Firsts

Posted on

This is the story of my first love and my first heartbreak.

We (let’s call him G) met on a dating app, you can decide which one. It wasn’t tainted with the kind of tawdriness that sometimes comes with virtual love – after all, at the time, we were never in the same place for more than a few days. While I was leaving Montreal for Spring Break, G was arriving. And by the time I came back, he had already gone back to Beijing where he was studying, half way around the world.

We clicked right away. We had debates about things most didn’t talk about on their fifteenth date, much less their first online conversations. We joked around like we had known each other for years. I just got him, and he me. It wasn’t love at first sight, but for me, maybe love at first text.

All through the distance, we talked. At first just once in a while, but then more and more. I remember walking on icy snow banks that February, shamefully confessing to my friend that I believed I found my soul-mate. I’m not sure I had even believed in the idea of soul-mates until that moment. And even if things like destiny, fate, and that wretched thing called love did exist, surely, you’re not supposed to find love on a dating app. You’re not supposed to fall so quickly and so hard either. Especially for someone you’ve never even met face-to-face.


I knew how naïve and gullible this all seemed. I couldn’t quite admit even to myself how much I liked this man. I had never really been in a relationship, much less in love, at that point, and my feelings felt so foreign to me. I continued talking to other guys, and going on dates – all while my feelings for G grew and we spoke more and more frequently. While G seemed interested in me, my impression was that our distance and the fact that we’ve never actually met kept him from truly investing in us. This was reasonable: of course, he didn’t like me as much as I liked him! He barely knew me! And so I tried to do the same.

I didn’t express my feelings to him for fear of rejection, and I started dating another guy in March. Yeah, I know, this was really shitty of me – this other guy didn’t deserve me using him as emotional cover-up. He was kind to me and liked me. But even from the start, I set this so-called relationship up for disaster: I hinted at my commitment-phobic tendencies (in hindsight, I think I just made this reason up) and would distance myself from this guy so that he wouldn’t grow too attached. I was selfish and didn’t treat him like he had feelings of his own. I was consumed with the thought that this would be enough and that if I stopped talking to G, I would stop thinking about him.

Obviously, this didn’t happen.

All those clichés are right: the heart wants what it wants. G and I didn’t speak much again, just conversations here and there, until May, when I broke up with the guy I was dating. I’ve never been comfortable with lying, and having feelings for someone else while seeing another sure felt like lying if not something worse. I had convinced myself that I was doing nothing wrong. But your conscience always catches up to you at some point.

May was crazy. One of my best friends and I were taking a summer course that month and we declared Montreal our playground. She had just gotten out of a relationship too, as well as her roommate, and so we were all ready to go wild. I went out a few times with the asshole (let’s call him Asshole, with a capital ‘A’) I went on a date with earlier in the year and partied regularly with my girlfriends. I was on a mission to “just say yes” and to forget about my feelings for G.

And yet.

I was glued to my phone 24/7, always hoping to receive a message from him. We didn’t go by a day without texting. We Facetimed more often, and I would send him pictures of my meals, the places I went to, just little daily things. And he would do the same for me. I guess it made us feel closer to each other, as if we were actually side-by-side, experiencing life together. I would lie on my bed in the little room I was subletting for May and grin stupidly while he ranted to me about something that happened during his day. And he would always have the perfect responses to my worries about my future or my complaints about my family. With every conversation, I grew more and more fond of G.

I’ve never been one for games, but I’ve also always been deathly afraid of opening myself up for fear of getting hurt. It took a lot from me, but eventually, I confessed to having serious feelings to G. And he told me exactly what I wanted to hear – that he’s never felt anything like this before either and wanted to see me for real. 2015 was filled with many firsts for me, and this was the first time I ever let myself be truly vulnerable. I finally let myself fully fall for him.

G came back to Canada in July, staying at his dad’s place in Quebec, while I was working for the summer in Toronto. There was a music festival my friends and I were attending at the end of July in Montreal, and so G and I planned to meet up around this. I was so giddy the weeks leading up to this fateful weekend, but I was worried that what we had electronically wouldn’t translate in real life. In my gut though, I knew this wouldn’t be the case.

The day we met was sticky-hot and muggy. I spent the day jumping up and down in crowded fields, listening to music with my girlfriends – all while anticipating our date later that night. I didn’t want to abandon my friends at the festival, but when the clock struck 7, I rushed home to put on my best dress and then dashed off to our meeting spot.

I remember the first moment I laid eyes on him. I felt relief (He came! Also, I wasn’t catfished! He’s actually cute!) and something else I don’t quite have a word for. We smiled at each other, from across the street, waiting for the traffic to past. And as soon as the lights turned green, he ran over and picked me up by the waist and kissed me.

It was movie-perfect.

He took me to a “secret” bar I had always wanted to try. We sat across from each other, sipping our drinks, and I couldn’t stop looking at his face in the flickering candlelight. G was real, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of him being next to me. I’m not even sure what we talked about, but we couldn’t stop laughing and yammering on, late into the night. I could finally hear his laugh, not just through the tinny speakers on my laptop.

That weekend was a whirlwind. He took me to his favourite Chinese restaurant from when he was a student in Montreal. We brunched at a favourite dessert place of mine. He cooked for me in the tiny Airbnb he was staying in, and I stood in the doorway of the kitchen, just watching him. I couldn’t get enough.

After that first weekend, I did the most “girl” thing: I asked him, “what are we?” I sat on the train, hands trembling, typing those three words out, scared to my core. I didn’t need to be though, because after he responded, I spent the rest of that train ride smiling.

Later on in August, he helped me move apartments in Montreal. We made ribs and potatoes in my kitchen, and then cuddled up on my couch, an island in the chaotic mess that was my new apartment and the world around us. I think we watched “Scream” (the TV show) or something – it didn’t matter; we were together.

I had never felt more myself around someone else. I didn’t have to force myself to be funny in a certain way, or pretend to be a Cool Girl. He didn’t care that I spoke my mind or that I had quirks – in fact, he liked these things about me. That was the best part: that he liked me for me, and finally I was enough for someone.

They say that you’ll always see your first love through rose-tinted glasses. And maybe that’s true. That summer was one of my happiest, and I can’t find a single fault in the time we spent together. That time we went to that French comedy club with G’s friend and his girlfriend and had a great time, despite me barely being able to keep up with simple conversational French. That time we walked around Old Montreal, our hands clasped together, and then watched the sunset from the water port. That time I fell asleep while he worked on his homework for his summer course. Every moment of it still remains perfect in my head.

We entered the new school year optimistic about our long-distance relationship. And for a long while, there was nothing to be cynical about. We Facetimed every day, despite having decided to only do so twice a week. I texted him from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep – and he did the same. We watched shows together, and gave each other wake up calls. Long-distance didn’t seem as hard as everyone made it to be.

I wish I could end the story here. I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could freeze that moment in time and live in it forever. But I can’t.

We weren’t perfect. He can be condescending and I can be cold and moody at the same time. We fought, but at the end of the day, we still whispered “I love you” to one another. I sent him a care package filled with his favourite treats; he sent me a box filled with love notes. We weren’t perfect, but we were a team and we would work through things together.

December was rough. I had final exams and essays, and when that was over, G’s finals season began. He started to distance himself away from me, and I chalked it up to stress. After all, I was under a lot of stress too; I couldn’t expect him to want to speak to me as often as before. Besides, he still told me he loved me. G was coming home mid-January, and so I looked to that as my light at the end of the tunnel.

He told me he wanted a break from us on Christmas night.

A few days later, he broke up with me for real.

For months he had been telling me that there have been certain things I was prone to do that made him unhappy. I would be moody at times and take my frustrations out onto him. I would ignore him for hours for something little I was “mad” at. I would take his constructive criticisms as insults to my character. At the time, when he would bring these issues up, I either apologized or told him that’s just how I was. But G was right. He couldn’t bring his troubles to me because I was so consumed by my own frustrations or unhappiness. I was unwilling to be the bigger person at times and put away whatever petty issues I had to support my boyfriend. Sometimes he would ask me to just put aside my anger and just support him – why couldn’t I just be a kind girlfriend? I didn’t take this well – I supported him through times when he thought he wanted to quit his education, through times when his friends seemed to care little about his well-being and friendship. How could he not see that I have been supportive? And now he expected me to just snap back to being his happy girlfriend when it was clear I was unhappy?

Love is about putting your loved one’s needs above your own. Its about willing to be selfless when it matters the most.

I realized this too late.

G began to mention our future together less and less, and I think this was almost a wake-up call for me. What did it mean if he no longer saw us long-term? And so in December, I put the conscious effort in to focus less on myself and be more supportive to him. If he needed space, I would give him that. If he was stressed, I would try to comfort him.

He was right. Only listening to his problems when I was in a good place made it seem like my love was conditional. It wasn’t, but that’s what it seemed like to him. He cited this as one of the main reasons for breaking up with me. He no longer believed that we had the same definition of love, and could not see us as a strong couple, solving our issues together.

This hurt me the most.

I still see forever with G. But he no longer sees that in me. He told me he couldn’t ask me to change myself; it was unfair and he didn’t want me to resent him later on. That’s not how I see it though. People have different languages of love, but in the end, it’s still just love they are expressing. I wouldn’t be changing for him; I would just be learning to better support someone I love, learning to be a more giving person. I unfairly expected him to understand my expressions of love when they were different from his – why couldn’t he see that my radio-silence when I was mad was just to keep him from the harsh words I would surely unleash out of anger? I should have tried harder to learn his language of love, I should have tried for him as he tried for me. Expressing my love for him through ways I would understand it myself was useless; I should have made him feel my love through ways he would understand. G thinks that this might have been too much effort and pain on the part of both of us for it to work. I remain unjaded though: I still believe that love can prevail and sometimes for it to do so, effort needs to be put in.

I’ve never loved anyone before G, and quite frankly, I don’t think I knew how to. I lived in a little vacuum of just me and my own needs. I took his love for granted, and did not treat him how he deserved. But we are how we treat each other and nothing more.

The days following the breakup were hard. I was away on a family ski trip, and when I woke up to the text, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I broke down and told my mom. I was blindsided. My friend asked me, “but…you saw this coming right?” I didn’t. I knew we had our troubles, but I really thought we would last forever. I cried all throughout that trip. When they talk about heartbreak, I didn’t think it meant that your heart would actually hurt. Is there a word for that feeling of having lost something you thought you’d have forever?

I get it, I sound like a 15 year old, Taylor Swift-listening, angst-filled teenage girl. I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve never experienced love and heartbreak before, or if it feels this bad every single time you love someone more than they love you.

G always believed that the world was not black and white. But in this instance, I do believe he sees things as such. He doesn’t think we can last long-term, especially not given the long-distance context. And it’s true: the distance does change things. Perhaps if we lived a block away from each other, I could run over to his place and make him see how much I love him. Perhaps if I could look at him face-to-face, we could work things out with a conversation. Distance allows things to brew and grow worse.

But I also think blaming distance is a cop-out. Our plans for the foreseeable future have been different from the start. We won't be living in the same place for a long time. And our long-term plans differ as well. But for me, these plans can change. Life happens and what city I live in matters much less than who I am with. 

Maybe my naïveté is showing again. I think that if you love someone, you’ll want to make it work no matter what. I still think that love can handle distance, can handle the stress of everyday life – as long as there’s two people who want to make it work. Love is not black and white.

While a very large part of me blames myself and wholly myself for this situation, there is a nagging part of me that asks, “why did he grow cold towards me rather than tell me upfront how he felt?”, “why did he keep telling me how in love he was with me if he was actually so miserable?”, “why isn’t he willing to work things through with me if he does still have feelings for me?” Did he imagine some perfect girl while we were talking online, only to find out that I was imperfect and flawed? Am I so flawed that he would rather give up than try?

I don’t have answers for any of these questions. And perhaps I never will.

I don’t know if anyone is ever going to read this other than me. But I just need to write this down. I need our story to be on something concrete, to exist somewhere outside my head. Otherwise, it feels like I’ve just woken up from a dream, realizing that none of it really happened. Maybe I’m just being dramatic, but I don’t feel shame in feeling anymore. This is how I feel. This is how I love. And I want to be ok with it.

We were supposed to spend January and February together, going on trips, visiting family. He had been planning a surprise birthday weekend and we were supposed to spend Valentine’s Day together. Our first night would have been dedicated to a Star Wars marathon and stuffing ourselves full with food. I had hung up a picture of us on my wall before I left for Winter Break; it’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. I’m not sure if I can bring myself to take it down.

The next month is going to be hard, I already know it. And maybe my worse fears would come true: I’d live my life forever wishing I had been perfect for him, forever missing him, forever loving him. The old me would have closed myself off and held onto this forever. But that’s not who I am anymore. I opened myself up and got hurt…but I also got a lot of love out of it while it lasted, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’m still scared that I’ll never find anyone I’ll love as much as I love him, that I’ll never stop wanting him. But it’s useless to wait around to see if someone can one day love you back as you love them, to accept you as you’ve accepted them. If he can't accept that I have flaws, but I am willing to be a better person, then nothing will ever be worth it for him. 

I’ll take this as a learning experience. G taught me how to love. Maybe I can love better in my next relationship.

My friend tells me that the fastest way to get over someone is to find someone else. I don’t know if I can do that just yet. And I don’t know if I need to. I may have lost someone, but I still have an abundance of love: my friends and family have been so willing to support me, so willing to hear me cry on and on. I have more love than I first thought.

Maybe one day I will find someone who is willing to accept me for who I am, while still pushing me to be a better person. For now, I just hope I can be enough for myself.

Post a Comment