Mr. Brightside 1 - The Break-Up + RELATIONSHIP RECAP

"The words of affection you crave will always sound empty coming from me because I'm not falling in love with you."

That's how 2021 started for me: reading those words from my then boyfriend, Mr. Brightside, in the e-mail he sent ending our relationship.

What the hell does he mean he's not "falling in love with me"?!

How could he not?

I'm a fucking delight; what's not to love?

I had known almost from the start that he wasn't the right man for me, so the ending of our relationship wasn't a surprise because I knew it was going to happen at some point.

But what caught me off guard was that it happened when it did; I thought for certain it would be several more months before I had to muster up the emotional strength to end things.

I was also shocked by the fact that he was the one to end the relationship; I had been certain that I would be the one to pull the plug. The fact that he didn't see that this wasn't working - hadn't really been working all along - had me convinced that he had his head so deeply buried in the sand that I would need to be the one to take that final definitive step.

Yet...there we were.

Two weeks before Christmas, while everyone else was listening to holiday music, I was listening to a newly released French album by Abelaïd - with this particular song on repeat - Les coeurs du mal.

Je parle de toi
I'm talking about you
Au passé, à présent
In the past now
Je fuis les coeurs du mal
I run away from the hearts of pain
À mon détriment
To my detriment

I can always tell what I'm feeling by the music I'm listening to, and frankly if I were to rename the above album, I would call it "music to slit your wrists to" - because while it's beautiful and haunting, it's also profoundly sad.

Definitely, definitely lacking in holiday cheer.

I should have known myself better than that, should have known that every time I try to lie to myself, it's like trying to hold a beach ball underwater: the truth inevitably bursts up and hits somebody in the face rather violently at the most inopportune times.

This particular beach ball was a conversation we had on the Sunday after New Year's. It's a conversation we'd had almost since the beginning of our relationship: I had asked Mr. Brightside to express himself in a caring way to me, and instead - as usual - he rattled off a cerebral and emotionless list; words that were correct for the situation (once I had suggested to him what some of those words might be) but with no feeling behind them.

The next night I got the e-mail.

"There was a light bulb moment for me in our conversation last night, you had asked me to comfort you with kind words and I gave you a "list," which of course didn't work. Who gets comforted by a list?!

I looked deep inside myself in the next moment when you were looking for more substantial comfort. I didn't find the depth of caring you deserve or were expecting. I expected to find more there.

The words of affection you crave will always sound empty coming from me because I'm not falling in love with you."

Ah the truth. She does hurt. But she also sets you free.

That was his truth.

Here is mine: I stayed with him because I didn't want to face my loneliness, and because I was holding onto the insane optimism (delusion?) that he would magically transform into the person I needed him to be.

And that is insane because people don't change; they can alter the minor accoutrement of their personalities, but the reality is that with the passage of time, most people only become more of who they are, not less.

Like I said: INSANE.

But this is something I do, this hopeful insanity. I've been doing it all my life, with my family specifically, thereby repeatedly breaking my own heart in the process.

My friend, Joe Angel, he often says "Look for the patterns, not the anomalies."

I'm good at doing this in my friendships. But I absolutely fail when it comes to my family and dating relationships.

When people show you who they are, believe them, the first time.
- Maya Angelou

In my close relationships - IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT PEOPLE HAVE SHOWN ME WHO THEY ARE - I view any deviations from their usual behaviour (the anomalies) as a sign that they are changing entirely as a person and getting ready to love me in the way I want and need.


It's insane because I've been repeatedly breaking my own heart by expecting people to be different than who they've already very clearly shown themselves to be.

We cannot do that to ourselves - we just can't because what we're really doing is facilitating our own heartbreak; we allow ourselves to be so hurt - again and again - with this misplaced hope.

But this hope is what got me through my early years. A child has to believe their parents are good people in order to keep the hope alive that they will receive the kind of love they need from them someday.

Hoping for love and displays of affection from unlikely sources is my maladaptive response to growing up with physically abusive and emotionally neglectful parents.

With Mr. Brightside, I was living off of hope from the anomalies; a small effort here, one kind word there, a particularly warm smile.

As parents, emotionally immature people may be either loving or detached, depending on their mood. Their children feel fleeting moments of connection with them but don't know when or under what conditions their parent might be emotionally available again. This sets up what behavioral psychologists call an intermittent reward situation, meaning that getting a reward for your efforts is possible but completely unpredictable. This creates a tenacious resolve to keep trying to get the reward, because once in a while these efforts do pay off. In this way, parental inconsistency can be the quality that binds children most closely to their parent, as they keep hoping to get that infrequent and elusive positive response.

Look for the patterns, not the anomalies.

A healthy relationship needs to be built on positive patterns, with forgiveness for the negative anomalies, not the other way around.

After the break-up, I had been castigating myself for not knowing that this relationship wasn't going to work sooner, but one of my friends reminded me that I knew from the start: "Jasmin, almost from the beginning you had your doubts. The best thing I heard you say about him when you started dating was that he was 'nice' - but you were never really wowed."

It's good to have friends who remind us of these things when we've forgotten and are busy with the whip of self-flagellation.

September 29

(after 3 weeks of dating)

I do want to make a note to myself, to potentially refer back to one day, if this thing ends: Mr. Brightside said to me that when he sent me a message online, he didn't expect to hear back from me because he thought that I was "way out of his league."

I need to listen to that.

My ex, Vapid Hunk, said the same thing to me - he said he was afraid he wasn't good enough for me, and he was right.

"When people tell you who they are, believe them."

Will Mr. Brightside be able to give me something that I want and need short term? I believe so.

But long term, will this man be able to give me everything that I want, need, and deserve? My initial assessment is no.

He fits where I am now, but he does not fit where I want to go.

These men told me right from the start that they themselves could see that they weren't enough for me, and I didn't listen to them.

October 13
(after 5 weeks of dating)

Does he want me for me, or who I could be for him and his kids?

I asked him the question, and he said he checked in with himself, and that it was a genuine interest in me, but man, I've put things out there - easy things that, had he been truly interested in getting to know me, he would have asked about - and he just didn't.

October 26
(after 7 weeks of dating)

My gut is telling me that he's not interested in me as a person. I shouldn't have to convince anyone to be interested in me, to want to know about me, especially someone who's told me that he feels as though he's met the person he's been looking for his whole life.

My gut is telling me this is unlikely to last forever.

But every relationship I've had has given me something that I needed at the time, and in hindsight, it all would have been easier on me if I had been willing to let go when it was time to let go.

And that's the mindset I need to go into this with. It's here now, enjoy it now, and when it ends, then let it end.

Turn the volume down on words.

Turn the volume up on actions.

I felt such a sense of cognitive dissonance because Mr. Brightside kept saying how much he wanted me and this relationship, but then he didn't do many of the things that would have enabled a real relationship to flourish.

So. You might be asking yourself why - based on those journal entries which clearly demonstrated that I knew this wasn't going to work - did I stick around?

Because I convinced myself that what I had written wasn't actually my intuition talking, but fear.

I wrote off my feelings by telling myself that I was trying to sabotage the relationship. For the first time in my life, I had met a good man who wanted to be in a committed relationship with me, and because this was something different for me, I was too scared to allow myself to accept that and him.

Actually, Mr. Brightside is the one who helped me to develop that theory. He's the one who told me that I was going through a process now that he had gone through in his last relationship: that of allowing myself to believe that I was worthy of love.

When he said that, I got scared. I thought "What if the opportunity for love is right in front of me and because of my fear and feelings of unworthiness, I lose that opportunity?"

And it was easy to convince myself that "it was just the fear talking" because whenever we were together the fear would fall away. I would look into his eyes and see what I thought was true goodness there so I felt crazy for trying to 'sabotage' things.

What I couldn't differentiate then that I realize now is: just because someone is a good person, doesn't mean that they're the right person. I've dated so many legitimate assholes, that when I met Mr. Brightside I confused that very crucial point: good doesn't necessarily mean right. (And in hindsight I realize that me saying he was a "good person" was really just "he's not an asshole" because the other men I was comparing him to were really bad.)

"If the way we gauge people is going "well they're not as bad as that particular person," we've got a problem. Because we can always find reasons to justify our continued involvement with someone when we may be comparing them to what we consider the gold-standard of shadiness."

- Nathalie Lue: Podcast Episode 195

Every time I felt anxiety and uncertainty about him and the relationship, I would get incredibly angry at myself for being so 'afraid of love' that I was trying to ruin the relationship.

I felt deeply frustrated with myself for being so broken that I was trying to push away a well-intentioned man; I gave myself such a hard time in this relationship.

So I started reading up on "What to do when you start self-sabotaging in a relationship" and I convinced myself that the problem was me, and that the solution was to 'fix' myself as quickly as possible so that I could show up fully for him and us.

I believed what I had my entire life: that things weren't going right because of me and how broken I was.

(Mr. Brightside was exactly like my parents in this regard: "Well yeah...the problems that we're having right now? They're totally because of you. Don't you know that I'm perfect? Ok, I mean if you were to ask me, I could intellectually admit that of course I'm not perfect, but then when it all really comes down to it, I wouldn't actually be capable of taking true responsibility for my contribution to the dysfunction because I am a victim of life, people, and circumstances and therefore, entirely blameless.")

In hindsight of course, I realize that the knot of anxiety I started to feel very early on wasn't based on my fear of love or a committed relationship, but on my dogged determination not to listen to my own inner knowing which was telling me this wasn't right.

My instincts were telling me that this man was not emotionally available, and even if he had been, there were serious compatibility issues between us which meant that a long-term relationship between us would have been extremely challenging.

What I didn't understand then, which I do now, is that ignoring compatibility issues is not the same as giving someone the benefit of the doubt because compatibility issues do not go away with time.

Looking back on the relationship now, I think the funniest (?) thing is that I wasn't the one who was afraid of love, he was.

That's where the cognitive dissonance came in and that's why I felt so profoundly confused: because he kept showing up. He was entirely committed to the idea of being in a relationship, and was physically present where and when needed.

Mr. Brightside was like a dedicated soldier reporting for duty.

And that's what my intuition was picking up on: that although he was physically present, emotionally he was not.

I can see that now because it's yet another of the many ways in which Mr. Brightside was like my father: dutifully showing up and being physically present, but emotionally distant and inaccessible.

November 13

(after 10 weeks of dating)

A lot of the anxiety I feel in my relationship with Mr. Brightside stems from the feeling that I think I'm accepting less than I deserve.

I've never been in a healthy adult relationship, so I don't know what I can expect, should expect, can ask for, can't ask for.

"You get what you settle for."

How will I know if I am settling?

I know what I'm bringing to the table. That's worth a lot.

And I'm not asking for much, and actually I think I'm not asking for enough. So the things I need, I should be able to get.

One of my friends pointed out that - because of my fractured childhood - my standards were so low that I actually wasn't asking for a lot.

"It would take so little from him to make you happy and make you want to stay, and he can't even give you the basics - to meet the most basic needs that any normal person has in a relationship."

And unfortunately, she was right.

In spite of the lack of everything that was missing between us, I would have stayed with him if he'd done the right things even though I knew he wasn't the right guy.

I don't know how long I would have stuck around, but the more right actions there would have been, the longer I would have been able to fool myself into thinking that one day all of the things that were missing would magically appear, or that somehow they wouldn't matter anymore.

Thank GOD he didn't do the right things.

December 15
(after 14 weeks of dating)

"Jasmin, do you really want to teach an adult man how to behave?

You deserve to be treated really well; I mean really well, and he can't even give you the simple things you need; things that are normal to expect in any relationship. These are things you shouldn't even have to ask for!

You're giving him opportunities to be successful at making you feel like you're worth something to him - simple and basic opportunities - and he's failing. And h
e's pushing you away every time he fails to see those opportunities.

And it's not you failing because you're asking, it's him failing because he didn't meet those opportunities. And you're giving him more opportunities than he deserves because of your past.

Take your time in letting him go, but know that h
e's just not capable of meeting your needs."


Time tells all truths.

We know Truth. We know what it feels like.

Fear? Fear has a story. Fear always has a story. The endless chatter of the busy mind seeking answers and wanting to know things it can't.

But Truth washes over us in such a way that it permeates every part of our being; it becomes a part of who we are in a way that we cannot deny it.

All Truths will be revealed in time; if we can't discern the Truth of a situation yet, we just need to wait longer.

When the moment is right, Truth is suddenly there.

And it is sudden.

Because Truth doesn't build up slowly; it just arrives.

One moment we don't know, and the next moment, we do.


Truth hits us like the waves of the ocean, crashing over us, and we will feel either a profound "YES -  move forward" or "NO - move on."

The only thing TRUTH ever asks of us is a willingness to accept it, and often, that's the most difficult part.

December 16
(after 14 weeks of dating)

This relationship is teaching me how to ask for what I want - and I needed to learn that.

But it's also making clear to me the things that should be a given, that I shouldn't have to ask for from someone who professes to care about me.

I deserve so, so, so much more than what he can give me.

He's a good person. And we're learning together, and I'm enjoying having him and his girls in my life.

We're in the middle of a pandemic and it's a weird time. So for now, since I've decided to stay, I need to enjoy it for what it is, and whatever it's going to be, and then when the time comes, to let it go.

We cannot un-see the things we see once we've seen them.

The conversation with my friend ten days before Christmas made me see the undeniable truth of the situation: this really was not meant to last.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.


I had been fooling myself, lying to myself; convinced that it was my fear that was causing all of these doubts while holding onto the anomalies in his behaviour.

But then I finally realized it just wasn't enough. He wasn't enough. In order for me to feel that he was enough for me, he would have needed to become an entirely different person. And that wasn't fair to either of us.

When we enter into a relationship, our feelings have to be based on who that person is, not who we think they have the potential to be but aren't.

As Joe Angel always says "Fuck potential, what have you got for me right now?"

If the person we are entering into a relationship with were to stay exactly who they are forever, would we still want to stay with them? Is our potential future with someone based on the idea that they will change?

Because they won't you know.

A lion can't turn into a fish, and people are who they are; they can't alter their true nature.

The weekend before my enlightening talk with one of my friends, I had told Mr. Brightside that I wanted a future with him and his two daughters.

In the moment I said it, I genuinely felt it.

"What if it's everything you never knew you always wanted?"

I had never been certain of exactly what my life was supposed to look like, or of what I wanted exactly, and so I thought "Maybe this is it. Maybe I'm their missing piece and they are mine."

The girls' mother wasn't in the picture and hadn't been for many years - he was truly a single dad - so there was so much space for me in all of their lives.

I don't have any kids of my own, and I've never been married, so there was so much space for all of them in my life.

On paper, it looked like the perfect fit; but in reality, it just wasn't.

What I realize in hindsight is that him and his daughters represented what I had always wanted: to feel as though I belonged to a family the way I never felt that I belonged to mine.

After my big epiphany, I didn't make mention of future plans; he did though. He made references to next summer, next Christmas, etc., speaking as though it was a given that I would be there.

I stayed silent in those moments, the knot of anxiety growing tighter in my stomach as I asked myself "Will I really still be here then?"

I never lied to him; I only lied to myself. In spite of what I felt, what I knew...there was still a lingering "maybe?" - that darned insane optimism that things would magically change somehow and which kept me hanging on. 

The insane optimism born from of years of dealing with my dysfunctional family and hoping they too would change someday.

Spending my life waiting for people to change; it was an all too familiar pattern.

January 4
(after 16 weeks of dating, the day of the break-up before I got his e-mail)

I don't think he will end this relationship, but if he does, I will be ok.

I am an exceptional woman with so much to offer.

He said it himself once, at the beginning of our relationship, that he would be a "fool" to walk away.

And that's true. Because there's only one Jasmin. Where would he find another Jasmin, with absolutely everything that I bring to the table?

But if he does end this relationship, will I really cry again over a man who wasn't willing or able to put forth enough effort to keep me in his life?

I did cry though.

Losing someone that you cared about always hurts, even if they aren't the right person.

And I did care about him.

"As an adult child of an Emotionally Immature parent, you probably didn't get enough childhood emotional connection, intimate communication, or parental approval­ - all the things that make you feel loved by your parents. However, your Emotionally Immature parents might scoff at the idea that you didn't feel loved...of course they love you; you're their child. They have no idea they would have to treat you certain ways in order for you to feel that.

The night I got Mr. Brightside's e-mail, I called one of my friends. I told her what he said, about how he wasn't falling in love with me.

I felt sick, I felt inadequate. I felt once again, so unworthy of love. I had done everything, been everything, sacrificed myself, and it still wasn't enough. I wasn't enough.

But thank God for her straight talking words, without which I would have jumped deep down the rabbit hole of unworthiness.

When I told her about the whole "not falling in love thing" she called bullshit on it immediately.

"Well that's very cheap and self-serving. If he thinks that him "falling in love" would have altered his behaviour then he's living in la-la land.

He's putting it on you and he's coming up with a reason that's kind of ridiculous because he's suggesting that he could have behaved in a different way in a different circumstance. That it's not because he can't meet the basic requirements for being in a relationship, it's because he's "not falling in love."

It's as if he's saying to you "If you had met my standards for falling in love, suddenly all of those things that were lacking would have gone away" as if he himself wasn't a factor in all of it.

That's a cop out, but it's an easy way for him to explain it to himself.

And now he's gotten to a point where you asking for normal things is just too much so it's easier for him to walk away."

Is it fair?

Everything that my friend said I mean?

One of my other friends assessed the situation differently: "This was just a case of two people who weren't meant to be together and the fact that he didn't have feelings for you is just what it is. You didn't have feelings for him either."

Alright. I sort of agree with that.

But I also agree with what my straight-talking friends said.

In Mr. Brightside's break-up e-mail to me, he said "The words of affection you crave will always sound empty coming from me because I'm not falling in love with you."

Except it had been that way from the beginning!!!

He had rarely - if ever - offered up kind words, and had done very little of the actions that any person would do when they start dating someone that could build that love.

You can't stick a seed in the ground, and expect something to grow if you don't water the ground or expose it to sunlight.

He didn't fall in love because - right from the start - he didn't do the things that would be required to grow love.

From the beginning, something inside me recognized this lack in him - although I couldn't articulate it then. I felt that he didn't know how to love someone. And I felt that he didn't know how to allow someone to love him.

How did I recognize that as quickly as I did?

Because my father is the same.

All the things I fought for Mr. Brightside to give me - warmth, validation, appreciation, consideration -things that grow love in a relationship - were things that my father could never give me either.

And I did the same thing with Mr. Brightside that I did with my dad: I thought that if I could do enough, be enough, give enough, care enough from my side, that this would eventually bring down the walls and allow a different relationship to grow.

I tried so hard with my father.

And I tried so hard with Mr. Brightside.

But the lesson that I've finally learned is that an adult man who doesn't know how to love isn't going to learn how unless he recognizes that in himself and does a hell of a lot of emotional work to try to learn.

And that's why I agree with my one friend: he put his lack of loving actions on the fact that he wasn't falling in love with me, but his lack of action guaranteed that nothing real would ever grow between us.

What a fucking cop-out.

The relationship lasted as long as it did because I lied to myself right from the start.

"Emotionally immature parents don't know how to validate their child's feelings and instincts. Without this validation, children learn to give in to what others seem sure about. As adults, they may deny their instincts to the point where they acquiesce to relationships they don't really want."

If he had felt about me the way that I did about him - if he had had the same red flags - he would have ended things.

I knew, I saw, I just tried not to see, and certainly could not validate my feelings enough to act on them.

My inner Jiminy Cricket was always alive and well. But sometimes what I do is put a pillow over Jiminy's head and sit on it, so that I don't have to listen to what he has to say, because if I listened, I would have to do something about it.

Mr. Brightside went into this genuinely believing that it could work.

I had moments when I fooled myself into thinking it might, while also knowing I wanted more than he could ever give me right from the start.

He upheld his boundaries firmly and unapologetically.

In order for me to move forward on the timeline he wanted, I constantly compromised my boundaries.

He needed to be the one to end the relationship.

Because he so rarely expressed himself, I had no idea what he felt about us by the time I admitted to myself that this wasn't going to work.

I was concerned that if I tried to end things before he himself felt that it wouldn't work, he might have put up some opposition, and I didn't feel emotionally strong enough at that point to resist him potentially trying to hold on to me.

Because he was a warm body and we were in the middle of a pandemic.


I feel profoundly grateful to have had this experience.

I am grateful to him for everything that he was and everything that he wasn't; it showed me what I want, need and deserve.

He showed me the progress I've made in the development of my self worth; in the past I allowed the endings of relationships to make me feel as though something was lacking in me - that they couldn't be different or treat me better because I was deficient in some way.

This time, I feel and know that it wasn't me.

I am so grateful for what we had because it showed me how amazing I am. It was through him not being able to give me things that should have been given freely, that I finally acknowledged that I deserved all of those good things, and I've never felt that before.

I am a better, stronger person - more grounded in my sense of self - than I have ever been.

I'm so grateful for the person I became through this.

I'm so grateful that it happened; I'm so grateful that it's over.

I don't know when I will publish this post, but I'm writing these particular words exactly one week after our break-up.

This is progress. This is emotional growth.


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