- My boyfriend and I had a perfect Christmas with a Venezuelan meal, a fire pit, and dancing.
- But that night, he broke up with me; maybe he was grieving his former life with his ex and kids.
- I haven’t dated since and have embraced my independence while celebrating holidays with family.
My boyfriend and I spent Christmas Eve of 2021 enjoying a romantic dinner for two. On Christmas morning, he made us lattes using his fancy espresso machine. We leisurely perused the newspaper before heading to a neighborhood café to share a delicious bear-claw pastry. Everything felt perfect as my teeth crunched into almonds and my lips glazed with syrupy sweet dates.
Before heading to his best friend’s house for Christmas dinner, we changed into swimsuits and took a long dip in his hot tub as his four dogs ran circles on the grass. “You are so gorgeous,” he said, gazing into my eyes. “You’re my dream girl.” I couldn’t have felt more doted upon. I didn’t realize how much things would soon change.
I thought I could be with him forever
A friend from middle school who’d known him for over 20 years introduced us. She gave him my number, and he immediately called and invited me on a date. At the time, I was 49 and had been divorced for over a decade. I had two grown sons, and after my marriage ended in 2010, I had one long-term relationship, but I’d been single for more than a year.
When I first met him at an expensive steakhouse — his suggestion, and not a great one for me as a vegetarian — I didn’t think he was my type physically. However, despite this, I liked him and felt a connection. Maybe it was his dimples that made him look younger even though he was 13 years older, or the fact that he was a doctor, or that my friend told me he was smart.
Six months into our relationship, our first Christmas together was special — or so I thought
After our first date, he called me on the phone several times a day from work, and we continued to see each other four to five times a week, usually for dinner. We also spent weekends together, staying at his cabin in the mountains or socializing with his friends.
When the holidays rolled around, we were six months into our relationship and decided to spend them together. I don’t usually celebrate Christmas but was thrilled to be invited to spend it with him and his friends, whom I’d already spent a lot of time with. They were hosting us and lived over an hour away. On the drive, he held my hand tightly. The time breezed by because we were deep in conversation — and deeply in love, or so I thought.
He’d been divorced for nearly two years and was used to spending opulent holidays at home with his three children and his ex. But after his divorce, he and his ex traded off years with their grown kids; it wasn’t his year, so he was without all his usual traditions. But he did have me, and though I knew he missed his kids, I thought I could be enough.
On Christmas night, his friends — who are Venezuelan — made a traditional Venezuelan Christmas meal complete with hallaca, steamed corn dough wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with vegetables, raisins, and olives. We shared jokes and opened presents. After dark, we went outside and sat by a toasty fire. We listened to salsa music, and I swayed my hips to the beat. He and I sat close, and he wrapped his arms around me, keeping me warm. He told me again that I was beautiful and that he’d never find someone like me.
A memorable night ended with an unpleasant surprise
It was 10 p.m. when we began our drive back to his house. “I’m glad I don’t have to cook for parties anymore,” I said as he drove me in his dark sports car. During my marriage, I was used to hosting huge parties multiple times a year. I loved cooking for dozens of people, but now that I was an empty nester, I’d lost interest in entertaining — I was happy to just be a guest.
Seemingly out of nowhere, he blurted out, “We can’t be together anymore.”
“What?” I asked, looking over. His eyes were fixed on the road and he said nothing further. It felt like something had shifted between us. I waited for him to continue, but he said nothing. Confused, I asked, “Are you breaking up with me?”
“Yes,” he said, bluntly. We had 30 minutes left in the drive, and we both stayed silent. I retraced our day, wondering if I had done or said something wrong.
My car was parked at his house, and I had to go inside to get my things. I asked him to explain himself in the kitchen, and he mumbled something about “not being good at relationships.” At the beginning of our relationship, he’d told me that after his wife left him, she’d married another man within several weeks. I knew this was a sore spot, and likely contributed to him believing he was “not good” at relationships.
He also said he didn’t enjoy the meal at his friend’s house because it wasn’t the traditional meal he usually serves on Christmas. It was the first year he didn’t have decorations or a tree. He acknowledged that these things weren’t my fault, but he also couldn’t give me a reason that was directly related to me, which left me further confused.
How could one of my favorite Christmases have been his worst? I wondered if my comment about cooking bothered him; maybe he wanted a woman interested in entertaining, or maybe he was grieving his former life. I probably won’t ever know for sure what sparked the hasty change in feelings, but that’s OK.
We had planned to spend Christmas night together, but I drove home alone. That night, I tossed and turned. I didn’t end Christmas the way I envisioned, snuggled in the crook of his shoulder.
I didn’t speak with him for a couple of months. Then he began texting me, sending me vegetarian recipes he’d found in the Sunday paper. Once, he sent me a photo of a veggie burger from a restaurant in Argentina, where he was on vacation. He said he missed me and that I’d always remain special in his life, but his words meant nothing at this point.
He still texts me occasionally, sending me random vegetarian recipes, oblivious to the fact that I have zero interest in cooking — and even when I did, I never used recipes. But then again, he never got to know me. Our relationship revolved around him and his life.
Since then, I’ve embraced my independence, and I’m happy to be single
Since our relationship, I haven’t dated anyone else and am unsure when I’ll be ready to date again. I wasn’t in love with him, but I did enjoy his company. He was endearing to me — maybe it was his silly boyish laugh and dimples. It also didn’t hurt that I liked his dogs and his friends.
I spent last holiday season with my family as a single woman and intend to do so again this year. While I used to feel sad about being alone during the holidays, I no longer do. This year, I’ll go with my family to a restaurant. At 51, I have a new appreciation for my independence. In this second half of my life, I’m happy not to have to cook or entertain. Instead, I’d rather spend my time writing, reading, and watching reality shows such as “90 Day Fiancé” that remind me I am thrilled to be single — I’m happy to be free of relationship drama.