Anatomy of a Breakup: The Relationship Ended — That’s When the Sex Started


Jun 24, 2023


Image credit: Denise D'souza for The Swaddle

In Anatomy of a Breakup, we dissect a ruined relationship to find out where it all fell apart.  

C: It was my first relationship. When we started dating, we were in the first year of college. We were both kids, and really didn’t know how to communicate our expectations or verbalize the nuances of what we were experiencing.

We dated for a little over a year. The breakup, however, happened over several years. Once the honeymoon phase was up, it didn’t take me too long to realize that my emotional and social wellbeing was negatively impacted by the relationship.

I didn’t act upon it immediately, though. It was, after all, my first relationship. I also knew that there was nothing wrong with him, per se. He was smart, funny, got along really well with my friends… Breaking up was a difficult call, basically. It also led to a difficult conversation, where I was trying to convince myself —and him — that it’d be best if we took some time apart. This led to an ambiguous sort of dating-but-sort-of-not situation, over the years; it wasn’t the healthiest pattern probably.

But even though we had our dark times, we never engaged in any name-calling or angry-shouting. Instead, we indulged in half-hearted assurances of change, eventual resignation, and mostly, for a long, long time, a very strong sense of hesitation about cutting the cord and venturing into the dating pool again.

I don’t think my breaking point arrived on any particular day that I could point to. It came in waves, I guess — once we were apart physically, and life went on perfectly fine in his absence, I finally realized that I could go through with breaking up completely. Finally, the stimulus causing constant self-doubt had evaporated.

We do, however, remain friends to this day.

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V: It was the week after my birthday when she spoke to me about breaking up. We were about 13 months into our relationship then. I can’t really recall what she had said, but it was something along the lines of our relationship affecting her mental health and academics so much that she could no longer bear the brunt of the emotional turmoil. We’d been fighting a lot before this; I had become codependent and wanted to spend every waking minute together, which obviously affected her studies, friendships… everything, really. So, I get where she was coming from. But it was messy; there was a lot of crying involved on both sides, and significant begging on my part — for months — asking her to reconsider. I promised I’d changed and that things would be different going forward, but she remained steadfast. In hindsight, I really respect her emotional maturity in not giving in.

This was followed by a period of low to no contact, where we’d occasionally still hang out in groups, but rarely talk outside of it, if at all. We resumed contact again when she came to Delhi for her internship. She visited home, and this was the first time we had a sexual encounter (no intercourse, though). After this, throughout our remaining years in college and for a year after that, we fell into a pattern of being physically and emotionally intimate without the label of a relationship. During this time, we joined dating apps, too, and were open to each other about it. I did go out on a couple of dates, but our equation didn’t change. We even took a quasi-romantic trip together to the hills for her birthday, in our final year — just the two of us; this is when we had sex, which was a first for both of us. Yet, we never discussed getting back together; it was familiar and comfortable, and we were no longer fighting nearly as much since the expectations that come with a relationship were no longer there. There was this understanding that we were sort-of-but-not-really exclusively together.

After graduation, we started drifting apart again until she moved to Delhi to prepare for her exams. Soon, we went right back to the same pattern. But this time, there was a major difference: for me, this pattern was now primarily about physical intimacy (not necessarily sexual); for her, it was about emotional intimacy. She was in a new city, living by herself, and preparing for a gruelling exam. All of this took a toll on her mental health. She wasn’t going to therapy, and I wasn’t equipped to handle this. So, my mental health took a dive as well. We were both in a dark place, and I felt like I could no longer be there for her, or ask her to be there for me. Upon reaching this realization, I started withdrawing contact, and eventually, emotionally checked out of the friendship we shared.

We didn’t have another break-up conversation since we never officially got back together; instead, we both got back on dating apps. And were aware of it. I went out on a few dates, but we were still physically intimate on rare occasions we’d meet. The final nail in the coffin for me was when I realised I wasn’t feeling emotionally connected at all — even while being physically intimate with her.

We didn’t speak much for a while again. Then, she kissed someone at a party, and I think she felt guilty. But we spoke, and I told her I’d been on a few dates and kissed a few people as well. That was it — we finally agreed we could never go back to the old pattern, and that we’d just be friends, hereafter, which we have been.

Although we’re no longer as close as we were in college and throughout the whole on-again, off-again roller coaster, we still care for each other, and are friends to this day. I’ve been in other committed relationships since then, and so has she.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Devrupa Rakshit.


Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, a painter by shaukh, and autistic by birth. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.


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