Of all the aspects that were difficult about my recent breakup from my boyfriend of two years, the hardest was moving out of the apartment that we shared together. You can verbally say all kinds of things: we’re broken up, we’re on a break, we’re seeing other people, whatever. Those words might change from day to day. But pulling your sundresses off the closet hangers feels final. Same goes for taking your face wash out of the shower. I built a life, a relationship, with someone and then all of a sudden, it was just my things in an apartment that was now his.
Mr. Jessica and I moved in together in an apartment in New Jersey, paying $300 each towards rent, after we had been dating for three months. It felt fast at the time, and in retrospect, it was fast. Yet it felt right for the intensity of love we felt at the time and continued to feel during all the time we lived together. We were closer to each other than we’d ever been with anyone in our lives, ever. I will always cherish the nights we fell asleep snuggling each other, or cuddled on weekend mornings, or piled like sleepy kittens on the couch watching movies, or fed each other meals we cooked. Of the couple of things that I regret about our relationship, living together isn’t one of them.
That’s not to say I didn’t have complaints about our apartment. In fact, I had a lot of them. It was always a sore spot in our relationship. We didn’t bicker often, but when we did butt heads, 80 percent of the time it was about something related to our apartment. We had moved into an extra bedroom in his best friend’s place; when we moved in, I stored a bunch of my crap in my parents’ attic, but Mr. Jessica moved almost all his stuff into our new place. As a result, we had three different kitchen tables. His bicycle hung from a hook in the ceiling in our living room. More cups, plates and bowls than we could ever possibly use poured from the cabinets. And most annoyingly, there were unpacked boxes everywhere.
I’m not a fussy person. I’m your typical artsy-fartsy type that thrives in a little mess and chaos. But I wanted to come home to a nice, clean, organized apartment that looked like a place people lived. Actually, how close Mr. Jessica and I were getting only put me in “nesting” mode even more. I became ApartmentTherapy.com’s number one reader and fan; I kept a Google document the entire time filled with amazing decorating ideas. I bought IKEA bookshelves for our bedroom and turquoise Urban Outfitters hooks to hang on our walls. I got shelves for our kitchen to stack our pots and pans on. I encouraged him to hang photos and artwork on the walls. I really, really, really wanted him to get rid of the two extra kitchen tables and unused bicycle so we could get a hutch to put some of our kitchen supplies in. But Mr. Jessica was lazy — that’s the only word for it: lazy — about getting rid of the excess furniture and boxes and putting them in storage. It was downright infuriating sometimes. I felt like we lived in a storage facility.
People told me that I’d regret living with Mr. Jessica’s best friend and for the longest time, I didn’t; but when I did regret it, I really regretted it. I’ll always be grateful for a lot of things our roommate did for me — from cleaning up my barf on the bathroom floor when I had food poisoning to Mr. Fix It projects around the apartment — and for the many, many great conversations we had with each other. But at the end of the day, we were really different people and living in such close quarters was hard for me. The roommate is ex-military and Southern, loves football, shoot-’em-up movies and bourbon, and had a rotating cast of not-always-stellar women in his bed. We butted heads constantly about my feminist opinions. And even though our roommate taught me a lot — especially the invaluable learning experience of having to get along with someone who believes drastically differently things than I do — I often felt like he was Mr. Jessica’s friend, not mine, and I lived in their apartment. You can multiply that by 1,000 on football days.
But it was still our apartment, Mr. Jessica and I. We celebrated Christmases there. We made love there. We stayed up all night talking. So when he suddenly and unexpectedly broke up with me right after New Year’s Day and suggested that I move out, I thought, What, you want me to move out?”
It’s not that I desperately wanted to stay in the apartment and have him move out. First of all, we lived in a city in New Jersey that had decent but not amazing public transit options. I felt frustrated by the excess amount of crap we all had in the apartment, as I already described. And I assumed — probably rightly so — that living with our roommate as the best friend’s ex-girlfriend would be weird. But damn it, I lived there, too! My clothes hung in the closet. My candles hung from sconces on the wall. I bought that shower curtain! All my magazines — New York, The New Yorker, Bust — and my Netflix rentals went to that house. If Mr. Jessica was the one having doubts about our relationship, shouldn’t he move out?
Half a dozen times I told Mr. Jessica that I thought we should take things slowly and he should go stay with his parents while he figured things out. Moving out is a big, permanent step in a breakup. Given the sudden nature of his doubts, I assumed he was acting impulsively and panicking; maybe if he took some time apart from me, he would calm down. Practically speaking, moving out is a bitch and finding a new place to live is an even bigger bitch. I didn’t want to do either unless he was really sure this was what he wanted. But he pretty much insisted that I leave, and leave soon. In fact, he insisted so much that it got to the point where I felt like he was throwing me out.
Our breakup quickly got a lot uglier than it needed to be. This was the happiest, deepest, most loving relationship I had ever had in my life. But the way it all went down was so ugly that if I was a celebrity, it would sell millions of copies in the tabloids. Within 10 days of the breakup, I saw on Twitter that he used a gift certificate his parents had given us both for Christmas to take a girl he’d been emailing and flirting with before dumping me out on a date. He removed every single item belonging to me from our bedroom and piled it on top of our kitchen table so when I came to pack up, it was sitting all mixed up in a giant heap. He balked when I told him I wanted to take my Christmas gift to him — a set of used copper pots that I had bought online and polished by hand for him — back because he didn’t deserve them. And when I did take the copper pots back on my first trip to move out, he sent me a text message threatening to throw the remainder of my belongings at the apartment outside in the trash unless I promised to give him back the Louboutin heels he’d bought me, too. And to make matters more upsetting, the same evening that Mr. Jessica sent me that threatening text, the roommate wrote several intimidating blog posts in reference to me, including one that said “F**k Bitches.” To be quite honest, I felt scared.
On the one hand, it was amazingly easy to get over being in love with Mr. Jessica when I had a text message on my phone threatening to put half of my belongings on the curb for the trash collector. On the other hand, I felt completely gobsmacked by his uncharacteristically unkind behavior. This was not the guy I had fallen in love with. Not at all.
I felt kicked out of this home I’d tried to make, this “nest” I had been “nesting” in. I felt ganged up on by a roommate who had become a friend of sorts. And on top of the heartbreak, the confusion, the betrayal and the profound anger that I was already feeling regarding the breakup, I felt enormously inconvenienced. Getting dumped and moving out is like being forced to clean your entire house against your will. I had to find tons of boxes and suitcases, get rides from my family to the old apartment, separate my things from his things, move everything out, and then unpack it all again. Thank God — really, thank God — my parents live nearby. I could not imagine having to do all that by myself if they lived across the country. One of my sisters and my father, especially, have my gratitude forever for being there for me during the moving out process.
The last of my belongings were moved out this past weekend; none of them were thrown in the trash, thankfully. (Mr. Jessica had a last-minute change of heart and told me he wanted me to keep the Louboutins, which I appreciate.) In the interim, I’m living at my parents’ house in my old childhood bedroom. It’s not an ideal situation, especially because they have a wonky Internet connection, but it’s my best choice right now. I can’t even fathom the idea of having to go search for a new apartment right now and I need to save a bit of money for first and last month’s rent in New York City, anyway. I kinda feel like a loser for being almost 27 years old and living with Mom and Dad, but mostly I feel as shellshocked about the breakup and the moving out drama as I do grateful to have such generous and loving parents.
I would live with another boyfriend again. I would move in after three months again, even. But next time I do, I’ll make sure to have a serious conversation about an exit strategy in case it doesn’t work out. When Mr. Jessica asked me to move in with him, it was couched between his statements like “I want to marry you” and “I want to grow old with you” and “I’ll love you forever.” At that time, I had no reason to think about ever moving out without him: how I’d do it, where I’d go, how much money I’d need. I know that now and I’ll be carrying that learning experience with me going forward.
Nothing has been easy about this breakup at all. The past month of my life has been topsy-turvy and traumatic, yet at the same time it has shown me how much love and support I have in my life. I now know that breaking up is hard to do, but it might not even be the hardest: the hardest part just might be moving out.