How do you break your boyfriend’s heart? Simple; date them for four years, make a ton of happy memories together, start planning a future and then, just when they think it’s getting properly serious, you come out as lesbian and tell them you’re not attracted to them and possibly never really were.
That’s obviously not how it really happened but whenever I tell people that I broke off a four year relationship because I discovered I was lesbian, that’s generally what they hear. And I don’t blame them. People who have always known their sexuality will probably never fully understand what it feels like to spend a good proportion of your life feeling like there’s always something missing, that even with the best of people there’s still just something not quite right. This was my life. It was a perpetual cycle of never feeling satisfied. Of thinking to myself “maybe it will feel different with the next guy” (can confirm that moment never came and it never will).
The breakup wasn’t as blunt as me turning round and saying “hey, I’m gay, we’re over” it was a gradual build up. There were the months before this realisation where I spoke to him about feeling different and feeling unsatisfied within the relationship. There were the million ways I tried to justify my own feelings to myself; the contraceptive pill was just reducing my libido, never having the house to ourselves just made it difficult to have sex, I didn’t not fancy him I just didn’t like his current haircut (I very strongly believed his haircut was the source of all our problems, but like guys, it was a bad haircut. Now my girlfriend could shave her head and I’d still be obsessed with her). I was deep in denial. When I realised that him breathing irritated me beyond belief I convinced myself that everyone got annoyed at these things. I should probably clarify that I didn’t want him to stop breathing, only wanted him to breath less aggressively, and yes there is such a thing as aggressive breathing. Heavy breathing is to me, what loud chewing is to others. It’s the one sound in the whole universe that makes my blood boil. Now obviously there are times when heavy breathing is acceptable, such as after a workout or in my case going up even the smallest flight of stairs, but that’s being out of breath. What I’m talking about is when someone is completely relaxed and all you can hear is them forcefully squeezing the breath out their nostrils. There’s just no need, unless you have a medical condition no one’s resting breathing rate should be that laboured.
Anyway, I digress. The point of this was to highlight the ridiculousness of my situation not go on a tangent about breathing.
We worked together to try and find solutions; we booked nights away, we went out more and tried new things, we tried to spend less time sitting in my bedroom watching endless hours of netflix but none worked, I was still as unenamoured with the idea of sex as I was before. Then the pandemic happened and lockdown hit. I would listen as people in work told me how much they missed their partner, some even moved in together on a whim just to see each other! I remember feeling lonely then but not because I missed my boyfriend, I felt lonely because I couldn’t relate to any of these people. I didn’t miss seeing my boyfriend at all. We spoke on the phone and played animal crossing together and to me this was perfect. I was getting all the best bits of the relationship without having to stress about having sex. People are normally quite shocked when I tell them that I used to get stressed or upset at the idea of having sex, I can see the confusion cross their face, can practically read the “then why didn’t you leave him?” thought stamped on their foreheads. The answer isn’t simple and quite frankly I don’t owe anyone but him and myself that answer. All you need to know is that I didn’t leave him, not at that point. But the sense of relief I felt at not having sex did play on my mind and thanks to lockdown I had a lot time alone to sit and ponder it. In fact, lockdown gave me time to ponder a lot of things!
Fairly early on in lockdown one I came to the realisation that I was bisexual. For me this felt so liberating, I finally understood a part of myself that I’d suppressed for so long. Telling him was the most nerve wracking thing. How would he react? Would he be mad? Annoyed? Would it end our relationship? None of these things happened. He was kind and understanding, he told me it didn’t change anything for him. I was elated. I thought maybe this is it, maybe this is the thing that has been holding us back; I wasn’t being my honest authentic self but now I could be. This notion didn’t last long. In truth, the realisation just made things worse. I had opened myself up to so much more potential, I no longer had that nagging “maybe it will be different, better, with another man” no, now I had “maybe it will feel right with a woman” bouncing around my head. I ignored this feeling for a while, convincing myself that I was happy, that we could get past these wee hurdles. I sat down and thought about all the reasons I loved him, everything we had together that I wanted to keep. I realised that as far as friendship went I was perfectly content, we had a beautiful friendship.
That’s when I came up with possibly the most ridiculous solution.
I suggested that we just never have sex again (yes I was serious), he could go off and sleep with whoever he wanted but we’d still be together and do all the other things people do in relationships, we just wouldn’t have sex. What a great solution, don’t you think? Trust me when I say that suggesting to your boyfriend that the two of you never have sex again doesn’t go down well. I think I actually made him cry with that suggestion. It was however, a real turning point for me. It was the moment where I stopped and actually thought about what I was saying, I didn’t want to ever have sex with him again, I’d be happy to never have sex with him again. It wasn’t just him, it was any man. I didn’t want to be with a man.
This was a pretty problematic realisation, given that I was in fact in a relationship with one. I briefly considered that my not wanting to be with a man wasn’t an attraction thing, it was a trauma thing, but then I started to think about how much I wanted to be with a woman. I remembered all the times I’d thought about women during sex, all the times I’d pictured what it would be like to date a woman, how good it would feel to kiss them and I realised that I was wholly and undoubtedly attracted to women and women only. I won’t lie I kept this realisation to myself for longer than I should have. I just couldn’t bring myself to break his heart. One day I finally plucked up the courage, we sat in my room as we had done many times before (yes we broke the covid rules but it’s next level savage to dump someone over the phone!) we chatted about the most mundane of things, all the while I was plotting how I would break this news to him. I started telling him how things weren’t getting any better for me, how I felt lost in the relationship. He seemed to take it pretty well and I thought great maybe this won’t be so bad. Sadly, the only reason he seemed fine was because apparently it wasn’t clear that I was dumping him. He thought we were just having yet another chat about our doomed relationship. When he started telling me all the other ideas he had to “fix us” I had to stop him and say “no, I don’t think we can fix it”. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to find out the person you’re with has zero attraction to you. But I think we can safely assume it probably doesn’t feel great. His mood changed instantly. Within seconds tears had sprung to his eyes, his breathing quickened, his whole body shaking. I realised he wasn’t just upset, he was having a panic attack. He had them occasionally but this was the first time I had ever been the direct cause of one. The guilt consumed me, I watched as the person I cared about completely collapsed in front of me and I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t let it happen, couldn’t be the reason he felt so destroyed. So I done the worst thing possible; I took it back. I said it was a heat of the moment decision, that I didn’t mean it, was probably just confused and wanted to try again. After a while he calmed down, the relief washing through him. I sat there feeling more miserable than ever as he told me how happy he was that we were still together, that the thought of losing me was soul destroying and that he’d do whatever it took to keep us together.
I’m all for working at a relationship and not just throwing it down the pan at the first sign of trouble but we had firmly passed this point. I felt trapped now. I was putting his feelings and well-being above my own. I wasn’t dead certain at this point that I was lesbian but I was dead certain that I could never be truly happy with him. I spent hours agonising over it, thinking how dumb I must be to ignore how I’m feeling for the sake of saving someone else’s happiness. Then I read a story online about a couple who stayed together all their lives, the husband had recently passed but instead of being sad the wife felt relief. She talked about how she knew he never really loved her but he stayed out of sense of obligation. She talked about the resentment she held toward him but also the sadness she felt at never getting to experience true love. It was that line that made me realise that I didn’t want to be like her husband, I didn’t want to rob someone of the life they truly deserved. I had to end it.
No break up is nice but as break ups go, it was quite a good one, there were tears on both sides (obviously, I’m not heartless) but there were also laughs and some reminiscing. The break up didn’t shock him as much this time, he had time from the first one to process and accept things and I had better clarity on why we would never work together. Telling your boyfriend that you’re lesbian isn’t easy, there was a huge part of me that was scared what his reaction would be. He had every right to be mad or annoyed or feel lied to. If he did get angry then I would have no right to tell him not to be. But this person that I was with was nothing but kind and accepting. One thing that will forever stick with me is when he told me that he wasn’t angry or annoyed, he was just happy for me. It definitely wasn’t the reaction that I expected but I was thrilled with it. Coming out involves a lot of trepidation and fear so to have my sexuality accepted meant the world to me. Of course it was difficult for him to hear, it was equally as hard for me to say but it was the best thing for both of us and I will never regret ending that relationship and giving myself the chance to live life as my true self.