7. A person who will abandon their dog will also abandon you.
In relationships, people give us clues about who they really are as a person. Often, soooo often, we ignore them.
In 2013, I fell loopy-in-love with a man with whom I worked. Like me, he was an English teacher with an additional certification in special education. Beyond that, we didn’t have a lot in common. For example, he despised most music produced after 2000. An adult conversation about sex would send him into a bug-eyed panic. He believed that children, including our students, should be seen and not heard. And, also, he had commitment issues.
Most of this I didn’t learn about until it was too late. I was already in the blinded-by-love phase when these facts came to light By then, he’d already extracted a promise from me, that I would not be like everyone else in his life: I would not give up on him.
Right after the first time we told each other ‘I love you,’ he broke up with me in a Starbucks parking lot. Didn’t even take a girl inside. We sat in his car and he told me this relationship was all too much for him.
Oh. Wait. Amusing backstory. The week prior, he’d decided that the dog he adopted, a gorgeous Great Pyrenees named Snow, was too much for him to handle. So he abandoned her. Also, due to incredibly high stress at work, and the fact that I had to put my cat Beast to sleep, I had developed shingles.
Yet he broke up with me. On a Friday after work. In a Starbucks parking lot.
Harken back to that promise I’d made, though… In spite of all that he’d done, a few weeks later, he asked me to give him another chance.
And I did. Also, after bouncing Snow between my relatives, I managed to find a home for her. My cousin’s wife had a family member with a fenced yard, and they took her in.
Flash forward a year. The Boyfriend and I were still together. Not particularly happy, if I’m to admit now. My child despised him, but I didn’t believe Park would like anyone I dated, so friction ensued. Also, The Boyfriend was experiencing some heavy issues with alcohol, which impacted our sexual and social lives. Then, his career took a hairpin turn when our principal placed him into my classroom as my assistant.
This prompted an unexpected shift in our relationship. We started looking at alternatives to teaching in the US, leading us to apply for a teaching program in Korea.
Both of us got in. We were ecstatic. This was a huge way to start fresh and build our life and family together.
Only, once we arrived in Korea, The Boyfriend suffered dreadful culture shock. He hated life there. Hated it. He refused to engage in any of the activities suggested for overcoming what is often a difficult transition, and within a few weeks, he grew sullen, withdrawn, and dependent upon me as a source of comfort.
Meanwhile, Park and I looooooved Korea. Living in another country granted us unparalleled freedom, and the people in Seoul treated us with a blend of kindness and curiosity. Basically, we felt like celebrities wherever we went, and many of the friends we made there are still our friends today.
However, The Boyfriend did not stick around. He pulled a midnight run at his school, paid cash for a plane ticket, and then, when I walked him through the airport to security, he left without looking back. (I wrote a short story called Cherry Squid about the experience, which was later published in Escape Pod Magazine.)
Did he break up with me? Nope. He persisted in this couples charade until my grandmother died in February of 2016, the event that finally called Park and me back home.
At first, The Boyfriend assured me he’d be there for my grandmother’s funeral. Then, via text, he revised his plans, stating that he’d go to karaoke with his brother instead, and then maybe he and I could get some coffee and have a little talk.
This from a man who abandoned his dog, and then abandoned me and my child in a foreign country. He would now ditch my grandmother’s funeral for karaoke followed by a break-up chat over coffee.
Fuck. That. Noise.
Then he said, “But I don’t want to lose our friendship. It means a lot to me.” Again, in text, not in person, like a grown up.
So I finally said to him what I should have said four years before: “Why would I want a friend who would treat me so terribly?”
Immediately, he unfriended me. Then he began to tell his family and friends that we never went to Seoul as a couple. We went separately, as colleagues. Which is hilarious, because the last time I saw his Dad, he hugged me, told me he loved me, and said he was glad his son wasn’t going off to another country all alone.
It feels really, really good to write this all out. It’s even better because the lessons learned here apply to all relationships, not just romantic ones.
The ex-Boyfriend was a dick. He displayed his dickness early on in the relationship, well before he broke up with me in a parking lot. I shouldn’t have been shocked that he abandoned us in Seoul, when he showed me the kind of person he was by surrendering his dog to me back home.
I was shocked, though. And hurt. And furious, because I wanted to believe he was better. There’s a quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboski that goes, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” It is painfully, heartbreakingly true.
Back then, I reasoned I was lucky to be in a relationship, that as an older woman with a child, I basically had to take what I could get. Even so, I felt determined to transform our relationship into something beautiful. I would not give up on him, and I would show him what it meant to truly be loved.
I did that for him, but I neglected what I needed for myself. He was a bad friend, an even worse boyfriend, and ultimately, a bad person. No amount of love could transform what we had into gold because he lacked the basic elements.
He let me know it, too; I simply chose to ignore it.
Here’s the flipside of this coin. When life overwhelms you – and it will – don’t abandon your dog to the sucker you know will take her for you. That’s bad friending.
Instead, make a plan. Communicate your feelings. Let your friend, partner, sibling, know you’re going through it, but that you will BE there until you’re able to follow through.
Otherwise, you’re just an asshole who dumps a puppy. Nobody wants to be that guy. And nobody should date him.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the final three life lessons I’ve learned in the last decade. If you’ve kept with me so far, thank you! May your days stay bright and your stars keep shining.
Here’s the previous blog post: 10 Things I’ve Learned in the Last Decade, Part Three