Warning: Long and rambling and yes, I know the SDMB isn’t a personal blog and all that. Still, I feel like I needed to at least write and post it.
We met in college. Specifically, I was downstairs in the lounge of our dorm working on my physics homework and she approached me for some help. That first meeting turned into a repeated study session for the rest of the year, where over time we established that she was bad at Newtonian mechanics while I was bad at electromagnetism. But we both got through the class and spent some time together besides studying. After that, we never had any classes in common. I continued on to get my degree in chemistry, while she eventually dropped physics and wound up writing her own major (you can do that at this college) which was basically a combination of history and physics. During that time, we still spent some time together in some sort of nebulous friend zone of not-quite dating and definitely not a full-blown couple. I learned later from other friends that they were sure we were actually dating, but it never seemed that way to me. Anyway, over time we drifted apart. Perhaps neither of us were really sure what we wanted, but by graduation I was looking ahead to graduate school and she was going to start working near her parents’ home. We said goodbye at graduation and I figured I’d never see her again.
About two years into graduate school, she decided to track me down. I had had little luck dating in the interval and had decided I needed to focus on both myself and my lab work. I don’t remember if I had ever told her the specifics of my plans, but in any case she found me. We started talking a little over the phone and some more over instant messaging. We eventually made plans for her to come out for a visit over Christmas and I’d show her around some–where I lived, up to visit my parents, a couple places in the state, and so on. By the end of that week we were a couple. The next three months were consumed with making plans. Neither of us were that happy with a long-distance relationship (something in the range of 2,000 miles) and she decided that she was going to quit her job and move in with me while I finished my Master’s degree and found a job. She moved in around mid-April, having flown in with a couple of suitcases. After a little while, she got a job in the area that she could walk to as she didn’t have her car and I, despite my best efforts, couldn’t manage to teach her to drive mine with its standard transmission. Eventually, at the end of the summer, we flew back east. I was going to a conference to interview for some jobs and she was going to visit her family. We spent another week driving her car back across the country and had a great time doing so.
Finally, the search paid off. I had a job! It may have been the depths of the recession, but I had a job! They were going to pay relocation and everything. Fairly soon afterwards, I proposed and we were engaged. I defended my Master’s thesis and we packed up and drove across the country to this new city (our household goods following us later) to set up in a townhouse apartment. She got a job through a temp agency a couple months later and I thought everything was going to be okay. She didn’t really like the job and hated the commuting but at least it was something.
Then the arguments started. Over money and all sorts of things that have to be dealt with when actually running a household. And over long-term plans as well–buying a house, having children, even just finding a new job and moving in a few years. But I thought it was okay–after all, couples do argue and I thought the good times were more than the bad times. However, it got worse and worse. Work was getting bad, she was stuck as a perma-temp, and although I went looking for a new job, there was not much to be found as the largest companies had started buying out, merging, and laying off thousands. Plus, while the economy overall was starting to pull out of the recession, hiring was still way down and I simply couldn’t find much to apply for. But at least I still had my job and eventually it started looking better. The company started doing better, I finally got promoted, she finally went from being a perma-temp to a full-time employee and I thought things were looking up.
However, they weren’t. We were still arguing a lot. Sometimes it was over money, sometimes over living arrangements, but most of the time it was simply over living here. Not the apartment, which we were still in several years later, but the whole area in general. Eventually, I found a couples counselor and we started going every other week or so, hoping that he could help get us over our problems and really back together. There were good times and bad times, but I thought it was helping. We were still having problems, but at least I thought we were making progress.
We’d been going to counseling for about 18 months when it feels like it all collapsed at once. Over time, she’d become more and more insistent that she didn’t want to live here. She’d tried to find me jobs to apply for while still not understanding what it is I do and then get angry when I would say I didn’t think I was qualified for or interested in them. In the meantime, I was trying to find a new job myself, being somewhat unhappy in my work and ready for a change, but without success. Some phone interviews, sure, but nothing progressing past that stage. She accused me of sandbagging interviews, of trying to make her miserable (specifically by refusing to move without a job already in place), of only being interested in the money she was making, and of all sorts of other things. I had pretty much convinced myself that this relationship had to end, but it still didn’t make it easier for me.
So when I came home from work to her talking to her mother about making plans to leave, I didn’t know how to feel. If it’s truly over and she just wants to do this as cleanly and nicely as possible, I should count my blessings that it’s not going to be ugly or vindictive. We never actually married and instead it’s just been one long engagement. There are no children to worry about, no property to sell, no divorce paperwork to deal with, and nothing to show for years of life together. I always hoped that somehow we could still make this work, that somehow we could be happy. I guess I fell in love with an idea and an image and not a real person.