Dating in China or anywhere else in the world, breakups usually don’t just happen in one swift moment. It’s not like one second you’re in a relationship, and the next second you are officially single and you can use a stopwatch to catch the exact nanosecond. No, it’s a fuzzy math sorta thing. It softly fades, it backtracks and starts again. There is no specific point, it’s not digital it’ is analog. It’s a fractal.
Autumn, 2010. I had come back from America, while concurrently trying to convince a girl from my hometown to come follow me to Shenzhen, ready for a new apartment and a slightly new life. This time I had a smaller more city-ish apartment off Shennan Road (the central artery of the city), near a park and it suited me well. The fancy high-rises aren’t me.
Just one roommate, an American fellow with his own business. He was a bad drunk but a very good roommate. He had his own thing going on, and we’d hang out on occasion and leave each other alone when necessary. No roomie pressure. I worked more, made money. Started writing again, researched for a certain story, that ol’ dream postponed since coming here was starting up again and things were looking good.
Meanwhile, I needed to settle things with Zoey. I simply said we were in a rut. Then, after pressed for more, I was completely honest about the other girl in America. Oh, that vague situation that turned out to have no real meaning. She cried, my own heart was stretched thin, and feeling like shit and hating myself I then concluded that I was a bad person.
With Zoey, it wasn’t even the first time we’d broken up. Yet it was the most serious reason so far. Was it final yet? No. Numbed, we talked about it too much and acted on it too little, just ended up continuing the same things. We kept in touch, fell into bed a few times. I wasn’t sure what I wanted.
She wrote me a letter that tore me apart, and she told me “I’m not ready.” I thought and I thought, and some on-again-off-agains from time time, and I gave in. I decided we belonged together and it was time for me to do the right thing and stay with her. And stay with her I did.
I already had my fun, I had my experiences. I know I know, I over analyze. She always did say I think too much. Now I there was a sign and a beautiful opportunity right in front of me. It was time in my life to be serious for once.
I made my decision, and I was fully devoted to her. For these months of my life, she was my girlfriend 100% and I was no longer conflicted. It was beautiful, comfortable, content. We went to Hong Kong together, we watched movies, went out to dinner, and enjoyed lazing about in my apartment. The holidays came and went and we celebrated New Year’s Eve at a skating rink.
A time passed in which I was undergoing a certain hardship. Bureaucracy issues, don’t worry about it now. The point is, it was rough for a while there and she supported me so much. She became an angel to me. After that, I started saying the word “love.” I don’t take that word lightly.
(The second time I had ever said that word to a girl. Out of four total girls in my lifetime, as of this writing. One day I shall share those stories…)
It was a great time in my life. I was happy and it was uncomplicated. Well, mostly. I still worry I don’t know how to deal with happiness and simplicity. I’m not used to it. For a few special months in late 2010/early 2011, anyway, I was as used to it as I’d ever be.
We came upon our one-year anniversary, though it wasn’t an unbroken year it was a symbolic changing of the seasons. In truth, in stark definitive intimacy, she was the only woman I was with for the entire year. After all that we’d been through together… she began about marriage. Uh-oh.
Fair enough for her. I don’t think it was a particularly conservative Chinese conversation or anything, not like that. After being together a long time it is a fair conversation to have in any culture. I just wasn’t sure I would stay in China with her forever, nor would I whisk her away to America and support her in the proper way she deserves.
I wasn’t even close to talking about settling down. I’m sorry, I wasn’t.
We broke up for the final time. I hoped it wouldn’t be permanent, I hoped we could rekindle yet again, but this time she insisted. I started getting depressed once reality set in; an involuntary feeling of heavy sadness I could not get out of me.
I tried to stay friends. Maybe too much. I called her often, until she started dating other guys and then she called back less often.
I think she married a Middle-Eastern fellow. I met the guy a few times, he seemed to be one of the good ones. And then she stopped keeping in touch altogether.
With Zoey gone, I looked into some opportunities in other cities. It was time for a very new start. I needed a bit more drastic change in scenery. I’d always enjoyed exploring the Guangdong Province and wanted to research further. Some expats move far away from year to year, living out of their suitcase and trotting the globe. But I had so much stuff so I’d rather move someone nearby. I chose Guangzhou.
Next: My Guangzhou Year
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I read your article as I’ve only been broken up with my boyfriend for a few months after almost 2 years of being together. We also had those rocky on and off situations and personally, we just wanted different things from each other. As a woman, I want someone 100% committed to a relationship and you know what ? Not a lot of guys are willing to do that, and vice versa; I’d never want to commit to a man who couldn’t do the same.
In any case, thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading.
That sounds tough, to be with someone for so long and then move on. It’s jarring to the soul. I suppose it can be hard to meet someone worthy of 100% devotion, or at least hard to to know for sure and act on it. Sometimes it just depends on where someone is in their life and there’s specifically nothing wrong with anyone. It’s not fair, it simply is what it is.
Yes, I agree. And I guess I wrote 100% but having thought about it again, someone who meets me halfway ? hehe That sounds better. Yes 100% all the time is a bit too much.
It’s the only long term relationship I’ve had so yes it does kind of pierce your soul a bit lol
That was very personal but there you are 🙂
I’m enjoying this series, keep writing!
I will. Keep reading!
I enjoyed reading this post, the story with Zoey developed quite differently from what I imagined (I just thought you’d come back to China and break up, get together again, break up again).
Marriage talk is serious. As long as you don’t talk about marriage, you don’t need to confront your own feelings about it. But once you start talking about it, you’ll have to consider if you really want to spend the rest of your life with this one person (if you don’t think of getting divorced when thinking about marriage). Sometimes, a person is great and we love them, but we just can’t imagine settling down with them. And it’s alright not to settle down with them if this is the case. I’m wondering if you weren’t ready for marriage per se, or if you weren’t ready for marrying Zoey. My husband completely changed how I was viewing marriage. I didn’t think about marriage at all before I met my husband. Marriage was something I thought might happen in the very distant future, but I also thought it might not happen at all, but when he asked me if I wanted to marry him after being together for only a month, I had no doubts at all that he was the right person for me. We’re having our first wedding anniversary this weekend.
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“Sometimes, a person is great and we love them, but we just can’t imagine settling down with them.”
Yes, if I must be perfectly honest with myself I just didn’t see a future that far ahead with her. For that matter, while I certainly hope I will meet the one I’ll spend the rest of my life with, getting married doesn’t seem that important. Perhaps I’ll elope one day (which always seemed more romantic to me), or marry for the sake of a visa or something like that. The big ‘perfect’ white wedding like in the movies will probably not be in the cards for me.
Wow one month, that’s amazing how you had no doubts. Happy anniversary!
I also thought that to me personally, marriage is not that important. It seems to gain importance when you’re in an interracial relationship and want to make sure that no matter what, you can always be together. Although in the beginning I didn’t think about visa issues and the like and for us it wasn’t the main reason to get married, speaking from the legal side of it, being married does offer certain securities we wouldn’t have if we weren’t married.
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Hey Ray! As a guy, I have found myself in your situation more than once. As much as you tried to convince yourself Zoey to be ‘the one,’ it’s clear from your description that she wasn’t. It gets old to hear that ‘When you know. You know,’ but it’s true. I say that because I am finally dating someone that I am willing to risk failure while sacrificing some of my ego to spend time with her. I used to take every date so damn seriously that I wasn’t much fun to be with and wasn’t really myself. When I did meet someone, I was too quick to make it a relationship before really evaluating the dynamic. Don’t make these mistakes and you will enjoy being in a relationship again, soon!
For me somehow it’s when you know, you don’t know. That’s another story later. I did learn a lot through this story.
But, yeah man. Yeah.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
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