Dear John,

I do not want to be in this committed relationship anymore, I am sorry. I am dreading having to tell this to you in person and to see that I am hurting you. I do not want to hurt you, you are a beautiful and fragile soul that has been hurt in the past. I deeply care about you and I have been trying my best to make this work, but I can’t seem to find a way without erasing parts of myself. I keep asking myself to look deeply at my own needs and wants to see what is truly necessary, to practice greater equanimity in the face of not getting what I need or not being met. I don’t want to run away out of anger, boredom, loneliness, or anxiety — but I don’t want to stay out of those things either.

I initiated seeing a therapist to help me with processing so that I wouldn’t run away or stay from a place of difficulty. I contemplated the Vipassana sitting practice of staying in pain for hours and days to see its impermanent nature, to develop a felt sense of equanimity in the body. In reading about Goenka’s Vipassana I see the tendency in my practice to escape into joy, to never stay in the discomfort for long without desiring change. I see my own need for discipline and “strong determination”. At the same time, I am afraid that in the process of increasing equanimity, I will numb myself to the things about myself that I love, that I will lose my energy and joy (while settling my anger and anxiety), that in becoming a better partner to you I will stop being a companion to my true self.

In the course of analyzing our fights, I often end up concluding that the cause of the fight is a need or expectation I have of you that you are not capable or willing to meet. I see my own selfishness and often end up hating the pieces of myself that are disappointed by you. I want you to text me silly things. I want you to let me read you my poetry. I want you to be kind when I ask to sip your coffee. I want you to not tease me about garlic or to tell me I smell badly. I want you to get the ice cream that we have just purchased from the fridge. Some of these things are trivial and silly, fleeting really, and some speak to deep and important needs.

Many of these things I try to whittle out of myself because I see that it is not something you can provide. I don’t need funny text messages. I don’t need less teasing. I certainly don’t need the ice cream from the fridge. But the constant process of asking myself if this need is okay, if it’s valid, if my anger is okay... this process is exhausting and is slowly whittling away pieces I care about inside of me too.

The most difficult pieces of our relationship:

Decision-making and communication
You find ease in unilateral decision-making and enjoy acting on my behalf or allowing me to act on your behalf. Often your decisions are communicated through your actions rather than in asking for consent or alignment through words. You experience trust and harmony in the relationship when decisions about the “small things” are made without investing a lot of time and energy. You are agitated when I need a great deal of verbal feedback, preferring not to engage in verbal dialogue especially in small things, before you’ve had coffee in the morning or after a long day at work.

I appreciate collaborative decision-making and enjoy the process of coming to alignment in words. I like to ask: “How are you doing?” “Isn’t this X?” “Can I do Y?” as a way of coming into clear alignment with you, especially when I can’t tell your feelings based on your body or facial expression. I get agitated when I do not know your emotional state, feel it is out of alignment with mine, or do not get the verbal affirmation I enjoy. I feel helpless, lonely, and anxious when you make decisions on my behalf.

Because of this mismatch, we argued both times we went to pick up Philz coffee: once when I forgot my mask and wanted to wear yours, and once when I asked you for permission to have a sip of your coffee. Both about the necessity of communicating on something you’ve deemed “small”.

After we argued about whether or not I should ask you before taking a sip of your coffee, I tried to laugh when taking your coffee cup without verbal consent (it was a delicious cup of coffee - Dancing Water!). It felt foreign and forbidden in my body, like I was taking on a bad habit I didn’t want to start. I tried to laugh when you took my ginger beer at dinner at Dishdash. I told myself that I was growing my ability to tolerate things I don’t like, that I don’t always have to do things my way. But the truth is, I don’t want to compromise on this, I like that I ask for consent and look for verbal cues. Asking for consent feels gentle and considerate in my body; I don’t want to change my default behavior with you or anyone else. I don’t want “growing my resilience” or “tolerance” to be the default excuse for why I stop fighting for myself and the things I care about. To be with you seems to require that I change pieces of myself that I like, because you’ve made clear that these are integral parts of yourself that you are unwilling to change.

Last week I drafted a list of agreements which created some ease and understanding in the relationship, allowing me to reconcile some of our differences. You pointed out that you don’t like to make agreements and that instead you enjoy breaking the rules. You stated that you don’t like to write things down, that this is something I enjoy. And you stated that you prefer to change yourself and your habits at the root, rather than creating a set of aspirations and tracking your interactions against them like I do. Hearing this I feel exhausted and a sense of defeat. How am I supposed to work through this with you if we cannot even agree upon the medium through which we will communicate?

Experiencing joy in partnership
We experience joy and wonder in different ways. You experience lightness and play in your own mind and in your lab: thinking about ideas, experimenting, building things. Much of your play is experienced alone.

I experience lightness and play in my body by being silly and playful: dancing, jumping, doing a hopscotch, chasing each other, singing, hiking, and many other spontaneous things. My play arises as inflation or bubbly energy and I look to others to affirm and build on my energy. I thrive on this infectious energy, and experience fun and aliveness in this generative creative effort. I also experience play in words. I enjoy sending jokes, humorous things, poetry, and wonderings in text messages and I like receiving messages back that build on this wordplay.

When our energy is in conflict, my energy arises like a balloon filled with helium bubbling up and yours is deflationary, pulling out air from my balloon. I want to be able to text you silly things and have you text back silly things, or to read you poetry over the phone when you’re tired without you hanging up on me, or to ask you to hopscotch with me and be met with play. And when I am not met with those things, it is like running full force into a wall — disappointing, challenging, demoralizing.

Sometimes the energy is complementary and your grounded presence helps me touch into a vulnerable and calm piece of myself that is not seen very often. When we cuddle in bed or meditate together, I feel the rush of energy settle into stillness. It is peaceful and fragile and is full of its own kind of wonder. But I don’t want low energy to be the only place in which we find harmony in our relationship.

Being in community
You’ve stated many times that you don’t like people. You like to stand off to the side and observe happenings. I like to be with others. I want to be able to share my love of the community with my partner, to delight in it and take refuge together. I don’t want to have the person I spend the most time with deflating my love of people. Not to say I don’t accept it, but I don’t want it to affect my perspective of those around me. I appreciate my optimism and curiosity when I see people (not all, I certainly have discriminatory tendencies).

Daily schedules and logistics
I wake up early and like to be active in the morning. You are barely awake or civil until your first cup of coffee at 10 or 11am. I like to sleep at 10pm, you like to stay up and have the most energy at night.

You work a 10am - 5/6pm job. I work on my own hours, mostly between 7am - 2pm and often have events or meetings in the evenings. The time we have to be together is an evening during the week and one day per weekend.

I wander. You’re tied to your lab in Sunnyvale. I like the freedom of hopping from place to place. You like the ease of staying in one spot. I don’t mind being dirty and shower every other day (at most daily). You’re vigilant about being clean and shower twice per day.

You want guaranteed financial security. I am less concerned with this right now, partially because of my privileged economic situation and partially because I have confidence in my own ability to provide for myself now and into the future. I have changed careers multiple times and have ended up happier and self-sufficient each time.

On fighting
You don’t mind getting into small fights or antagonizing me in order to grow, but I don’t like it. I am perhaps more emotionally affected by arguments that you are; I can spend hours or days sitting with something difficult after a fight.

Best parts of our relationship

When I am able to be fully myself
There are snippets of time when I am able to be completely myself. Like when I realized while with you that I don’t always feel like myself when the desire to play arises — that this can come from a 5-year-old Melanie — or when I want to laugh at a silly joke — teenage Melanie.  I can tell you and have you hear me and understand. Your stable and solid presence grounds me and allows me to touch into quiet and still places of myself that I can't always hear on my own.

Sharing the practice together
There is a simplicity and ease to sharing the practice; you often understand the depths of my wondering without me having to explain. Sharing the Pema Chodron article was joyful and enlivening. Practicing the 3rd Mindfulness Training with you before we had sex for the first time was perfect, exactly what I want in relationship. Sitting with you holding hands is vulnerable and sacred, a source of growing compassion and love.

Bearing witness to your practice in action
There are moments where I am surprised by your conscientiousness and consideration for others, like when you said you’d stopped subscribing or purchasing from Amazon because you disagreed with how they were treating their workers, or when you stopped buying from Home Depot. Even you deciding not to get the ice cream from the fridge was out of consideration for your roommate, who was cooking dinner upstairs and didn’t like people. In these moments I touch into my aspiration to take better care of others, and to act in greater accordance with true recognition of interbeing. I am grateful for you.

Trying out commitment
When we agreed to try out a long-term committed relationship I was surprised by the spaciousness and ease which greeted me. To stop debating about whether it would work or not and to surrender to the possibility was a moment of vastness. Your patience with me and your seriousness and faith made me want to try to make it work.

Being met and called out for the places I can grow
In being with you, I see more clearly where I have room to grow. I can expand my compassion to encompass all beings; I can let go of some of my trivial wants and be more considerate, loving, and patient with you and my family and friends. In our many debriefs on arguments, I recognize that how fortunate I have been to be with another person who is willing to walk with me in my imperfection and to meet difficulty together.

I am sorry. I don’t see another way forward that allows both of us to be who we are. I want to break up to allow both of us to be happy.