I closed my laptop and decided I would get him something else for Christmas.