Visiting Nantucket for the first time is like meeting a beautiful and charming stranger. He is intriguing, a dichotomy: he is all at once reclusive and distant, but also socially vibrant, he hangs out with all the cool kids. You are introduced to him in the summer when he’s at his best: the life of the party, sunny, warm, compelling and full of life. He serves you the finest food and wine in seemingly endless quantities, gives you unrestricted access to the most beautiful beaches and landscapes you’ve ever seen. People are drawn to him, want to be around him, and you are not immune to his appeal; you want to know everything about him, you want to be with him all of the time. But his fair weather friends only see one side of him; they do not live with him.
As time goes on you see that he is moody. The remoteness that seemed so intriguing in the honeymoon phase makes him cold and inaccessible at times, especially in the winter when his mood is gray. He prevents you from spending as much time as you would like with friends and family members who do not live near him and you start to wonder, “Is he controlling me?” He puts restrictions on where you go and when, and you pay a higher cost than most people when you leave him for even the smallest adventures “away”.
Then there’s the money thing, the root a lot of problems in many relationships. When you first meet in the summer, money is not an issue, there seems to be a steady flow of it and you don’t really question it. But when winter comes and his summer friends are gone, that flow subsides and becomes a trickle. You start to worry, but he assures you everything will be OK, you just need to hang in there until spring when his fair weather friends return and things pick up again. And he’s right, eventually the weather warms, his demeanor improves, and the money worries become a distant memory. In the back of your mind, though, you know he spent the winter dipping into your bank account when you weren’t looking. You don’t feel entirely comfortable about it, but everything else is so good between you and you don’t want to start a fight, so you let it go.
Winter isn’t all bad, You have time alone with him, you take long walks basking in his now altered, albeit equally stunning beauty. You see a side of him that many people never see, and it makes you feel special. You meet a different group of his friends and become part of their tight-knit and supportive community. These people are intelligent, creative, enduring, they come from diverse backgrounds and they reflect well on your lover. At some point you start to wonder if you are staying in this relationship because of his friends, and you admit to yourself that in part, this might be true.
After a while, you reflect on whether it might be time for a change. Sure, you love him, but you’re not sure that he’s good for you, and you wonder whether you are preventing yourself from finding the “right one” by staying in this relationship. You wonder if you are staying because the arrangement is “safe”, predictable. You grow weary of the seasonal moodiness, the control issues, and the roller coaster ride that is this relationship year after year. Now that you think about it, the money thing is really starting to tick you off. You work hard all summer, how dare he help himself to what is yours without even feigning remorse?
You confide all of this to some of your friends and family, and they confess to you that they do think he’s great and all, they love visiting him, but they have known for a while that he probably isn’t good for you. You talk about it, agonize over it, and finally make the very difficult decision: it’s time to get out of this relationship.
So this is the position I find myself in. I’m leaving the island, though I’m not going far. I’m moving to the Cape, which is now starting to feel like the new boyfriend who looks eerily like my ex. I have no idea how this will work out, but I owe it to myself to give it a shot. This new beau has many of the same qualities as my soon-to-be ex – good looks, cool friends – but is not as restrictive, geographically or financially. Will I regret this break-up? I hope not. When I meet friends on the street and tell them about the impending split, the more sage among them give me a knowing look and say, “well, you can always come back”. Lord knows I’ve done it before, I left the island for what I thought were greener pastures, but that turned out to be a “trial separation” and I came running back to my ex, all of his finer qualities completely exaggerated in my mind and his flaws a foggy memory. Things were really good for a while, but we eventually fell into the same old patterns.
I am more hopeful this time that this new relationship will work out. If it doesn’t, I can always come back; something tells me he’ll be waiting for me.
So here’s my Dear John letter to an island:
I’m sorry to tell you this in a letter, but I cannot bear to tell you in person. I’m leaving you. I love you with all my heart, you know that I do, but I just don’t think you’re good for me anymore. I wish I could say, “it’s not you, it’s me”, but I really think the problem is you. I’m sorry. We’ve had some really great times, and we’ve had our share of bad times. I’d rather leave now before the bad overshadows the good.
I have met someone else and I think you’d like him; you guys have a lot in common. Of course no one will ever replace you in my heart, but I think this new situation will open up possibilities for me that you just cannot provide.
I really mean it when I say that I hope we can still be friends. I’m keeping my (wonderful) job, so we’ll still see each other a few times a week and I don’t want it to be awkward. Of course there’s summer when I expect we’ll see even more of each other. I’ll see you at Clambake in July for sure.
I wish you all the best, and I know you will find someone new soon, there are always others like me waiting in the wings.
Love and friendship,