We all know that love and relationships are the main inspiration for most songs out there, and as a country music fan, there are a lot of songs out there that speak to me. There are a few that really stand out in my mind, because they were released at the same time I was feeling those same emotions (or I imagine my ex was). These songs almost represent chapters of the stages of this long-winded break-up, and I still feel some of those emotions even today.
Kelsea Ballerini's "Peter Pan"
Even before we actually broke up (the first time), what started leading toward the downward spiral was my boyfriend's ambition. He wanted to start his own company, and he quit his job so he could dedicate himself to his project full-time. I am the kind of person who needs stability to be happy, and as soon as I knew he didn't have a job, emotionally I took a step back. I couldn't let myself fall any further in love with someone if I couldn't picture a future with him; I couldn't see myself staying with someone who could put the future at risk for his dreams. I felt that, as an older man, he should be at the most stable point of his career (and life), but this was the exact opposite direction; these were the actions of a young man right out of school with big dreams and no responsibilities or dependents. That's what really scared me: I know he would have made the same decision even if we had been married, or further, had children together. He still would want to chase after his dreams and expect those around him to support him, without thinking about the implications his actions would have on the lives of other people. There is no way I could have supported the two of us on my non-profit salary! And I wasn't willing to live the penny-pinching lifestyle that this career decision demanded: eating frozen pizza and staying in most nights and giving up the luxury of going to the ballet or concerts was not my dream and not how I wanted to live my life (alone or with a partner). He was like Peter Pan, with his "head up in the clouds," without realizing that his pie-in-the-sky goal wasn't realistic, especially if he hoped to have another person in his life.
Brett Young's "Like I Loved You"
Of course I shouldn't speak for him, but I feel like this song might sum up how my ex is feeling now. At one point in our relationship, I did tell him that I wanted to see other people while still seeing him, and after we broke up but were still friends, I was dating other people (for relatively short amounts of time). I know a lot of people say you can't be friends with your ex, and I didn't want to believe that; he and I have so much in common that I didn't want the fact that we weren't dating to mean we had to lose all contact. But by the end, he may have been feeling like this song: "I don't want to be friends...You never loved me like I loved you."
And I do think the latter part is true. He told me he had never been in love with someone before me. But I had been in love before, and while that relationship ended very badly, while we were in love, it was a much healthier, supportive relationship than the one I had with this current ex. While I was able to fall in love again, it wasn't the same, and as this most recent relationship deteriorated, he made me feel negative things (mainly about myself) that would have never happened with my previous boyfriend. I remember telling him, "I know what love is, and this isn't it." Our ideas of love, and what we need out of a relationship, are very different. He would always say, "I'm never going to break up with you," and to him, that was the biggest sign of love any person could give to another (i.e. saying I want to be with you forever). But that isn't enough for me; a man who beats his wife can tell her the same thing, and we can all agree that that isn't love. So, no, I never loved him like he loved me, because our definitions of love are not the same.
Walker Hayes' "You Broke Up with Me"
This is another song that I think might resonate with my ex. I think he is/was hoping that I would come back and grovel, saying I was sorry for not being everything he ever wanted in a woman and begging for him to take me back. Now I will say I am sorry about some things: I'm sorry I took him for granted (especially when he would take the time to help me with things like my car or shoveling snow); I'm sorry I made our time together fit into my "productivity schedule," like hanging out with him was just something to check off on my to-do list. But I'm not sorry I broke up with him, and I'm not going to "crash his party" or "rain on his Mardi Gras parade" like in the song. I hope that he's doing well and having a good time, and maybe he's even met someone. I don't wish anything bad upon him, but I certainly don't want him back.
Cole Swindell's "Break Up in the End"
Even though the relationship inevitably ended, I don't regret being with him. Like the song above suggests, I would still go out with him, fall for him, introduce him to my parents, etc., even if I had a crystal ball that predicted the break-up. You learn a lot from each relationship you're in, and that's why I don't regret it. I confirmed my belief that financial stability is a top priority for my own lifestyle, and therefore must be for my partner as well. I also learned that it is more important for someone to respect you than love you. And while I joke that I want a male version of me, this man was very similar to me, and clearly it didn't work; you can't both want to be the catch, and you can't both have your way all the time. He and I are both very self-centered (he would deny it on his part, but I am self-reflective and acknowledged my selfishness to myself more than a decade ago), and that just won't work in a relationship, ever. But again, I don't wish I never met him or wish I had ended things sooner, even if I knew it would end (and I sort of already did).
Little Big Town's "Better Man" (written by Taylor Swift)
This is the song that really hits home for me. "I wish you were a better man/I wonder what we could've become/ if you were a better man/we might still be in love/If you were a better man/you could have been The One." Those lyrics take the words right out of my mouth. If he had his career situation handled; if he didn't make a scene in public when he got poor customer service; if he didn't disagree with me just for the sake of his need to be right all the time; if he were willing to negotiate more in our relationship; if he were willing to be a team instead of insisting he be the star of the show (If you haven't seen Chris Rock's new Netflix special, he has a bit about how in a relationship, sometimes you're the lead singer, but sometimes you have to play the tambourine, and when you do, you play the hell out of that tambourine. Yeah, this guy NEVER would have played the tambourine in our relationship).
But we were best friends, and there were times (even when things were strictly platonic) that we were so in sync and just loved being together. I roughly calculated that we argued (or at the very least he made me upset about something) about one out of every five times we hung out, which is 20%. Yes, that means 80% of the time (i.e. most of the time) we got along great, but in school, that's a B- grade. I don't want to settle for a B- relationship! But I definitely used to think, if he could just change a few behaviors and get on the same page as me, he could be The One; we would still be in love and together.
But he's not a better man. He's him. And I know it's hard for people to change, and it's true what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks. He's just lived the bachelor lifestyle for too long and is too set in his ways to be able to fit someone into his life while molding (even just a little bit) to fit into hers. And I don't condone trying to change your partner for the sake of changing that person into someone else. BUT I do think that you should be able to change your partner for the better, and vice versa. That's where the expression "my better half" comes from: your partner makes you a better whole, and you do the same for your partner. But he didn't think he needed to be a better man for me, and clearly I didn't rub off on him at all to become the man I needed. And if you aren't willing to become the best version of yourself for your partner, than you shouldn't be in a relationship, period.