I Regret Everything: Changing My Boyfriend

Adam and I met during a high school dance scene on the set of CSI: New York about three years ago. I was trying to earn three vouchers that would turn me into a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild. So I was doing extra work, and I was forced to do the unthinkable: dance. Adam was given a camera prop and, thus, had the luxury of standing around pretending to take pictures. (Absolutely no rhythm is required to take a picture). I grilled him for the inside scoop on how to get my three SAG vouchers – and jump the background acting ship ASAP – and he kept me entertained with toilet humor, philosophical questions, and games of the fuck/marry/ kill variety.

We exchanged emails and wound up working together a few more times that week. My long-distance romance with an Irish lad was at its last fizzle, and all the time I spent with Adam was refreshingly warm and easy. After two and a half weeks of mixed signals and missed opportunities, we consummated our new relationship.

We were both 24 when we met. He was living on a couch in a one-bedroom apartment with two other guys in Monrovia, California and scraping by doing non-union background for $64 per 8 hours. I was living with a girlfriend from college in a two-bedroom less than a mile from Venice Beach doing freelance promotions and marketing and making a much more comfortable living. During one of our first dates, I remember us pointedly discussing the issue of him being a suitable boyfriend. I fancied him, though, and saw the diamond in his rough, so I paid for dinner and we continued…

The first nine months were AH-MA-ZING! From the first night on, we hit the ground running, hardly ever spending more than a night apart. We were inseparable. He even saved his precious dollars to make the trip across the metro to see me in Venice when gas was exceeding a crippling four bucks a gallon. One night he arrived unexpectedly with four pages of reasons why he would drive to Venice, and a balloon fashioned into a heart.

Our first Christmas was at the onset of the recession and we were broke, so we decided we wouldn’t do gifts. Adam wasn’t satisfied with that, though, and began working on a project in secrecy. He was painstakingly crafting a scrapbook of magazine clippings, favorite inside jokes, cute emails, paper mementos he’d collected, and photos of our favorite haunts in LA. He wooed me with everything he had; I don’t know if I’ll ever feel quite that special again (though I may just chase it a la crackhead for the rest of my life). He felt like a warm bath to me, and I quickly fell head-over-heels-over-head-over-heels. However badly this story ends, I will say that true love is so fucking rare and I still think that this was it.

Adam had moved to Venice with me (and my roommate) six months into the relationship. He seemed intent on getting off his friend’s couch and was increasingly unhappy with his current path. Our dynamic had set him up to compare his situation to mine and strive to make more adult modifications. He began to change, and I morphed into his teacher. He became quite the apt pupil. He stopped smoking when we started dating – though I never said a word about it. He went through a plethora of jobs, slowly moving up the grunt ladder. I sat with him sifting through Craigslist, rewriting resumes, and composing cover letters. He finally got a day job as a law firm receptionist; he had to be there at 7am. He began going to bed early, he hardly ever drank – he subtly began to tighten his carefree, loose innate nature. We became involved in the same theatre groups, took the same acting classes and workshops – even did the same play!

The whole thing came to a screeching halt a year ago. It was the first of our two breakups; I was blindsided by both. The progression seems so obvious when it is carefully written out on paper, but, at the time, I was incredulous. My investment of time, effort, contacts, and support in helping him become a man made me painfully aware that I was picking up the pieces all by myself. I felt abandoned. I felt used.

I struggled to cope in the aftermath. He did, too, though his struggle was more contained and internal. Three months later, we reunited, but a piece was missing. The innocence was gone; the trust was wavering. The second breakup came – on my 27th birthday – amid plans to move back in together. I don’t think he knew what he wanted and he was scared to leave. When he finally left the second time, self-preservation kept him from looking back. Again, I floundered.

In retrospect, I wish I had devoted more of the time I spent changing him and helping him grow to my own advancement. Ultimately, I set my own trap. I allowed our lives to become intertwined to the point that, even in a city as sprawling as Los Angeles, we still have associations that force me to see him on at least a weekly basis. I don’t know who he is anymore; I only know this figment of him from our shared past. The hardest thing is seeing him in classes and workshops for the theatre ensemble we are both members of – he’ll go up to work his scene and everyone else is rolling with laughter. He’s hilarious to everyone in the room but me; for me, the hurt over how things ended drowns out his humor.

Regrettably, I can’t say I was upset about playing the instructor while it was happening. As the oldest in my family with three younger brothers, I was used to helping and perhaps even bossing them around a bit. He was an only child and working well with others wasn’t his strong suit. I don’t question that our love was genuine and that our scales were tipped from the jump, but I do regret my part in tipping them. You can’t try to change anyone and expect no repercussions.

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    • Rachel

      To me, reading that, it doesn’t really sound like you “changed” him. He wanted to grow up, and so he did, with your help. If you hadn’t help you would have been “the one that was holding me back from becoming successful/a man/growing up”.

      As women, it’s really easy (and encouraged) to take on so much blame and labeling from a broken relationship/break-up. He’s different now than he was when you met, YOU must have changed him. I don’t buy that though. I would hope that everyone I meet in life is a bit different from having met me. But having such true love with someone at that tumultuous age (24) filled with that much change, it’s bound to lead to something major, like a break-up (or break-down).

    • Courtney Kocak

      Yeah, Rachel, he did want to change. My assistance in that change was too great, though. I went far beyond supportive, and that skewed the dynamic. Eventually there was resentment on both sides, and that lead to the end of the relationship. Now there is way more overlap in our lives than typical after a breakup and that is tricky part to navigate. I’m learning a lot, though! :)

    • Kara H

      Courtney – I enjoyed reading this but felt the reason for the break-up(s) was grossly skimmed over…that should have been the meat and taters of the story as that is what tied in the headline with everything! Although you did make up for it in your post-commentary I suppose.

    • Courtney Kocak

      Hi, Kara. I’d say there was a lot of unaddressed resentment. Also, once you get stuck playing the functions of teacher/student for too long, it is tough to break out of those roles. From my POV, though, all of the analysis has been done after the fact. The first breakup came out of left field for me, and then I was in flight-or-fight coping with it. Live and learn, huh? ;)