Living with My Ex-Girlfriend
Some people require space when they breakup with someone, but that’s not how this one went.
My girlfriend and I met on OkCupid. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, and she certainly wasn’t looking for me. I just wanted to get over the last girl that broke my heart – and the last thing I wanted was something else that would emotionally destroy me.
I’ll call her Gaby. I liked Gaby because she didn’t pressure me to date her fully. I liked her because she was down-to-earth and nice. I liked her because she had a strong personality and she liked my jokes. I liked her because she didn’t remind me of anybody else, and that was unbelievably attractive to me.
There was a mutual draw that encouraged us to casually see each other for three months – until I finally gave in and agreed to call it a relationship.
“Okay,” I said one night at a concert. “You can be my girlfriend.”
I chose to ignore the fact that I had already confessed I loved her a few weeks prior, while drunk and walking down the street. She was the sober one in the relationship. To make up for her maturity, I decided to skyrocket my irresponsibility to new heights. “I’ll drink for the both of us,” I often said when we were out in public, and then she’d carry me home late at night. She drove; the truck was often pulled over on side streets so I could vomit up the night’s mistakes.
We dated for eight months and then, when we were both separately looking for new apartments, we decided to move in together.
Though usually objecting to living with a partner after only a brief tryst, I felt different with Gaby. Somehow, her easygoing charm and casual attitude towards life and love took over me. Suddenly, I was in love, and I truly believed that we were meant to be together. She was so level-headed and kind, I could easily see myself spending the rest of my life by her side. She worked as a carpenter, and she was built, internally, like the cabinets she made: strong, sturdy, and dependable. I, on the other hand, was frivolous and complicated, fluttering between jobs and always short on cash. I chain-smoked constantly, but she forgave all my sins, which just made me love her more.
We spent a few blissful weeks putting up our posters and cooking breakfasts for one another, having sex in our bed and watching movies on our couch. We took walks together. We organized our books on the shelf, pooling them together and laughing at all the doubles we discovered. There was no “my stuff” and “her stuff” anymore. It was all our stuff – everything was shared, from the too-small closet that was overstuffed with our piles of black and grey clothing, to the fridge, which usually lay barren, but occasionally held some leftovers and an avocado.
But it was all “cute.” It was all the life I wanted, the dreamy scenes of moving in with a lover, a soft-lit montage of adorable, couply moments – a spot of icing on one’s nose while baking, soap fights while doing dishes, falling asleep on the couch together.
But soap fights started to turn into real fights – I needed order, and Gaby was too tired after her long work days to keep the room as clean as I wanted it to be. She never did the dishes and everything drove me crazy, until I eventually turned into my mother and she couldn’t handle my stress and need for affection anymore.
Shortly after we moved in together, Gaby decided to call it quits. Perhaps we had shared a space too soon. Perhaps I was too desperate, both for cleanliness and attention, so desperate that it disgusted and repelled her the way people say they fall in love – slowly, and then all at once. All I know is that mid-October, I was told I wasn’t loved anymore. I spent a few nights between people's sofas and she spent a few nights on our couch while I tossed and turned alone in the bed. We didn't know our boundaries, and I didn't know where to go. Then we split our stuff into separate rooms, but she still slept in mine, in the bed. I obtained a mattress for myself, so that I could theoretically move out, but I didn’t go anywhere. We just piled them on top of each other to create a makeshift box spring for the room we technically no longer shared.
Neither of us knew how to properly act at home anymore. Should I wash her dishes? Is it crossing the line if she gives me $50 to pay my phone bill? We were unsure, each simple gesture being cross-examined by the other, especially me, that Justin Bieber lyric constantly flashing before me: “What do you mean?” But we never defined the boundaries. The complexities of our new situation – our relationship, taken to the previous level – left us treading water, both several feet away from each other. Unsure of how to act around each other, we tiptoed around, asking awkward, “small talk” style questions (“How was work? It’s pretty cold outside today, isn’t it?”) and kept to separate rooms to watch separate shows and read separate books. Instead of holding hands in public, we stiffly walked by each other’s side. Instead of comfortably sharing a blanket on the couch as we watched a movie, we just bundled up in sweaters and sat a few feet away, one of us texting a friend the whole time. The whole apartment became too big and too small at once. Everything was awkward. A month in, we settled back into the comforts that we already knew – the easiness of being with each other.
Believing there was still some shred of hope left, I started acting like we were still together. I kissed her – if she let me – and she kissed me back. I made us breakfast. I made us dinner. We still slept beside each other, still fucked and held hands and cuddled at home. We watched movies when we were together and hung out with our own separate friends when we were not. The non-relationship we had to foster became the ideal relationship I had always wanted with her, and I hoped the ensuing peace at home would somehow make her love me again.
In other avenues, I tackled the end of my relationship the only way I knew how – by talking to and sleeping with as many people as I could, and by attempting to destroy my body with drugs and alcohol. But Gaby didn't like the idea of me talking to anyone. Meanwhile, I almost lost my mind when she mentioned she thought a mutual friend (not my friend anymore, though) was "cute." I left for the night, upset and frustrated; I was off to see a local band with a few friends. In the middle of the concert, I started panicking and crying uncontrollably. I ran to the bathroom and then left without saying goodbye, dodging the questions of my concerned comrades, who said to each other, "I've never seen Sofie this way."
Of course they hadn’t. Every day was – still is – a new maze to get through, to figure out how to maneuver myself and my feelings around her, around all the obstacles she sets in my path.
It's confusing and difficult, and she's still here. I try to move on, and she's still there, almost preventing me. Pieces of Gaby permeate every layer of my being, making me both happy when I see her and miserable when I realize that she’s leaving soon. I fall in love every morning and get my heart broken every night, when I lie down beside her and remember that we're done, it's over.
Time passes, and though we still live together, I feel the vibes change. It's still weird, it's still difficult because we both have feelings to deal with and clean up. We still live together and I still love her but I can muffle those screams with a bottle of wine a night, with a key bump offered to me by my roommate's boyfriend at two in the morning while watching Jessica Jones, while my former lover sleeps in the bedroom.