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Connections | Magazine

Working through a work breakup

Our relationship was destined to end, but walking away from my job was unexpectedly wrenching.

images from adobe stock; illustration by charles kim

I knew from the start it would end, as all relationships of this nature do. But even though a split was preordained, when it happened, I was deeply saddened. Heartbroken, actually.

We’d lasted six years, though. Not a bad run—longer than I’ve been with any other job.

The breakup with my employer had me in a spin. I couldn’t quite understand why. The relationship was good in many ways, but it was far from perfect. Then again, what relationship is? You learn to take the good with the bad, to close your eyes to the ways in which you’re failing to thrive. Maybe what I had was good enough. Because when it was good, it was easy to forget the ways in which it wasn’t.

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Though I had initiated the separation, I couldn’t help but think they could have done more to hold on to me. That they didn’t was evidence of what I knew in my heart: We weren’t really right for each other.

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In the first days after the breakup, I was forlorn. I questioned whether I’d done the right thing. I had known I would leave someday, but I wasn’t fully ready to go when I did. While I’d wanted to be on my own for a while, it didn’t feel like the right time to pull the trigger. What could I have done differently? If only I’d said this, if only they’d done that. But there was no taking it back.

Regrets crowded in. They’d been very, very good to me. They figuratively and literally supported me during some difficult periods in my life. And we had so many great times together — the trips, the parties, the meals. Over the years, they’d wined and dined me like a queen.

I missed them. Reminders were everywhere, including the many gifts they’d given me — the practical backpack, the snuggly hoodie, the stylish fleece — all branded, so I could never separate the item from the giver.

What I missed most was our mutual friends, who belonged with them, after all. I keep up with the handful I was closest to. But so many of those friendships will never be the same. That’s just how it is when these things come apart.

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When I lamented the loss, my friends who witnessed my time there all protested. “You were so unhappy!” Was I? Funny how the memories of the day-to-day challenges had faded; I thought only of how I wished I could have it all back. “You’ll be better off in the long run,” my friends said. “You’ll find something else.” The words seemed hollow and obligatory, but I clung to the hope that they were right.

I spent the first months on my own, passing in and out of short-term dalliances. I’d wanted to be a free agent, after all. But one-night stands weren’t sustaining me. I wanted a real relationship and all the benefits that come with a commitment.

And then, through a friend, I found a new one. I wasn’t swept off my feet but gently wooed. They made me start to feel the things I hadn’t always felt in my old relationship: appreciated. Admired. Loved.

It took me a while to reciprocate. I was still hung up on the ex and could hardly keep from talking about it. But it wasn’t fair to make comparisons. Old and new were too different.

Ultimately, those differences turned out to be good ones. We’re a much better fit. And the more time we spend together, the more I realize that what my friends were saying was true: I hadn’t really been happy before.

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Now that a year has passed, I’m certain that moving on was the right thing to do. And who knows? If all goes well, there could be another fleece in my future.

Betsy Gitelman is a writer in Acton. Send comments to connections@globe.com. To submit your story for consideration for Connections, e-mail your 650-word essay on a relationship to connections@globe.com. We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.