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I fell in love with someone 21 years after he dumped me by text

Couple on a date by the ocean
The author and her date after 21 years of not talking
  • I had a whirlwind romance with an Australian man 21 years ago. 
  • He ended the relationship by text message and I never heard from him again. 
  • After 21 years, I flew across the world to see him and we ended going on a date. 

The text message left me in a heap of tears in a backpacker hostel in Adelaide, Australia, in 2003. It read, "I think it's best if we part ways. I'm truley [sic] sorry. Thanks for the good times." The spelling error only made it feel more dismissive.

We'd met on a surfing weekend four months earlier while I was on a working holiday visa in Sydney. He was local, with a very grown-up job as a wine buyer for an upmarket Aussie chain. I was traveling and teaching English to fund my trip.

Our first date ended with kissing in the rain by the fountain in Hyde Park. I soon moved into his place by the beach for the rest of my three months in Sydney. Two months later he gave up his job and came backpacking with me in Western Australia. The relationship was perfect — and not in that too-good-to-be-true way either.

So when he had an opportunity to crew a sailboat for six weeks, I happily went off on an epic Nullarbor crossing with some Dutch girls. We planned to meet up a couple of months later in Cairns. But then his expedition fell through, and he joined me on the other side of the Nullarbor in Adelaide, I mistakenly thought, to continue our trip together.

He'd grown cold

The vibe had changed completely. He was distant and more interested in the Dutch girls than me. The day they left, I tentatively asked what had gone wrong. He had no real answer but suggested we take a break. I was still reeling when, half an hour later, he'd taken his backpack and sent that devastating text message. He completely disappeared and refused to answer my calls or messages.

Over the next few months, and after my return home to Europe, I came up with my own in-depth explanations for the brutal ending. Over the years, it boiled down to the summary "26-year-old guys can be dicks" — a story barely worth telling. I became curious about him once I was able to shrug it off as a far-off heartbreak, often using it as a "this too shall pass" comparison for any subsequent breakups.

During the pandemic, we reconnected via Facebook. The "dick" had become a qualified psychologist, a mature man who'd been to therapy. He'd done the work on the abandonment issues that meant he had one foot out the door in any relationship. Threading through the four-year friendship that followed was always the urge to see each other again. Not to pick up where we left off but because, well, why not?

I went back to Australia to meet him again

Finally, I booked a ticket from Spain where I live — coincidentally across the same dates and to Adelaide, the city he dumped me and now lives in. What do you do for a not-really-first first date two decades on?

I suggested pulling up the 36 questions to fall in love with Thai food on the night I landed. We worked through them over the two weeks I was there, some questions taking deeply personal turns in conversations that lasted hours. Whether it was the questions, the trust built during the four-year friendship, the soul-stirring bush nights spent gazing at the Milky Way, or driving out to the coast to watch fiery sunsets, sometimes it was all so beautiful I cried.

It wasn't all head-spinning romance

We spent over half the time at his house, remote working. We did normal stuff like laundry, going to the supermarket, and watching "Married at First Sight." Of course, we dissected and reflected on what had happened before and the relationships we'd had since. But we weren't doing it to get closure; it was just fascinating.

Halfway through the fortnight, he said, "You've chosen the perfect revenge, coming back over here and making me fall in love with you." I laughed, not because it was funny but because it was true. I felt it, too.

But no matter how compatible we still are, making a permanent move can't happen before my children leave home, and that's years away. A long-distance relationship doesn't sit right with either of us, though the friendship that led us to this point isn't going to disappear.

When I left, I resisted the urge to send a text re-contextualizing his "Thanks for the good times" message. It would have been a cheap joke and, besides, as a writer, I couldn't bring myself to mimic the spelling error that would have made it funnier.

I don't need to circle back to the beginning and make a tidy end to the story. And, anyway, I don't believe this story has ended. If we can reconnect based on a friendship and a 21-year gap, there's a good chance we can do it after a few more years.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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