How to End a Relationship by Marsha Pelletier

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, October 3rd, 2016

"...resist the urge to tell her about his decision to be polygamous..."

Marsha Pelletier Fiction Nailed Magazine


Week 1:

Respond to as many roommate ads as possible. Choose the sanest roommate option that gets you out of there immediately. Pick up change of address form, reserve U-Haul, and collect boxes. He’ll say there’s no rush, and you’ll be uncertain about your decision. He’ll give you that look that tells you he loves you. On the bureau you’ll see the doll he made for you for your first anniversary, after you moved to this city together, and your muscles will slow, your resolve will falter. You’ll want to pick up the doll, stroke her long blue and pink yarn-hair, adjust her red and black wrap dress, and nest with her. And him. But trust your gut — and your best friend —telling you to get out now or you’ll never go. Yes, he loves you. Yes, you love him. But yes, you are leaving. You’ve spent a year working this out, alone three nights a week looking out the window from the faded blue chair. You promised yourself. So pack up the doll first.

Week 2:

When you run out of boxes and he offers his laundry bag that you used to share, buy a box of heavy-duty garbage bags instead. When you must compromise over the kitchenware, remember that it was your parents who bought you the nice cookware set as a housewarming gift, so it’s yours. But that also means that he gets the pressure cooker from his mother. He won’t want to break up the set of black octagonal dishes, but remember that they scratch easily and you think they’re ugly anyway. When you’re standing together in the small kitchen and you both start to laugh, then cry, over your mutual generosity in splitting up the jars of herbs and spices, stop thinking about the first meal he made for you back in college, the pasta sauce heady with basil and garlic, the table lit with candles. He’ll talk as if you’ll visit and he’ll cook for you, as if you’ll be back together soon. You’ll believe it. Go ahead; it’ll make everything easier. But don’t let yourself hope that you’ll be the only one he cooks for.

Week 3:

Wait until the move is done and you’re in good enough shape before calling your parents. As the phone rings, look at the amber ring on your left hand that you bought to remind yourself of your strength. Speak only to your mother. Just give the facts, tell her you’re okay, move onto the usual topic of weather or gas prices, then get off the phone before your voice breaks. Promise you’ll call again later to schedule a weekend visit home.

Week 6:

When you unpack your box of diaries, you’ll find a worn manila folder with his name written on the tab, filled with years’ worth of cards, photographs, and letters from him. It’ll look like your other folders, except for its swollen shape. In it is his first letter saying he hopes to spend the rest of his life with you. Do. Not. Open that folder. Bury it in a box on a high shelf, out of reach, out of sight.

Week 16:

When he breaks your no-contact request because he needs you to sign away your legal claim to home ownership, don’t simply sign and return the form just to avoid him. Maybe you didn’t put in half the money, but you gave all you had, plus time and labor. You owe yourself. Actually, get a lawyer.

Week 20:

When at your parents’ dinner table your father tries to joke about your inability to find a husband, do not cry. Put down that fork. You’ll want to ask if he’d rather see you get married and then divorced, like both your brother and sister. Instead, say that it’s better to break up than be unhappy. Your mother will defend you, and he’ll apologize. Bring up a minor car problem to change the subject. And remember that he’s of a different generation and that he only wants you to be happy.

Week 52:

Halfway through a bottle of wine on vacation with your mother, when she finally asks, resist the urge to tell her about his decision to be polygamous, about how you learned to live with it when he promised that you’d always be his number one, about how he took away even that from you after just two months with another woman, about how different he smelled after he was with her, about your attempts to be more exciting for him and what that did to your sense of self. She’ll try but she won’t understand, and you’ll still feel ashamed and alone. Tell her you loved each other but wanted very different things. That’ll be true enough.

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Header image courtesy of Zak Smith. To view his artist feature, go here.

Marsha Pelletier on NAILEDMarsha Pelletier lives and breathes near Boston. She has degrees in rhetorical studies and English teaching and is not afraid to use them. Her fiction has appeared in Sou’wester Journal Online. When she is not writing or teaching, she’s curled up with a book or outdoors hiking or gazing at a body of water. Visit her at here.



Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).