dating

'After two years of silence, I received a startling message from my ex-boyfriend.'

They say that after a break-up, you should cut off all communication with an ex. For me and my ex-boyfriend, Dean*, our messy break-up ensured that neither of us wanted to keep in touch.

I told him that he had become too much to handle and I was feeling suffocated, he yelled that if I needed a break, he wasn’t going to wait around for me. After that heated discussion, we ended our four-month relationship and didn’t speak for two years, until he slid into my inbox one Wednesday afternoon.

Just Friends

I met Dean just after I had finished the HSC. We were both volunteering at our local radio station, where we bonded over the fact that we were two of the youngest people working the phone lines.

Over the two days that we were there, we were inseparable and spent more time talking to each other than speaking with people on the phone.

I learned that he was a first-year science student, who had a passion for radio. His father and brother both worked in the media industry, so he had decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps and delve into the world of science.

He spoke with such passion and intelligence that I found myself crushing hard after only knowing him for a couple of hours. I was so enamored that I went home after my last shift at the station and looked up the ATAR requirements for the journalism course at the uni he was attending and changed my UAC preferences so it was my top choice.

The following January when the offers were released, I practically jumped for joy when I found out I’d been offered a place. Dean was the first person I told and he was happy that I’d be studying at the same uni.

Despite being on the same campus, we rarely saw each other during my first year. I was an Arts student, who mainly hung out in the library, while he only visited the science buildings and nearby bars.

We mainly kept in touch via Facebook and had sporadic conversations, but they were infrequent enough for me to start a relationship with a guy I went to high school with and for him to date one of the women in his degree. It wasn’t until I was in my second year and both of our relationships had ended that things started to pick up.

The Relationship

Our sporadic Facebook conversations became more frequent and we started talking every day, discussing uni events, politics, and our failed relationships. We eventually began to know each other on a deeper level than before and the crush I developed long ago reignited.

After a few months of speaking, he eventually revealed that the crush was mutual, so we decided to meet up for coffee to chat about it. It was on the uni lawns with takeaway coffee cups that we decided to start our relationship.

Like all relationships, we had our honeymoon period where everything was great. We’d meet up on dates and speak for hours, just sitting on the uni lawns. However, as we got to know each other more, things started to shift in a difficult direction.

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Dean revealed that he had been struggling with crippling depression and anxiety for a few years now, which had prevented him from moving forward with his life. He had failed most of his classes because of his inability to finish assignments and exams, and he’d fallen out of love with what he was studying.

I tried to help him through it and suggested that he talk to someone, which he did immediately. He was prescribed medication, which he hoped would help. We spent one of our dates on the lawns discussing the medication and how he was going to make sure he took it because he believed that I deserved to be with someone who had their life together.

Things were okay for a while, but we eventually started to get frustrated with one another.

talking to an ex
Image supplied.

I was angry that he wouldn’t come with me to uni events because he was always at the bar with his friends. He was annoyed that I kept suggesting that he defer his uni course for a year to pursue radio training at another uni.

Despite the tension, we were always still in contact. If we weren’t with each other, we were constantly texting to the point I’d have to charge my phone every few hours. Perhaps that was our mistake.

After a while, we reached an impasse. I couldn’t handle the constant contact. My friends had started to tell me I was acting distant and I was missing events and conversations because I was consumed by my phone.

When I suggested during one of our lawn dates that we take a break for a while, so I could regroup, Dean became upset. He said I was either in this relationship or out and that he didn’t want to go on a break. If I needed a break, he wasn’t going to wait for me. At that moment, I knew it was best for both us if things ended, so I stood up and walked away.

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The messaging stopped the moment I left. I deleted his number from my phone and deleted him from Facebook. It was unlikely that I was ever going to hear from him again.

Reconnection

Two years later, I was walking through my office and pulled out my phone to text a friend. I came to a complete stop and almost hurled up my lunch when I looked at my screen and saw a message from Dean.

It took my entire lunch break for me to work up the courage to open it, my curiosity eventually winning over the idea of deleting it without reading it. It wasn’t a spectacular message. He simply said ‘Hey, how are you going these days?’.

I decided to leave the message until I got home from work, giving me enough time to think about whether I wanted to reply. I did, writing an equally unimpressive ‘Not bad. You?’. What ensued was a conversation unlike any we’d had before. It was like both of us put down our guards and were completely upfront with each other, in a way that we weren’t when we were dating.

We caught each other up on what had happened in our lives. I’d finished my degree, gotten a job unrelated to it and finally moved out of home.

He had deferred his degree and attended the radio course and was about to land a sound producer’s role. It was strange that he remembered all the tiny things about me, like my love for Harry Styles and that our inside jokes were still second nature to both of us.

Having dated him and knowing that we were never going to get back together gave me the courage to be direct and blunt during our conversation and it had a similar effect on him. When I asked why he had messaged me after so long, he simply said that he’d had a fleeting thought about me and genuinely wanted to know how I was doing.

After a brief discussion of the people we’d seen since each other, the conversation came to an end. When I looked up at the clock, I was surprised to see that we’d spoken for three hours. We haven’t spoken again since.

In a way, the conversation was cathartic. We both know that the other person is doing alright and that they’ve moved on. Part of me has always wanted to reach out to him and say sorry for the way things ended.

After talking to him, I know that neither of us needs to say sorry and neither of us needs to be forgiven.

* Name has been changed.

Ashley Chegwyn is a freelance fashion, lifestyle and entertainment writer based in Sydney. Apart from her love of writing, she also loves travelling, Netflix and Harry Styles. You can follow her on Instagram here or Facebook here, and you can visit her website here

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