At this week’s Shabbat table, surrounded only by close friends, we got to talking about the ‘Mythological Ex’. What is the mythological Ex? That legendary Ex boyfriend or girlfriend: someone who affected you the most, who changed your path, who “got away”, who you still ponder about, who basically is this larger than life concept in your mind: regardless if you are “over” them or not, they loom large in your memory.
We all had these funny stories, one of my friends had almost been seated next to her mythological ex at a wedding…. with his new wife. Another friend laughed when he realized that his mythological ex was getting married next week. Again. One friend giggled when she realized that she’d dated another’s mythological ex. “It could never have worked out”, she laughed, “I knew too much about him”. We all went around, thinking who were these legendary exes in our lives, where were they now, but even more than that, who are we the mythological ex to?
My first relationship with David, before I made Aliyah, was my longest, most intense relationship. Everyone at the table nodded their heads, that he must be my mythological ex. After all, they said, when you talk about “you ex” it’s always in reference to David, rather than someone I dated here in Israel.
I resisted. It’s Ari, I insisted. It must be. I think about the pain in comparison, and it must be Ari. No, everyone repeated, it’s just that Ari’s pain is fresher.
Since that meal, I’ve been thinking about it more and more. I know for certainty that I am David’s mythological ex. I was careless with his heart in the end, something I still regret. For so long, he harbored resentment towards me, anger even. I’ve spent years, hoping he’ll forgive me, hoping he’ll find happiness that will outshine our love, our happiness, so that he can look back at our time with nostalgia rather than regret.
This morning, I walked down memory lane, reading some of our old emails. During the last few months of our relationship, my emails are distant. They mention how I missed calls, refused day trips and was quick and snappy. I was bitter about being in a relationship that I felt emotionally spent in. But from his side, there was so much love. An almost desperate love. He was reaching out, through all modes of communication, reaching out for me, and for all that love that we used to share. It was something I couldn’t give him anymore. It took me awhile to accept this, but once I did, it was something that came down hard on him. A truth he didn’t want to accept, but eventually had to.
Here is an exert from one of our emails, after our breakup, I wrote:
You always did show me love and support, you are such an amazing person. I never stopped caring about you, I just didn’t know how to properly handle the situation. I really tried to put effort into our relationship after we spoke in April, but I realized more than ever, I want to be with myself right now- and I can’t give you what you need in a relationship- I would just be distant, irritable and non-giving- that wasn’t fair to you. But you know this is better- it’s just really painful. I really just want you to be happy- it’s hard to see now, but I know you will find someone who is better for you than me.
What crap it is to tell someone, after you’ve broken up with them, that they’ll find someone better. It took me eons of self discovery to realize I can find better love than Ari.
With the utmost maturity, David wrote me back:
Thank you for saying some of those things. It is really sweet of you. You’re darn right when you say this is going to be very painful. With absolute honestly, all I want in the world for you is for you to be happy as well. Accepting that this is how it has to be for that to happen is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with . I guess time will heal all, right.
You see, a little while David got engaged. Those things I wrote about in my email, they’ve come true. He found someone who could give him the love he needed. Someone better from him. I feel more certain than ever, that despite the fact that I broke his heart in those moments, that every decision I made was right. When I re-read my email, I pained. My heart shifted in it’s place. It’s been enough time, he’s happy.
After our relationship was over, I tried so many times to reach out to David, as a friend. He wouldn’t have it. He bitterly replied to my ‘Shana Tova’ emails. He once told me to stop being nice and reaching out to him. That initial maturity he extended to me disappeared. I didn’t know how to deal with it. David had been in my life for so long, I wanted to be his friend, I wanted some amicable relationship at least, but he wouldn’t give it to me. About a year and a half ago, I gave up. I stopped with the Shana Tova emails, the happy birthday emails. I let him be. I left him alone. And so, when I heard of his engagement, I didn’t know what I should do: should I write Mazal Tov, or just leave it? In the end, I wrote nothing. I didn’t want to be that mythological ex (despite if he had any resentment/anger left towards me or no) butting into his happy moment. I let him have it, without me. After sifting through old emails, I have words for him. My heart aches to just reach out to him one last time. But I won’t. I can’t. And so, instead I’ll say it here.
My young adult life was defined by your love. For so many years, you were more than my boyfriend, you were my best friend, and quite frankly, my life. But when we split paths, I wanted one thing for you: happiness. We were so much to one another, but by the end, we were but bitter souls, grappling for a love that had passed through us. With that realization, I hoped that you would find her one day. And you did. May she be so much more than I ever could. May you know only happiness, support, laughter and love. So so much love. This is what I wanted for you, and now that you have it, I’m happy too. You told me once that time will heal all, right. It did. Mazal Tov.
I guess all this reflection has made me realize one thing: yes. Yes he was my mythological ex.