A couple of years ago, a friend of mine needed me to check on her husband, Michael, to make sure he had not killed himself.
Earlier that evening, Michael (the ex-husband) had confessed to my friend that he had been entangled in a two-year-long sexual affair. His mistress was pregnant, and she was probably keeping the baby. Michael was a doctor, and she was originally his patient, and he was likely going to get fired from his practice because his medical partner had caught them sixty-nine-ing in an exam room. As if the story couldn’t get any more scandalous, Michael was also likely going to lose his medical license because the partner was pissed.
Upon being punched in the gut with this shocking and horrifying news, my friend packed up their daughter, checked into a hotel, and told Michael to jump off a cliff and die. Then, a few hours later, she called me worried that Michael would actually do the thing she commanded, and jump off a cliff (or more likely a bridge) and die.
She was too angry to check on him herself, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you could bother the police with at this point she said, so she assigned the job to me.
So I left and was prepared for a tough scene. I didn’t think I would find a cold body or anything, but I assumed Michael would be inconsolable, unrecognisable, and incoherent. He had, in one night, lost everything: his wife, his daughter, his work, his future, his name, his legacy, his money. It is still crazy to me how one bad decision (to keep your dick in your pants) can murder your entire life, and yet, we flawed humans never learn.
When I banged on Michael’s door, hoping he was not hanging from the chandelier, I also hoped he would not want to talk about what had happened.
I knocked again and again. Nothing.
Suddenly things got real. What if Michael wasn’t going to kill himself, but he was going to kill me? I mean, according to my friend, he was a “fucking” sociopath. Or maybe he was the murder-suicide type. I didn’t really know him but he could definitely be a monster.
Finally, I heard some commotion inside. Then I heard footsteps coming. And suddenly the door swung open and there was Michael. No slit wrists. No bloodstained goodbye note. Just Dr. Cheater, drinking beer, chitchatting with his girlfriend on the phone.
“Hey, you!” he said nearly buoyantly to me. “Sorry. I had to put a shirt on. I thought you were the burrito guy.” Burritos? “Uh, nope. No burritos,” I replied voter cautiously. “I was just checking on you.”
Michael told his girlfriend he would call her right back. Then he came out and we sat on his doorsteps in front of the apartment. Stylish. According to Michael, he and my friend had been planning to get divorced for several years. She started throwing around the D-bomb right after they got married, like seven years ago. He only started the affair after they agreed to basically “fake” their marriage for the sake of their daughter, until she went to school. In other words, according to Michael, this marriage was totally over. So, he met someone else who lit up his life, and he felt free to go for it. There wasn’t much guilt involved, for him. As for his work repercussions, the aftermath wasn’t nearly as fatalistic as my friend had made it sound.
We have all heard the expression, “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.” His side of the story was very different from hers.
My friend: I was sick to my stomach, wondering if he was going to jump off the bridge or shoot himself in the head.
Michael: It was a very stressful situation. The Burrito Shack had the chunkier guacamole, but Mama Mexican delivers those crunchy tacos…..
The reality is, both sides of a breakup is a creative exploration that doesn’t make a dent in understanding how or why a relationship decays. If love is the greatest mystery of all, then death is even more inexplicable. We are hardwired to be, at once, fixated on our hearts and completely dumbfounded by what lives inside them. That’s just the way it is. No wonder love makes us insane.
Unlocking the details of a bad breakup might help with self-growth or self-compassion, but it won’t make saying goodbye, or letting go, any easier. But I say goodbye to my wild 20s and the jazz-saxophone-guy who couldn’t keep it in his pants; the CEO with his tragic cheating habits; the artist who had a minor stroke every time he ejaculated; that guy who liked the feeling of my feet on his penis a little too much; the rabbinical guy who just wanted to snuggle; the recovering sex addict who didn’t seem so recovered; the dog walker who reeked of beer and weed; the banker who was into Botox injections; the perfect man….. with the micropenis (because of course); the army guy whose penis was so big that no one could possibly have sex with him; and the Russian who, after a morning-after coffee, said he had to go “poo-poo-ca-ca” and I couldn’t so much as look at him again.
I am making peace with it all even though closure is for real estate, not love stories.