The Breakup Marriage Proposal
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
One time a friend of mine invited me over to their house to check out an exciting new purchase. It was a full set of Italian leather furniture for his living room. The couches and chairs were very soft and puffy, and while they were not my taste, I was happy for my friend, as it was clear he was thrilled by the purchase. I was also caught off guard by my friend’s new Italian splurge, as he was a notorious spendthrift, and I wondered what had brought on such a swift change in character. It would not take longer than a glass of wine to be informed. It appeared that he and his girlfriend of two years had broken up.
We spent a good amount of time sipping wine and discussing their breakup and how she was ‘no longer feeling it’ and how he felt that they were ‘feeling it,’ and I could tell there was some residual confusion and maybe a few hard feelings. However, his enjoyment of the new leather furniture seemed to rise high above any real sadness or anger. While we were discussing the matter, I still was wondering how the furniture was involved. And like a mind reader, he revealed how the new furniture played a part in their breakup. He told me that he had been planning on proposing to his girlfriend and that he had been putting aside money for an engagement ring. On the night she explained that she was ‘not into him anymore,’ he then shot back that he was planning on asking her to marry him. That was how into her he was. He told that part of the story with some animation, and for the first time, his face was red, and his anger really came out. He then gleefully said that she was shocked by this and was then rethinking just how into him she was. He, however, triumphantly explained that in no way was he going to let her back into his life and to prove his point he used his engagement ring money on brand new Italian leather furniture.
When I got home, I found myself a little suspicious regarding the accuracy of his account. For one thing, my friend was extremely successful and equally cheap, so the very idea of him having to save up for a ring seemed a bit far-fetched, as he was truly frugal. His workplace was loaded with luxury cars while his car was always secondhand and shabby. Though mind you, he had pride in his refusal to use the fruits of his labor on exterior show. As for the couches—to me, it felt like an elaborate way to take a break from his frugality and to wound his girlfriend as she was wounding him. It did make me wonder about the breakup proposal, as I too had received one.
I had been dating this gentleman for around six months. We had a lot in common. We got along relatively well with very few bland spots in our conversations, and we had knock-out intimate chemistry. However, I just did not love him, and I could tell that I was not going to fall in love with him. And for me, I can only be with someone for any length of time that I actually love—otherwise, I feel a growing, ivy-like loneliness. Some people would rather be with someone that they sort of liked rather than be alone—being alone for them is far worse. For me, it’s the opposite. I’m okay on my own—but I feel a profound loneliness when I am with someone that I do not share a genuine connection.
So finally, I had to do it—I had to break up with him. We had had a very pleasant date and were getting ready for nighttime when I told him that I no longer wanted to be together. His response shocked me. He blurted out with some drama while grasping my hands with both of his and told me that he had planned on marrying me. I remember being so caught off guard that I then blurted out that I didn’t want to marry him—how could he want to marry me? Because, for me, we had so little connection. Suspiciously, his agony fleeted as quickly as his stormy post-breakup marriage proposal. He left in the morning telling me if I ever needed any kind of help with anything at all to call him. I never did. It was a solid goodbye. I never saw him again.
I did wonder sometimes if there was any sincerity in his breakup proposal. However, when I drank wine on my friend’s engagement ring leather sofas, I felt a kind of peace. I think it was a way for my ex to wound me as I was hurting him. It haunted me that a person would want to marry someone that it was clear there was no real connection. We were almost perfect with a particularly matched physicality, but he was not in love with me, and I was not in love with him. Neither of us ever said those words to each other. It was not until the night I broke up with him did he tell me that he was planning on marrying me. But it is a kind of funny human thing—to propose marriage after a breakup. Is it part wanting to wound? It is part wanting something once it is gone? And I wonder what would have happened if I had been another kind of person—if I were a person who would prefer to be married though not in love—over being alone? What if I had turned the tables and accepted his proposal?
I think in all honesty that we did know each other and we did have a friendship, and he did understand that I liked him too much to call him out on his bluff.
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.