Kiss and Tell: “I tried to break up with my boyfriend, but his dad wouldn’t let me”

Kiss and Tell: “I tried to break up with my boyfriend, but his dad wouldn’t let me”

Nina, a 25-year-old designer, didn’t realize that there was a third party influencing her and her boyfriend’s conversations

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Welcome to Kiss and Tell, a series about the steamy, surprising and frequently absurd world of Toronto dating. Send your most memorable stories from the pursuit of love and lust in the city to .

—As told to Juliann Garisto


I met Will in high school. It was a tiny school, so everyone knew everyone. And everyone—including me—knew that Will had been nursing a crush on me since we were in Grade 9. Between then and our final year, he’d asked me out on three separate occasions. I’d told him no every single time. I just wasn’t interested. I liked spending time with my friends and my family, and otherwise I was happy to be alone with my books.

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But Will was determined. One day, when we were almost done school, he tried a fourth time. We were training for long-distance running when he asked me out again. I decided it would be easier to say yes than to refuse him, especially since we were both in an upcoming track and field meet and would be seeing a lot of each other.

We dated for the rest of the time we were in school and continued dating after graduation. It turned out to be very chill. Once or twice a week, he would buy me dinner or we would go to the movies. I knew deep down that he wasn’t “the one,” but it seemed way easier to just let the relationship run its course. In the meantime, I tried my best to keep it casual and continued to prioritize myself and my plans.

That August, I started trying to break up with him. Will was about to move farther out in the GTA for school, and I had plans to move to France in October. It seemed like it made sense for us to split. I wanted to take a year off to travel, and I didn’t know if I’d return to Canada afterward. I thought it would be an easy out, but when I brought it up, Will insisted that long-distance wasn’t an issue. Even when I told him that my travel plans were completely open ended, he said that we were meant to be together for the rest of our lives.

We started getting into these frequent late-night arguments in the attic of his parents’ house. I’d say something like, “I don’t think this is gonna work out.” Then he’d insist that we were going to get married one day, and I’d protest that that was crazy. “How could you know that?” I’d ask. “We’re so young. Plus I’m moving to France.” But he was persistent. He was prepared to work his entire life around me. Before I’d decided to move to France, for instance, I’d told him I was planning to go to U of T. Right after that, he enrolled in a college in the city, just to stay close to me. I didn’t find this attractive.

During these late-night conversations, he would eventually say something like, “I can’t do this right now,” before disappearing downstairs for a bit. Eventually, he would come back up with some sort of prepared rebuttal to whatever argument I was making. “But I budgeted,” he would say, “and I saved up to come and visit you four times.” I’d respond with something about how I didn’t want him to waste all his savings on visiting me—I would never do that for him. He’d get stumped and disappear downstairs again.

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This happened enough times that it started to seem pretty odd. So, one time, I decided to follow him. I crept after him in the dark and waited at the bottom of the stairs. I heard Will in the living room, talking with his dad. He was crying and repeating what I’d said to him. Then his dad told him exactly how he should respond. Suddenly, I put it all together: Will’s dad had been spoon-feeding him all of his arguments about why we should stay together. I was shocked. I’d suspected that something weird was going on, but I wasn’t expecting that.

I confronted Will on the stairs. My basic point was, “What the hell—Have you ever had an original thought in your life?” The conversation didn’t get any further, though, because he wouldn’t stop crying. I tried to wait it out, but I just couldn’t. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, and the only thing that calmed him down was calling off the break-up.

I wasn’t leaving for Europe just yet, but my parents had bought a house in Cornwall, and I moved in with them temporarily. Will was at school, about an hour’s drive out of Toronto (he’d ditched the downtown college after my plans had changed). We saw each other once in September, when I drove to visit him while he was studying. I was still so overwhelmed by how things had gone the last time, so I decided it would be easier to pretend everything was okay. I drove back to Cornwall and didn’t see him until Thanksgiving, when the plan was for me to have dinner with him and his family.

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, I drove down to his parents’ house, as planned, with the intention of finally breaking up. My flight to France was only a week away. He wasn’t home when I arrived, so his parents let me in, and I waited in his room. I was really nervous. For twenty minutes, I just sat there, going over what I had planned to say to him in my head: We have to break up; I don’t want to be in a relationship; this is over. I didn’t want to be mean, but I really didn’t want to argue again. I had to spell it out for him.

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Finally, he walked in. He could tell something was up. Before he’d even shut the door to his room, I came out with it—”We are breaking up”—and I emphasized that I really meant it this time. He just stood there, staring at me in silence. I asked if he wanted to say anything, but he didn’t respond. So I just left, crying. It’s exhausting breaking up with someone who isn’t emotionally mature enough to accept the reality of the situation. I had to pass his parents in the kitchen, but I didn’t say goodbye. I just needed to get out of there.

I got into my car and was about to back out of the driveway when Will’s dad ran out of the house. “Wait!” he shouted. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He yanked open my car door and told me that I didn’t need to do this. “You shouldn’t drive right now,” he said. “You should stay, and we should talk about it.”

I felt like there was an insect crawling up my leg and I was trying to shake it off but it wouldn’t budge. I shouted, “You have to let me go!” I was preparing to say other, potentially hurtful things, but thankfully he let go of the door and raised his hands in surrender. I yanked the door shut, started the car and pulled out of the driveway.

I felt pretty terrible afterward and was crying at the wheel for a few minutes. But, after some time, I started to feel how I imagine Nicole Kidman felt after divorcing Tom Cruise. I was finally free.

I’ll never understand why both Will and his dad were so resistant to the break-up. Am I really that special? Afterward, there was a bit of back-and-forth between Will and I, though I never initiated contact. I just started responding less and less, and eventually it tapered off naturally. We’re still Facebook friends, so I could see what he’s up to if I wanted, but I really have no desire. It’s all in the past now.