Sex + Love

Juliet and Juliet

What comes after “ever after”?

That year, I read Romeo and Juliet for school and was fascinated by the similarities between the young lovers’ tragic story and ours. Just as Romeo and Juliet had been kept apart by their parents’ prejudice, we were being kept apart by my parents’ refusal to accept our love. We didn’t want to die for each other, but we were so focused on our love that nothing else seemed to matter: not family, not society. We thought of little else but seeing each other. We constantly made plans for a happy future in which we would no longer have to hide our relationship. We’d get jobs and move in together. We’d be financially and emotionally independent from our parents, so their approval would no longer matter. We still emailed each other almost daily and tried to see each other when we could. I’d say I was going to a friend’s house to study after school, when really I’d be going to see Ariel. We’d hang out at friends’ houses when their parents weren’t home rather than in public places to avoid being seen. Totally consumed by our relationship, all through class I’d think of her, and scheme up ways to contact her without being caught. I wrote notes and emails, used pay phones and passed on verbal messages through friends—anything that couldn’t be tracked on my phone bill. When we did manage to find time together, we’d kiss and cry, swearing we’d always find a way, despite anything that might happen to us—our love could overcome anything. One day, Ariel wrote me a note that said: “Will you marry me?” It was illustrated with a cartoon frog drowning in hearts. I laughed, but I also felt incredibly warm and loved. I understood the message: Even though it wasn’t possible according to the law or our families, we’d find a way to be together forever.

Ariel was my first love. I’d had nothing else to compare it to, but our love seemed to contain everything in the world that I’d ever need or want. I had no idea what the future held, but I knew—or thought I knew—that we would always be together, and that it would always be just like this. Because I wanted her so badly, somehow want became need, and that became enough, in my mind, to sustain our love into the future—and beyond. My feelings for her were so intense that they were the core around which I built everything else; I structured my whole life—my whole self—around being with her. And the fact that ours was a FORBIDDEN LOVE only made it feel more important, and therefore worthy of being protected. I felt like I had a single, righteous goal in life: to defend me and Ariel against the forces that would rend us apart. It was love or nothing.

Three years went by like this; eventually Ariel graduated from high school and entered university, which made it harder to get together. A couple years later I joined her at the same college, which I thought would allow us to live a “normal” life like a “real” couple out in the world. In a way, I was right: Ariel had a car, which gave us a little bit of freedom. Sometimes we’d skip classes to wander around the city and talk. On the other hand, I still lived with my parents. Now that my schedule was no longer as uniform as it had been in school, I could be a little more independent from my parents, but all those years of hiding our relationship and fighting with my parents had made me withdrawn and depressed. This manifested in ways I couldn’t seem to control or change: I was struggling with my schoolwork. Because Ariel and I were so used to spending all our time crying and scheming, there seemed to be less to say to each other now saving our relationship was no longer the main topic of conversation. I wasn’t allowed to go out at night, so I couldn’t join her at the bars and rock shows she liked going to. We were both experiencing new things and meeting new people, and we started to have less and less in common. In retrospect, I also wonder if, after so much passionate intensity at the outset, our relationship had simply burned out. It was exhausting to maintain that level of emotion for so many years, but without it, I was unsure what our relationship was based on.

Then, one day early in my freshman year of college, I got a call from Ariel. “Can we meet?” she asked. Her voice sounded flat. She picked me up in her car after I finished class and we drove around the block. “I don’t think we should be together anymore,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. After four years of battling the world around us to stay together, after defying orders from the closest people in our lives just to see each other, she wanted to end it. What had happened? I couldn’t understand it.

“Why?” I asked through my tears. To this day, I can’t remember her answer, because my brain was short-circuiting from the trauma of the moment. Finally, I stopped crying, and she touched my face and simply said, “Goodbye.” I got out of the car and waited for her car to disappear over the horizon. Then I crumpled to the ground and cried in the dirt for hours. Everything I’d fought for over the past four years had collapsed and was crumbling around me. “Forever” had been a lie.

The next year was a haze. I had believed in Ariel and me so much that I’d damaged my relationships with my family and friends and neglected all my other interests. I couldn’t even remember what I was into anymore—I barely even knew who I was without Ariel. I had assumed we’d be together as long as I lived, and I wasn’t prepared for the possibility that there was something after “forever.”

About six months after the breakup, I attempted to shake off the fog. It was my first year out of college, and it seemed like I should be trying to move on, to forge a new life for myself. I forced myself to attend a school-sponsored camp. On the first night, I got a little drunk and a met a guy who seemed interested in me. We kissed, and I felt relieved. Getting together with a new person seemed like what a normal, functioning human would do after a breakup. It was easier, at least, than continuing to dwell on how dead I felt inside. After a couple of months, though, I realized being in a relationship I couldn’t truly be in was cruel, and I broke up with him.

Then one day, after about a year of mourning, I ran into some of my old friends at school, and I was surprised to realize I was happy to see them. When they asked me to have a coffee with them in the sun, instead of saying no and disappearing home like a hermit crab, I said yes. We chatted about trivial things—classes, professors, old school friends—and it hit me: I was finally through to the other side. It hadn’t taken a huge lightning bolt or a love-savior of some kind; I just felt, all of a sudden, more like a normal person who could push on to the next minute, and the next, without wanting to curl up into a ball and die. It was a small victory, but it was something: a little green shoot peeking out after a desolate winter.

Our breakup feels so distant now, but I remember how acute everything felt then, like thousands of knives attacking my heart. Today, though, I can see everything that was wrong with Ariel and me. The fact was, I didn’t know how to be in a relationship. I had no idea how to make an effort to get to know a person beyond attraction and fierce excitement. I didn’t know that to nurture a relationship I needed more than just an iron will and the bravery to face up to others. Though we always talked about forever, I didn’t know what that actually meant: all those dramatic, soul-shattering emotions weren’t enough on their own to keep a healthy relationship going. In some ways, I didn’t know Ariel really at all, and I didn’t know myself. I don’t blame my inexperienced self too much for this; all I knew at the time was us, a unit that had been formed in the most difficult circumstances. All I knew about love—or thought I knew—was “forever,” but now I know that “forever” isn’t about time—“forever” is a feeling. And there’s an after. ♦

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29 Comments

  • Big Red Soda December 16th, 2013 4:30 PM

    Folks, I think I found some typos in third paragraph on second page, will capitalise them below…

    “ENOW that my schedule was no longer as uniform as it had been in school, I could be a little more independent from my parents. And I WAS STARTED TO realize that all those years of hiding our relationship and fighting with my parents had made me withdrawn and depressed”

    “Because Ariel and I WE were so used to spending all our time crying and scheming”

    <3 Veruca Salt <3 (I thought this was a beautiful story, by the way)

  • SparksLefty December 16th, 2013 4:50 PM

    I went through an extremely traumatic drawn out break up about four months ago with a guy I loved way way more than I ever thought was possible. Its been hell trying to get over it and move on. It just hurts so much to go from being loved so deeply to not being loved at all. Not to mention no longer getting to feel the fully realized bliss of getting to feel deep love for someone else. I still have a crippling inability to move on. Every time I feel like I might be able to normal again I end up breaking down in puddle of scream-crying tears within a day or two. Its exhausting and I’m sick of it and really wish that it would end already. But it just won’t.
    It really made me feel better about my length of post-breakup depression to know that you also went through many months of pain before you were able to feel normal again. So thank you so much for sharing your story. It helped me to feel a little less alone and a little less ashamed about my situation. Ive just kept on telling myself to “be a good feminist, be a good feminist” “you are strong and independent and you dont need a man to make you feel complete!” or “listen to Destiny’s Child and be fabulous!” but I’m just in so much pain right now and I just don’t care anymore about being brave and strong. I don’t care anymore about disappointing my 13 year old riot grrrl self anymore. Real true heartbreak is fucking excruciating and I don’t have the emotional endurance to have any dignity right now. All I can do right now is hurt. I dont know what comes after forever for me yet. Hopefully it will be worth it though.

    • soviet_kitsch December 16th, 2013 6:48 PM

      i’ve been there, and trust me, it ends. it took me more than a friggin’ YEAR to get over the chick i was in love with, and it’s hell because that kind of love is addictive and all-encompassing, but you’ll be fine eventually. i know you can’t do it right now but try to remember that this person isn’t your only love and that it is all worth it in the end. best of luck to you <3

    • Nimsi December 16th, 2013 10:47 PM

      I went through the same thing.. a pretty traumatic break up and for while, I was consumed by it.. but you just need to pull yourself out of it, reestablish yourself into your life. Your friends. Family. The people around you. Also, it helps to keep busy, to go out and just try to forget about everything. Once you start becoming your old (or new) self, you’ll find it doesn’t hurt as much.. that there is an “after” once that “forever” ends..

  • kingofcarrotflowers December 16th, 2013 5:08 PM

    listening to Loretta’s flowers by swearin’ whilst reading this – a perfect, comforting combination.

    • thedresscollector December 16th, 2013 11:03 PM

      I’m now obsessed with Loretta’s flowers; it’s been on repeat all day and it’s perfect with this story <3

  • spudzine December 16th, 2013 6:32 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with the world. This is such a raw, vulnerable piece, and it must have taken courage to write and post your heartfelt emotions on the internet. You’re really brave.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • red flowers December 16th, 2013 9:10 PM

    This is such a beautiful article :’). Thank-you for bringing this joy into my day!

    To everyone in the comments, I hope your hearts heal. <3

  • fauna December 16th, 2013 10:48 PM

    incredibly beautiful and reminds me of wistful memories. i ove rookie so much!!

  • daydream December 16th, 2013 11:59 PM

    I love Veruca Salt, they’re great!!

  • Raissomat December 17th, 2013 2:16 AM

    This makes me think about someone.
    A really dear friend of mine is in a relationship with a guy that is not Good to her. (Last thing he did was take her car, wreck it (accidentally) and not pay a dime. Now she is in debt with her dad since she had to buy some car for work.) he broke up with her two years ago and she suffered so bad, she begged for a year and then went back with him. She told me she just felt miserable without him. I will just have to wait until she is done. But I want to kick him.

  • Flossy Mae December 17th, 2013 3:01 AM

    I’m loving the mood board for this month, very Virgin Suicides!x

  • julalondon December 17th, 2013 5:30 AM

    The end of the first long-term-relationship is one of the worst things ever.

  • cabinfeverray December 17th, 2013 6:10 AM

    This article was great since it’s pretty much what happened to me a little over a year ago. I was passionately in love (for the first time) with a 4 year younger girl. We had just started uni and lived in the same dorm. We started hanging out and quickly realised that we got along like a house on fire, I’d never been that happy my whole life. However, her family was not accepting of homosexuality and the lies regarding the extent of our relationship made her withdraw over the summer. I became depressed and lost a lot of weight. When the second year commenced and we were living together in the same house, I convinced her that we should be together since we loved each other. She said she could never imagine coming out to her family and that once uni was over we would have to break up and that maybe it was best to just do it now. I was so in love with her and I could feel that she felt strongly for me, even though she was freaked out. Since I was older, I took it upon myself to try and mentally support her. I noticed she was very conflicted inside and I urged her to just come out and have it over with. She did and her family told her to break up with me or she wasn’t welcome home for Christmas. Being very emotionally dependent on her family’s love she buckled and broke up with me. I felt like someone had gutted me with a knife. I was broken. But we lived together, so not seeing her was impossible. After being officially broken up, we started to fool around again. But not saying we were back together. Then we left for the holidays.

    • cabinfeverray December 17th, 2013 6:10 AM

      Her coming out had resulted in a very cold treatment from her family, despite breaking up with me. When we talked she sounded so depressed and broken, and since we weren’t officially together I felt equally depressed. When I went back to uni we wouldn’t be together, but I still loved her so much. Her pain was my pain. When we came back I lived at a friend’s house for the first couple of weeks. Trying to turn a leaf. But I’d keep bumping into her and then I had to move back and I couldn’t avoid her. So we started hanging out again, and it lead to us getting back together. This time she said she was devoted to me and to the relationship and that she knew that it was what she wanted. She waited with telling her family we were back together, but then told them just before the summer. They reacted as badly as one can react. Threatening to come get her and acting in a very aggressive way. In panic we booked a month-long trip abroad, to clear our heads, get away from all the drama and try to enjoy ourselves. The trip was a disaster. We were both so broken by that point by everything that had happened. Instead of bringing us closer, we felt more secluded and hopeless. The situation wasn’t improved by her sister being attacked and raped and her mother blaming her/us for it. The logic was that if she hadn’t gone on a holiday with me, she would have been there and the rape wouldn’t have happened. I had never felt so sick with grief, anger, disbelief at another person’s evilness in my life. We came back to uni for our third year.

      • cabinfeverray December 17th, 2013 6:12 AM

        Decided to be living apart, so that we could enjoy being together, we still spent every day with each other. Become recluses and alienated from friends and uni life. We were both incredibly depressed. I started making friends in my class and a classmate started showing interest in me. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have been interested back, but being emotionally marred and starving for some normalcy, this crush felt good. My girlfriend started feeling incredibly insecure. It didn’t help that on Christmas, by flight was cancelled so I couldn’t go home. The option of spending it with my girlfriend and her family was out of the question, and she didn’t offer to stay with me – but my classmate invited me to spend it with his family. I felt so disappointed in my girlfriend for choosing her family over me and also really didn’t want to be alone, so I went with my classmate. He was treating me really nice throughout the holidays and my feelings for him strengthened. But I also knew, deep down, that the one I truly loved and wanted to be loved by, was my girlfriend. And after everything we had been through, I wasn’t about to dump her for a guy. When we came back from the holidays, my girlfriend and I moved back in together. It was a money issue more than anything. I was depressed. Had no interest in sex and our relationship felt like a prison. My girlfriend had stopped talking to her family. But by the summer they reconciled with some vague promises of them maybe one day getting over her being with me. She was ecstatic over this, feeling it was a great victory.

        • cabinfeverray December 17th, 2013 6:12 AM

          I was by this time indifferent to everything. She felt that the storm had been ridden out. I felt like the storm had taken me over, drawn me into the deepest darkest pits of the ocean. We both worked at the uni through the summer and in our final year we were going to live with friends. It was our last chance to reconnect and just be happy together. I did my damndest to try and get over all the trauma the previous three years had contained. We were in a type of limbo. My sex drive had not returned and we were arguing a lot. But we did still love each other. And we had come so far. We graduated. We travelled. We talked about getting jobs in the same city together. I asked about moving to my home country instead, after visiting and mutually loving the capital. She said yes, that it could be an adventure. I got a job and was ready to move. But by then she’d moved back home and kept coming up with excuses why she couldn’t come with me straight away. I kept waiting and hoping she would finally move in with me. Finally I demanded that if she really wanted to be with me, which she kept insisting, she should come and at least give it a chance. Just for a month. She cried but said no. I cried like I never had and finally realised that it was over. This was a little more than a year ago. I’m still in love with her. We just recently started sending messages to each other and I keep checking my phone to see if she has replied. I can’t get over her. It’s like a curse. This love is something I can’t get over. I have been with others but my heart isn’t in it. Forever is a curse.

    • SparksLefty December 17th, 2013 11:52 AM

      Thank you for telling your story. I can tell how true and honest it is. I know how much it hurts. Forever truly is a curse. I know now that I will NEVER promise that to anyone ever again.
      Fuck forever.

      • cabinfeverray December 18th, 2013 9:42 AM

        Thank you for appreciating my story. It was a bit cathartic writing it here and it actually made me feel better. I don’t mean to say that some people experience more pain than others, but I do think that queers feel more alone in this. It’s not just about a relationship, it’s about a whole heteronormative world being against you. It can make you feel defiant and like a warrior, becoming more determined to not let them get you down. But honestly, who wants to fight against the world forever?

  • abigail_stardust December 17th, 2013 1:33 PM

    This makes so much sense to me, because I just ended a relationship with a girl a few weeks ago- she’s 14, I’m a junior, and we tried every way of being together but my parents repeatedly found us out and our schedules and our lives were incompatible. It’s really hard- I still love her more than anything. But I’m realizing that she is not the entire world, and things and people exist that are still not her, but I can find some solace in.

  • pizzaface December 17th, 2013 4:10 PM

    This is such a strong article. And I had a similar thing happen to me too, so this article really get’s into me, you know what I mean?

  • lexilikes December 18th, 2013 7:26 AM

    Beautifully powerful piece <3

    http://www.lexilikes.com

  • selinau December 22nd, 2013 1:53 PM

    It’s been a while since I enjoyed reading something so much as this. I could actually feel the feelings you felt, you wrote them down. Wow, I only wish this was an entire book, not just an article. It really saddens me that this was so short, oh please write a whole book of your forbidden love and growing up together. Perfect. I’m still astonished of the feelings this gave me. Thank you!

    selinanoma.tumblr.com

  • hoggster December 31st, 2013 11:39 AM

    For this reason, me and my boyfriend vow never to promise forever. We have been together for a year and a half and we love each other so much. He went to uni and after much deliberation we stayed together, it works well most of the time and he is back for the holidays now, have just had the most fantastic couple of weeks together and we are going to a party tonight :) However, next year when I leave college I’m going to the other side of the world for half a year – terrified of being without him (though I will be with my best friend so that’s awesome :D ). We always told each other that we would never tie each other down – him with uni, me with my gap year, but still I know we want to be together, it’s a hard decision but it will have to work whichever way. We are quite different but it has always been a good thing, being opposites. I hope we will be together a long time yet :)

  • zoesunicorn January 10th, 2014 11:49 PM

    You should write a book about this, and I’m serious.

  • GLW January 20th, 2014 10:38 PM

    This article is the first thing I’ve ever read that has captured in words what I am going through right now.

  • inkandhonesty February 25th, 2014 1:03 AM

    This is so relevant to me right now, you have no idea. I’m a sophomore, and this year I began to date a senior girl. It was the first time I dated a girl, but like you, it felt natural. I never felt the need to “come out”, I just liked this person who happened to be a girl. I felt the way you did. I saw her as someone so much cooler than I was, and I was surprised when she asked me out.
    A few days ago, my parents found out about us. We had a long, teary, horrible conversation. They forced me to break up with her, and even called her to tell her all the reasons why and to make sure she stayed away. Unfortunately, I don’t see how we could continue on like you and Ariel. I know I’ll be ok, but right now it hurts like hell every time I see her.
    I just felt the need to share this. Thank you.