Nerve Endings: Male, 25, Portland

First in a new series of breakup stories. "I showed her the couch and hinted she should sleep on it..."

Male • 25 • Portland, ME

Nerve Endings is a new biweekly series of reader-submitted breakup stories.

I was dating a girl named Emily, and she was a bit of a crier. As in, when another driver flipped her off when she was changing lanes, it was like, waterworks. Our relationship wasn't going very well, and she was taking a month-long writing fellowship in the U.K. I was staying in Portland, and I told her we should use the time to think about stuff. By this, I meant we should consider ourselves broken up while she was away. In retrospect, maybe I could've been clearer about that. Anyway, a few days before she got back, I hooked up with my friend Amanda, and we started seeing each other.

So when Emily came home, at her welcome-home party, I told her that she should probably stay with another friend until we had a chance to talk. She said yes... but then she came home with me anyway. So (here's another thing I could've been clearer about in retrospect) I kind of showed her the couch and hinted she should sleep on it. Needless to say, after she brushed her teeth and I got in bed, she came into my room and took her clothes off and got in bed with me.

Somehow, I resisted temptation and told her we couldn't hook up. She spent the next seven hours crying in my bed, and then explained to me that she was counting on staying with me for a few weeks when she got back from her trip, until she found a place, and she had nowhere else to stay.

What could I say but yes? So she moved in with me. But I didn't tell her I was dating Amanda. So when I'd leave to hook up with Amanda, I'd literally sneak out of my own house — I'd tell Emily I was going to bed, close the door to my bedroom, wait for her to go to bed, and then tiptoe out the front door. But I felt terrible, because I'd always catch Emily crying in my apartment. So after a couple of weeks, I told her that I was dating Amanda, and she lost it again.

Now the waterworks were running every day, and now she knew where I was running out to when I left at random times. But she still apparently couldn't find a place to stay, and the weeks were turning into months. We were still trying to be friends, and we were still hanging out once or twice a week — and since she was so sensitive, I was routinely cancelling plans with Amanda because I didn't want to hurt Emily's feelings. And while Emily was a big crier, Amanda was a big yeller, and would get furious and hurt every time I cancelled on her (understandably). It enraged her that we could never go to my house because I was terrified of seeing Emily there.

Emily ended up staying with me for three months. It was probably the most sadomasochistic relationship of my life, and we weren't even having sex. She'd do things to torture me, like leave the door open while changing, and she'd occasionally sleep in my bed, but we never hooked up.

Then, while she was still living with me, she started sleeping with the worst person ever — like, my least favorite person in the world. I was so mad about it, even though I obviously had no right to be. Finally, one night I was at a bar with some friends, Emily, and the guy she was dating. When it came time to leave, I watched her silently agonize over who she was going with. The tension was unbearable. I remember her walking away with the other guy and seeing her fighting back tears. As for my relationship with Amanda, it was obviously doomed from the start.

We're looking for stories about memorable breakups. Email with 300-700 words. (Don't worry, we won't print your name — but please do make sure to include your gender, where you were, and how old you were.) Submissions may be edited.

Commentarium (35 Comments)

Jan 10 12 - 3:01am

this sounds like my last relationship
not the specific circumstance obviously, but the crying the emotional manipulation, and most importantly the being broken up but still living together and seeing other people

Jan 10 12 - 3:14am

This segment had better improve with some people we care about. What an idiot: completely unable to give one clear direction. In the writer's world: Think about it = we're broken up; couch = bed; can't stay = stay here for 3 months. Feel free to ask Emily (or whoever) to return your genitals...then again, don't bother.

Jan 10 12 - 5:52pm

This is what we call a learning experience.

Jan 10 12 - 3:19am

sounds like you two deserved each other...

oh, but this part was hilarious:
"..I told her we should use the time to think about stuff. By this, I meant we should consider ourselves broken up while she was away. In retrospect, maybe I could've been clearer about that."

maybe, just maybe...

Jan 10 12 - 5:09am

Sad, funny, self-deprecating. Pretty good start to the series.

Jan 10 12 - 8:13am

Ick. Don't see the 'self-deprecating' here, just the 'ladies be crazy'. Crying, shouting, registering human emotion - who'd have thought it!

Jan 10 12 - 11:12am

i didn't really read the tone that way. also, i wouldn't want to read a series of stories all about people behaving well!

Jan 10 12 - 9:05am

women be crazy. men be stupid. article be failure.

Jan 10 12 - 9:59am


Jan 10 12 - 11:10am

I thought it was pretty obviously rueful

Jan 16 12 - 12:19pm

comment be funny.

Jan 10 12 - 11:03am

Haters gonna hate, I'm told. The article was good. It need not be happy to be good. We've all been similar places, or saw them coming and got out - isn't what nerve is about this possibility of seeing the inner workings of someone's intimate, difficult struggles with intimacy? And what better than breakups, which, after all, are rarely going to be trite and easy reading?

Good stuff.

Jan 10 12 - 2:54pm

This was pretty trite and easy reading, though. Believe me, I don't think anyone is complaining because it was just too raw and affecting to handle. They're complaining because it was way overly simplified and the writer's sense of these women -- his female characters, for the sake of story-telling -- seems awfully shallow. "This one cried, that one yelled." That's not exactly a fascinating yarn.

Jan 10 12 - 5:27pm

Good points. I should be more clear about why I like it. I think that these comments - the venting of rage, etc - are all part of the work. I don't mean that they were designed by the writer; I mean that bad, or clueless, or whatever, experiences, still afford the opportunity for the community to respond - and someone reading the story and recognizing it learns not just from the writer but from all of our responses.

As another poster said - it's not a novel. I'm okay with getting shallow or 'incorrect' descriptions of characters, because those are the author's 'incorrect' or 'shallow' (or naive, or young, or whatnot) views - and it's that intimate view that is so appealing and human.

The fact that his sense of these women is shallow is therefore not a problem. I wouldn't read a novel he'd written, to be sure. But I don't want that from these pieces.

Put another way, I can read real novels, polished pieces of work. And I'm fine with seeing some of them, in other columns, on Nerve. But this is something that could be written by anyone, and was - and that's cool. It's a heck of a lot more useful than yet another professionally-written piece about Steven Spielberg, as currently on the front page, for example!

Jan 10 12 - 11:29am

"Intimate struggles with intimacy" -- very well put indeed, JM. And true that the article needn't be happy to be good. But some honesty and intelligence would be helpful, no? Or some insight into oneself and the others? But what we have here is a self-pitying coward who gets just what he deserves.

Jan 10 12 - 11:43am

The language of the story ("I was so mad about it, even though I obviously had no right to be") suggests he's well aware that he got what he deserved.

Jan 10 12 - 5:30pm


It'd probably be nice for him to have honesty and insight (and whether or not he does is something we could discuss.). But is it necessary for the piece? I don't see why. I don't need a package neatly tied up with moral included - it's the immediacy, which sometimes precludes that kind of processing, that is appealing in an intimate story.

Jan 10 12 - 1:24pm

I have a solution to all her crying! Let's let her live with me and watch her cry ALL THE TIME. This will never fail!

Jan 10 12 - 3:01pm

And what did we learn from this? Answer: probably nothing and you'll do it again.

Jan 10 12 - 4:04pm
Buck Nasty

This fucking generation and this bullshit "hook-up" nonsense. Grow some balls and use the word sex of fuck.

Jan 10 12 - 4:44pm

Some of you are so overly critical. It's a reader-submitted story, so it's not necessarily going to be a work of art. There are also character limits, hence the shallow descriptions of the women in the story - rather, essay. 300-700 is just an essay, not a novel. obviously he could have handled the situation better in reference to both women, but I thought his done demonstrated that realization.

Jan 10 12 - 4:47pm


Jan 11 12 - 12:19pm

Wow, really? "How could you have expected it to be good?" as a defense? "It's not supposed to be art, gosh"? That is some wack ass shit.

Jan 10 12 - 9:44pm

I didn't like how Amanda was described as being understandably upset and yelling, but Emily was just a non-stop crier and it basically annoyed him.

Jan 11 12 - 12:25am
ilabuti ram

this was as bad as the first time one has sex...hopefully, the series gets better with time!

Jan 11 12 - 7:02am
legosascontraband. the girl's 'welcome home!' party? next thing i was waiting for is that emily & amanda were sisters/best friends oh! and as for the 'in my bed, but we never hooked up' -, yeah!? yea, i'm goin call BS on that one. cheers. -d.xo

Jan 11 12 - 11:57am

the writer chiming in here. Just wanted to make a few things clear:

1. Didn't mean to make the women one dimensional. Both are fantastic people who handle hard emotions differently. And my horrible handling of the situation led both to understandably react in extreme ways. Emily's crying and Amanda's righteous (and well-deserved) anger weren't meant to paint them in full. They were simply parts of their personality that affected me at the time. And thus they made it into the story. 700ish words isn't really enough to go into everything else that made Emily and Amanda unique, interesting and deserving of a better man than me at the time.
2. I didn't mean to come across as self-pitying. I was and am fully aware that this whole ridiculous situation was my fault for not being strong enough to make clear what I wanted and to be honest with Emily.
3. To legosascontraband, I know it sounds crazy. but we did not do anything that night or any other night following. There were too many intense emotions and sadness on both of our parts to be in any kind of mood.
4. And you guessed it, I'm not a pro writer. Just submitted this story because I thought it was interesting that in trying to not hurt someone's feelings and in trying to avoid hard conversations, I ruined two relationships.

Alright, back to bashing.

Jan 12 12 - 9:59pm

Enjoyed it man. In this life, it is far easier to critique then to do. And, for some, it is far easier to condescend than to empathize.

Jan 12 12 - 10:01pm


Jan 13 12 - 4:33pm


Jan 19 12 - 9:51pm

Maybe you can find a testicle donor Male13Portland?

Jan 16 12 - 12:24pm
Joey B.

Emily, with all the crying, reminds me of my high school girlfriend. I was 35 at the time, and expected a junior to show a lot more maturity.

Jan 19 12 - 9:30pm

This guy is such a wiener. Khlas, dude, just speak your mind and take ACTION. Hasn't that biddie ever heard of a hotel? It's embarrassing to be part of a generation of males ruled by their sundry psychological pathologies and ruined by their lack of self-confidence. Please ya fake journalists of the world, publish stories about actual humans undertaking the struggles of life instead of confessional excrement from dingdongs like this guy!!!11

Jan 22 12 - 11:23pm
What an idiot.

Makes me wish I were a lesbian. If someone treated me like this, I would never speak to them again. It's like you're justifying it to yourself by making light of it.

Feb 21 12 - 8:47am

whoa...i didn't realize there were so many people reading Nerve who were professional writers with complete handle on all their emotional relationships. give the guy a break, folks...or take a stab at this yourselves. sheesh.