Having a partner can be very rewarding. You get to have sex with someone on the regular who knows exactly what combination of things make you come. You get to tell someone about the minutiae of your day without them going “Why are you telling me this?”. And if you’re hungover, you get to share it with someone who, if they’re nice, will make you breakfast and stroke your hair while watching The Bachelor.
But partners also come with some not-so-good things. All the wires protruding from their DJ equipment which is now taking up half the bedroom and some of the corridor, for instance. Their insistence on listening to an Oscar Wilde audiobook every night to get to sleep, which you can hear through their headphones, even with a pillow squished around your ears. Or the fact they smoke weed from morning to night, meaning you now smoke weed from morning to night, meaning both of you are 26-year-old stoners.
If you break up, the wires and The Happy Prince or whatever else goes with them. But other things – the weed smoking, the unnecessary red meat-eating – often stay long past they do. Their bad habits become your bad habits, and vice versa. This is what remains leftover, like crumbs in a bed, when they're gone.
“I stopped thinking of myself as vegan or even veggie”
I was vegan for around seven years before I met my ex. I never craved meat or cheese and I enjoyed making nice vegan meals for myself – my vegan full English breakfasts were a speciality among my friends.
My ex and I were together for two and half years, and during that time I slowly started eating meat again. It started with getting into bone broth because my ex told me about its collagen content and health benefits. I thought, 'Okay I’ll just have this sometimes.' Then it was kind of like, 'Well if I’m drinking chicken bone broth I may as well have the actual chicken.' Then that kind of moved onto other animal products. I’d have a rare steak for a treat, then just stopped thinking of myself as vegan or even veggie.
We’ve been broken up for a while but I still eat meat and cheese too. I literally went to Nando's yesterday. I’d like to go back to being vegan but I need something to shock me into it – like if I watched one of those animal cruelty documentaries of Netflix. That might do it. It will happen in my own time I guess. Alex, 29
“Coke wasn’t my drug of choice, but it became my drug of choice”
I was a very casual drug user when I first met my ex – let's call him T. I might have some MDMA on a night out and I smoked weed a lot to wind down. Me and T met each other out partying and that became the blueprint for the rest of our relationship. We'd go out on the Friday and stay out until Sunday night/early Monday, just in time to go back to work. It soon became clear that cocaine was an issue for him. Coke wasn't my drug of choice, but it became my drug of choice by virtue of being with him.
It got to the point where we were doing coke every weekend. I'd feel paranoid and unhappy during the week at work and felt like I needed to take some again, as a pick-me-up. It turned into a ritual, and I got used to it. We broke up after a year and a half for unrelated reasons. I wanted to quit my job and travel Europe; he wanted to stay doing the same thing. We've now been broken up for a year, but I haven't quit doing coke. It's not as often as when I was with T, which is good, he gave me a taste for it. And that's has been hard to shake overnight. Jesse, 26
“He’d always convince me to get a Deliveroo or Uber Eats or JustEat”
When my ex and I were together, both of us were working quite a lot and we’d get home at like 8PM or 9PM. Neither of us could then be bothered to cook. Sometimes I’d suggest making something real quick but he’d always convince me to get a Deliveroo or Uber Eats or JustEat. By the end of the week I swear four nights out of five we'd have eaten a takeaway dinner, which neither of us could afford. We’d get Vietnamese food a lot but sometimes it would be a curry or pizza or burgers – and that can’t be good for your health. I started to feel like a slob.
Anyway we broke up last September. I found out he was cheating on me (how he managed to fit that in in between all those takeaways I’ll never know) so I was glad to be rid of him. But I still get takeaways ALL the time. He made me feel like it was totally fine and acceptable to just get a curry sent over instead of making one yourself, which is cheaper, healthier and better for your mental health too! He basically turned me into this lazy person! Honestly that's probably worse than the fact that he cheated. Kat, 24
“I turn corners incorrectly when driving”
This is so niche, but because of my first boyfriend I turn corners incorrectly when driving. He was a year older than me, so used to drive me everywhere while I was 17. When I started to learn myself, I picked up his habit of turning the wheel with one hand while the other sort of crosses over, with an affected limp wrist. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s wrong and probably quite dangerous. You’re meant to keep two hands on the wheel at all times, especially while turning corners in the case the car skids or whatever.
I’ve been doing it for 12 years now – there’s no way to get it out of my head. I was with him the entire time I was learning. He didn’t teach me, I just picked it up. I have no idea why this was his chosen form of rebellion, but I obviously thought it looked very cool at the time. Emma, 29
“I don't think we were ever intimate while sober”
I met my ex at school and we were together on and off for seven months. He was super-dependent on alcohol, to the extent that I don't think we were ever intimate sober. Or at least he wasn't. Our activities and dates always involved drinking.
After that chapter ended and I met my current partner, I was so nervous to be intimate with someone else without alcohol that I always had to have a drink before we met up or hung out. It was so bizarre suddenly hanging around and having someone who remembered the series of events that day. The anxiety took a while to shake off, but we've been together for nearly two years.
I do still get the usual intense waves of needing to drink (a lot) but it's something that's always a work in progress, in the background. From what I've heard, my ex is still a big drinker. I definitely look back at the whole thing with a lot of regret and wasted energy. Nat, 21
“He injected heroin for the entirety of our marriage”
I was with my former husband for eight years. We met when I was 21 years old. I had been in recovery from heroin addiction for two years, at that time. I stayed sober for seven years of our marriage, while he injected heroin for the entirety of our marriage.
One year before we separated, I relapsed. He was smoking crack in front of me, and I’d never tried it before. I ended up going on an eight-month crack run. It was an awfully bad habit, which ultimately led to homelessness and sex work. I’m sober now, thankfully. I don’t need to be anonymous, as I accept and forgive my past mistakes. Megan, 29