You know who I feel bad for? Adele’s ex-boyfriend. Here’s a guy who dates a girl. Probably went to a few of her open mic nights. Maybe put in more effort than he had for other girls because she wouldn’t have sex on the first date. The third time they hung out he got a hand job or something and that kept him around because he really didn’t have any other prospects. Then they finally had sex. It was fine enough. And he likes her but he’s nowhere near madly in love. But he’s seven meetings in and he doesn’t want to be that “disappears after he gets off” guy, so he signs on for meeting eight, nine, and ten. Now, he’s in this full on relationship, because, again, no other prospects and this girl with the really great voice is very sweet. A few months go by and he’s having fun in this relationship and things are generally good but, again, not totally in love. Now a year in, and he figures she can’t really say it was all about the sex because he did his time. He’s going to end it. He’ll tell her this isn’t the right fit and slowly move on. So he does the hardest thing someone can do and tells a person he’s been with naked that he’s done being naked with them. And she comes out with, not one, but TWO, multiplatinum albums that generally hover around the most unanswerable questions ever asked: “Why did we break up?”
I’m sympathetic to Adele’s ex because I’ve been him so many times. My ex never wrote songs that made me cry alone in the car, but I’ve been asked that question — “Why?” And I’ve never found a good answer. I’ve never found an answer that didn’t come back around to another “Why?” I’ve tried “This isn’t the match,” “I’m just too busy for a relationship,” and “You get too mad when I fart,” and no answer is ever satisfactory. Every girl turns into an English teacher that says, “You can do better,” and gives you an extra day to rewrite the homework. But I can’t do better. You don’t think I wrote rough drafts? Those were my best reasons and instead of being done with this homework assignment, I’m sitting here trying to fake cry my way out of it.
It’s almost like girls know the answer they want to hear. But I can’t imagine one response that will get her to say, “You’re totally right, this isn’t the best relationship for both of us, but let’s have sex one more time and never speak again.” The honest answer is that we don’t know. Most relationships end on a hunch. That’s why you’re still texting with your ex. He’s scared he got it wrong. Think of every person you know in a bad relationship. The one who keeps going back to the guy who hurts them time and time again. They don’t know why they go back. And we don’t know why we leave other than “it’s just not it.” Which only leads to another “Why?” And probably a “Who?”
But there’s always a “Who.” Even at our happiest point there was a “Who.” The girl on the subway that made eye contact, the girl behind the Starbucks counter that smiles an extra second, the Instagram account we follow too closely. We’ve wanted to have sex with most of the girls we walked by while holding hands with you. That’s not why relationships end. It’s never choosing one look over another. Yes, people cheat, but I can promise you no guy cums after cheating and thinks he just made a great decision. Even the strongest people can get hungry and eat something unhealthy while the raw nuts sit on the same store shelf.
The question, “Why?” will never end. I understand that. But please don’t beat yourself up about it or create your own reasons. When a relationship ends we want to fix that one thing that makes us the one they left. We want to show that person that we can be the thing they need. But that’s impossible. There’s nothing that can be fixed. It’s just a matter of two puzzle pieces that don’t fit. A metaphor that’s as maddening as the question. These aren’t pounds you can lose, or a dress you can change. These are the things that make you you. Good things that will fit with someone else.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Adele’s next album is called “One Last Question, I Swear.” And I’ll think of that guy. The ex that could have been any of us. The one who just wanted to get laid, then let a relationship go a bit longer than it should have. The guy who you used to tell friends, “Ya, she’s a pretty good singer.” The guy who has spent years rewriting homework assignments. He’s the real hero. He’s the one I cry about alone in the car..