Graceful endings > Having the last word
Being put in the hot seat while someone you love lists out all the ways you’ve contributed to the downfall of the relationship sounds like a bad dream, right? For me, it was a reality at the end of my first serious relationship.
Months after the break up, I agreed to go on a video call while my ex let me have it for nearly two hours. I sat there mutely like a confused criminal awaiting her unsolicited sentence, listening without retort as he picked apart all of my flawed behaviors, called me emotionally abusive, and demanded an apology for the damage I’d caused him. He cast his final judgment.
“You’re a prick.”
That’s the last thing I remember him saying to me.
I was too inexperienced and numb to respond with anything of substance. I merely ended the call, not wanting to drag it out any longer.
Nearly three years together, and that’s where it had ended. With me being the bad guy.
It was a shock. I saw myself as a very likeable, caring, and agreeable person. His assessment was at odds with that self-image. How could I just ignore such a sharp accusation from someone who had loved me?
I struggled with the possibility that he was right. To at least one person in this world, the truth was I sucked. Maybe I did transform into some kind of nightmare in relationships? I had no other ones to compare my behavior to.
“You’re a prick” followed me around for years. It overshadowed all the bright, colorful parts of our past. No matter what friends, family, and future loves told me, I felt insidious in some way.
It took years with a licensed therapist for me to accept that I wasn’t, in fact, a prick or emotionally abusive (definitely helps to have a medical professional adamantly tell you that). With the cloud of self-doubt thinning, I could see what was objectively true about our relationship, and what had been projected onto me.
Looking back, I wish we’d both bowed out more gracefully, but it was a lesson very much worth learning. How we carry ourselves in our relationships matters, especially so when they end. That’s often the part that tests our character the most, and the part of us that stays with others long after having the last word.