The Breakup Date

While Paul McCartney sang 'We Can Work It Out,' we knew we couldn't

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One of the best dates I had with my boyfriend, Matt, was our last. We called it our "Breakup Date" and went to see Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium in LA. We laughed one second, cried the next—like a very long therapy session.

As we held hands through "All My Loving," I thought of the first time Matt held mine, on our second date, as we walked a couple miles to a dive Mexican restaurant, only to find they closed in five minutes.

When Sir Paul crooned "Blackbird" and images of the bird appeared on a screen behind him, I thought of the chirpy birds who'd wake us before dawn, substituting for alarm clocks. We'd make bets on who would go strangle them.

During "Maybe I'm Amazed," I thought of how Matt would say, "I'm so lucky," nearly every night since I met him—up until the end.

Throughout "Long and Winding Road," scene after scene from our relationship appeared in my head: apartment-hunting together when Matt would practice saying, "Honey, I'm home," as a litmus test for which place we should get; going on fun trips, like a spontaneous one to Vegas, when we rented a Mustang convertible and spent more time on the road, taking silly pictures in the desert, than we spent on The Strip; and helping curb each other's bouts of anxiety—his panic attacks, my OCD fears.

But when McCartney started singing, "Yesterday," Matt and I were unable to hold hands or look at each other; our arms fell to our sides. I thought, somehow, our "Long and Winding Road" would lead back to "Yesterday" or even "We Can Work It Out." But, "All My Loving," and his, too, did not keep us together.

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A few months before the concert, Matt and I broke up several times, but to no avail—one of us would change our minds by the next morning, as though all our problems had gone away with a good night's sleep. So when I heard Paul McCartney was coming to LA, I thought he could help put a stop to our codependent, break up/make up relationship. By labeling the concert our "Breakup Date," it would hold us accountable—with a deadline, we could finally let go of each other.

Breakup #1 had appeared like the flu. There'd been no pre-sickness sniffles or sneezes—just a sudden fever, an abrupt, "I think there's someone else out there for me" from Matt after work one night.

Was he serious?

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"Is there?"

"No," he said as he sat down on the faded blue sofa, our first joint furniture purchase. It was used and worn-out, but comfortable. He held a couch cushion and squeezed it like a stress ball.

"No," he said again. "But I had a vision of living up north with a brunette Jewish woman."

I was blond and Catholic.

Matt had known me for years before we'd seen each other on and started dating. So, for years, he knew I was Catholic. As my tears fell, I watched them dot the couch like raindrops. Soon, his rivaled mine. We sat there for hours, caught in a silent, unexpected downpour without an umbrella.

A few days later was the funeral of a mutual friend's father. Throughout the service, Matt and I used more Kleenex than anybody else, mourning our friend's dad and our relationship.

Our friend's father had been Jewish; his wife (our friend's stepmother) was blond and Catholic. They made it work with their varied religious beliefs, I thought. Matt was conflicted, sometimes saying happiness trumped religion. But, when his anxiety emerged, he thought the opposite.

The wife said her husband's death was lovely, since everyone got to say goodbye. "It's so important how we end things and get closure," she said.

I thought the funeral was the death of our relationship, yet Matt and I were in purgatory for a few more months. Twenty-four-hour breakups would turn into "taking a break" from each other, one of us sleeping at a friend's house for a week or two, while the other stayed at the apartment we shared. But then he or I would need to stop by the house for a few minutes or spend the night on the couch when housing would fall through. We'd lapse into our old dating patterns, except platonically, eating dinner together and talking about our days, then sleeping separately. My hoped the old us would reappear, and I thought our fake dating would somehow morph back into the real thing.

But then the togetherness—without actually being "together"—would end. Soon, our pseudo-breakups became part of our routine, always ending in tears.

We'd both grown up in households with codependent role models: my mother and grandmother, Matt's mom and dad. In both cases, our mothers always threatened to flee, for decades, but never did. Maybe, in our subconscious minds, Matt and I thought a push-pull relationship was normal. But we also knew ours had to end—and for good.

Matt and I vowed to begin our breakup once and for all after the Paul McCartney concert. No more friendly dinners or accidental couch sleepovers would be allowed.

The turning point of the concert came when McCartney sang "My Valentine" to his wife and made a heart shape with his fingers. For weeks beforehand, ever since Matt and I first started breaking up, I saw hearts everywhere: heart-shaped sidewalk cracks, heart-shaped leaves, heart-shaped bubblegum stuck on the pavement. Maybe they were all signs that my broken heart would be healed someday? Paul's hands in a heart shape made me believe that I'd be able to love again.

A few weeks later, however, I was having a tough day, relationship reminders everywhere—the birds outside waking me up, a heart-shaped rock on the sidewalk, and someone saying, "How's your day going?" in Matt's trademark way to anyone we'd come across. I was tempted to contact Matt—had we made a mistake? I got in my car and "Let It Be" was on the radio, blasting through the speakers. "Trust me, I'm trying," I said to Paul. And that's all any of us can do.

Tags: dating