Brad and I dated for about two years. We never lived together, and the relationship never got too serious, but we were “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” in our 30s. He was a really nice guy, I just could not tolerate a few of his worst habits, and he did not care for my disapproval. Fair enough.
The end of the relationship began in Hawaii. We were there on vacation with friends for a week. While there, our completely disparate natures became increasingly obvious on a daily basis. There was no dramatic scene or fight, thankfully. It was just that by the time we got to the airport after the flight home we were ready not to see each other for a while.
To paint the scene, a typical day on our Hawaiian trip went something like this. We wake up, and it is incredibly beautiful outside. I jump out of bed, get dressed, run downstairs and have breakfast with our housemates. After breakfast, I bring a cup of coffee upstairs to Brad. He rolls over, opens one eye and wants to go back to sleep.
I grab my shoes, and my friends and I leave for a hike. We get home after lunch and Brad is sitting up on the bed with the shutters closed so that the glare from the sun doesn’t interfere with the televised basketball game he is watching.
We had been back from Hawaii for about two weeks, when it suddenly occurred to me that we needed to confirm the fact that we had broken up. We had not seen each other the whole time and probably only spoke by phone minimally, but after two years it seemed wrong to leave an ellipsis at the end of our story. So I called to ask if he wanted to meet for coffee. He countered with asking me out to dinner. I hesitated, not wanting to give a false impression of my intent. He said, “Don’t worry, just for old time’s sake, one last dinner together.” I agreed.
He picked me up that Saturday night wearing a suit and tie, drove two towns away to a yacht club, where he had made reservations in their upscale restaurant. Every word of the prior sentence was a first in our relationship. I became very nervous that he had misunderstood why we were seeing each other that night. But, I did not want to insult him or hurt his feelings, so I went along with all of it.
We had, of course, a very lovely meal. We talked about people we knew in common and what was happening at work for each of us; we had wine, ate delicious food in a romantic setting, and really relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. It felt much more like the beginning of our relationship, before we had tired of each other’s flaws.
As we waited for dessert, Brad reached into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a wrapped gift box which he handed to me across the table. I was embarrassed and tried to hand it back. I felt like a fraud to have let him do all of this when I knew that we were breaking up. I tried to find a nice way of explaining it to him. As I stuttered, Brad said something which I can still recall with perfect clarity. He took the box from me, and as he opened it and revealed a diamond solitaire necklace, he said,
“I want you to have this because it is something I should have done while we were still together. I was not a good boyfriend to you and I should have been. You deserve diamonds for being great to me, and I wish I could do more. But, please, always remember me kindly by taking this necklace.”
Well, it worked. I have never had a harsh thing to say about him, and we help each other out from time to time when we can. More than 15 years after our trip to Hawaii, we are still happy to hear each other’s voices on our phones. If I were to do a hard analysis of what I spent on Brad over the two years versus what he spent on me (not only in monetary terms, but in terms of emotional effort, physical inconvenience, hurt feelings, and all the rest), the diamond necklace was not enough to make it all worthwhile. But, the sentiment – the acknowledgment of our imbalances, is a gift I have always treasured.
What We Love: A thoughtful word or gesture, especially as the final part of a relationship, can leave a lasting positive impression.