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What I Learned After A Cool-Off With My Boyfriend

We don’t own our partners, and they don’t own us.
PHOTO: Chris Clinton

My boyfriend and I had been happily dating for three years when we decided to take a cool-off. It wasn’t because of a fight. One night, when I gently confronted my boyfriend about a pet peeve I have with him, he burst into tears and told me there was a voice inside him making him doubt that I’m the one for him. He explained to me that the voice is absent when we’re together. That when we’re together, he’s completely happy; everything is perfect. It’s when we’re alone that it comes out.

We broke up that night, got back together three hours later, and twenty hours after that, decided to take a week’s worth to cool off. We agreed to only text “good night” and “I love you.”

It wasn’t the ideal set-up, especially not when I’ve believed for three years that my boyfriend was the one for me. Surprisingly, though, I was cool with it. Here are some of the best things I learned or realized from the whole experience, divided into sections “Romantic Love,” “Friendship,” and “Self-love”:

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~*Romantic Love*~

You can be wrong about the person whom you think is the one for you, even when you think it’s impossible.

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This one’s obvious, but it’s different when you yourself go through it. I thought I’d never go through this with my boyfriend. I relied on the line “You just know” when explaining how I know. It’s too soon to say if I’m wrong about him being my life partner. But the fact is that other people have been mistaken about the same thing. And more painful to admit is that yes, your partner can be unsure about you. It takes time for some people to be sure about their partners, and that’s okay, if not normal. Surprisingly, I didn’t (and don’t) mind his uncertainty or my disillusionment. To be able to move on and be happy, I know I just have to roll with the punches—to be humble enough to acknowledge that I might not be the one for him, that my gut feel is skewed.

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If that person loves you with all his heart, you can’t just let him say, “We’re going to break up in the future anyway.”

Who’s to say he’s right that you’ll go your separate ways down the road, and that you’re wrong if in your heart you still feel he’s the one for you? And to top that of, when he also loves you just as much? Like my boyfriend, someone who’s confused and doesn’t know what he wants needs some sense talked into him; so while you may be emotional about him dropping the bomb, you need to help him clear his head.

Still, you have to respect his wishes.

The cool-off was his idea. I was worried when he proposed that we don’t talk for a week. What if he has a change of heart and no longer loves me afterwards? (I wanted to say to myself “So what?” but I couldn’t manage it.) He said he needed time off to figure things out, like what it would take for him to be sure that I was or wasn’t it. I agreed because I wanted to help him. The relationship and cool-off isn’t just about and for me; it’s about him and it’s for him, too. And if we were to work, I want us to be able to say that we did what we could to be able to sort things out.

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It’s stupid to break up with someone you’re not yet sure is or isn’t the one.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a match made in heaven, which will surely lead to marriage. There are a number of us who enter a relationship out of love and still want to see where the bond will go. That said, relationships, for many of us, are still a way for us to get to know the other person, to find out why we want or don’t want to be with him. Breaking up with someone you love because you don’t know how things will turn out is bizarre. And in my boyfriend’s case, that includes not knowing why you’re unsure about a person and what would make you certain. We should all know something before making a decision, right?

You don’t have to want to marry your partner right now.

You might be wondering what the point is of being with someone if it’s not to marry him. A relationship sounds like an utter waste if the prospect of marriage isn’t even entertained. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The “end goal” of a relationship for me while I’m in my early 20s is to love wholeheartedly and to be happy with someone. Why can’t we just love and enjoy every second of it? It’s also beautiful to live in the moment and not think of wedding bells, even when you believe you’re with The One. It has a way of making the present feel more palpable, like time just slows down. Anyway, aren’t love and happiness enough?

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We don’t own our partners, and they don’t own us.

I’ve become clingy to the point that I wanted my boyfriend to report his plans to me—you can say I was behaving like a mom. And when he wouldn’t and instead went about his own way, I’d get pissed. The cool-off allowed me to step back, calm down, and trust that he’ll be okay. On another level, the quick breakup and cool-off reminded me that people come into our lives and leave when they want. They’re free to do that. It’s not for us to make them stay with us. The most we can do is to strengthen our bond with them and make ourselves feel like home to the people we love.

Unfollowing each other on social media is one of the best things you can do for each other after a split.

It ensures that you won’t see any post that might make you think he or you are winning the breakup. You’re also not letting your partner see things that might irrationally hurt him.

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The person you consider The One doesn’t mean he’s the one you’re meant to be with for the rest of your life.

My definition of The One is the person I want to love and spend most of my time with, in hopes that we can be together for a lifetime. Love has a lot to do with risking and investing our time and effort on someone. So yes, I did find him. And if he realizes that he doesn’t want to be with me anymore, there’s a huge possibility I’ll find someone I’ll love in this way again. This way of thinking definitely helps dealing with a breakup or cool-off maturely and realistically.


You know who your good friends are based on how willing they are to listen to you and if they check up on you.

Some friends take the distraction approach. They do what they can to take your mind off things and make you laugh, and those friends are great to have. But friends who will let you express yourself and air out your thoughts are all the more worth keeping. It clearly shows their concern for you. You might think you don’t have friends because you spent most of your time with your partner, but message a few of them bearing the bad news, and the best ones will come running to you.

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If you’re in a solid relationship, you’ll realize that your boyfriend has become your best friend.

While there are people who end up having a relationship with their guy or girl best friend, there are others like me who started a relationship and nurtured it such that my boyfriend became my best friend. He was my #1 confidant, the person I could goof around with, the person who joked around with me but also knew when to be serious and give me useful advice. So yes, I lost a best friend when we broke up and had a cool-off. The feeling sucks. But I was comforted by the fact that we had such a good relationship. It made me believe that we could still be friends, future partners permitting.


Your life isn’t over and you can shape it and have things going for you.

I think this note is best experienced than said. If you’re going through a breakup, hearing that line from anybody will hardly make you feel better unless you’re actually living it. So instead of thinking that this is just some cliché lesson, work on you. Pull yourself together. Be busy.

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It may be lonely to have no one to truly celebrate your little triumphs with. But you don’t have to be that way.

Remember your family and friends. They might not hold you the way your boyfriend once did—anyway, it would be awkward if they did—but they are there for you and would love to share in your happiness. Maybe it’s time to not take them for granted?

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to hope that better things will come.

There are so many things for me to hope for when it comes to my love life. It could be that my boyfriend would finally have some peace of mind. That I’d find a guy I could get along with as well as I do with my boyfriend, but wouldn’t have demons making him doubt our relationship. Or that I’d be single in the next few years, and would be cool with that because I’d have a bunch of things going for me. I don’t know which will come true. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine through them all because at this point, I’ve found things that make me secure. Hoping for the best becomes fairly easy when you’re doing what you can now for your happiness and self-improvement.

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