I met Alex* on Hinge and immediately thought he was different. Not only did he actually ask me questions and seem genuinely interested in the answers – a rarity in my experience – but he was proactive and unafraid of showing that he liked me.
We had a lot in common, too, from our favorite books to gigs we both wanted to go to. It was the first time I’d met someone that I could actually envisage some sort of future with; he said the same to me.
Things got intense quite quickly and soon we were spending half the week at each other’s places. After about two months, I realized I was falling in love with him. But I wasn’t sure he felt the same, so I waited to see if he’d say it to me first.
By five months, when Alex still hadn’t said it, I was starting to get restless. Christmas was coming up (didn’t Richard Curtis always tell us that it was an ideal time to tell someone you love them?) I figured there was no better time to at least give it a go and tell him how I felt.
One afternoon, we had arranged to go to the cinema to see cats and I had booked a really sweet pub nearby for dinner afterwards. The plan was that I’d tell him there over a bottle of Malbec.
But as we sat there, hands knuckle-deep in popcorn, I realized I couldn’t bear to sit through this entire absurd film without getting my feelings off my chest. So, midway through one of the trailers, I squeezed his hand from him and turned to him and said, “I’m thinking of saying something to you …”
He looked a bit disturbed and replied bluntly, “Oh. OK.” Hardly the encouragement I’d been hoping for. Nonetheless, I persisted.
“What would happen if I did?” I asked him. He replied, “Oh, um, well, I wouldn’t be able to say it back.”
There was silence. What felt like three hours later I finally just thought I’d get it over with. “Right. Well, I love you,” I blurted out. He looked at me vacantly and replied, “thank you”. Then we both turned back to look at the screen.
Two trailers later, my cheek felt wet and I realized I was crying. I quietly got out of my seat and walked out of the cinema. Alex followed me and, long story short, we both sat down in the foyer and had “the breakup conversation.” There was a lot of “it’s not you, it’s me”, “I’m just not in the right headspace for a relationship right now” and other insipid platitudes.
Despite everything, I tried hard to fight for the relationship, clinging on to the past five months and listing all of the reasons why we were good together. But ultimately, Alex kept saying the same thing. He didn’t feel the same way and he probably never would, for reasons he never properly explained.
So, once we had completely exhausted the conversation, and the Odeon asked us to leave because they were closing, we walked to the tube station, said goodbye, and never spoke again.
The breakup sent me into a bit of a brief depression. I did everything you’re supposed to do: see friends, go out loads, and book a yoga retreat in Mallorca that nearly bankrupted me. None of it worked.
But after five weeks or so, the emotional shock and sting of rejection lifted and I started to reflect on the relationship with a more realistic lens.
I realized that Alex and I went way too quickly at the beginning. The relationship had basically overshot itself and had nowhere to go. The fact that I had started to feel better in quite a short amount of time also assured me that I probably never loved him anyway.
This all happened over Christmas before the pandemic, so when that hit, I was really grateful I didn’t have to deal with Alex not wanting to isolate with me. Looking back, the breakup really helped me to re-evaluate who I was with a partner and what I wanted next.
I thought I’d be single for ages. But the funny thing is, as the cliché goes, just when I didn’t think there was any possibility of a relationship, in full lockdown, someone materialized. We met on Bumble and now, two years later, I’m pregnant with our first child together. If that breakup with Alex had something to do with how happy I am now, I can only be grateful he didn’t say “I love you” too.
*Names and details have been changed to maintain anonymity
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.