Despite occasionally airing some personal laundry on the Internet, I’m actually a pretty private person. I find relief in dismantling my Facebook account from time to time (though perhaps that’s just living through a Trump administration), and it took me a long time to come around to Venmo, what with uploading my checking account info and all. I’m not one to pin a bunch of quotes about heartbreak, and you never “met” my boyfriend around these parts. So I’m aware it may come as a strange surprise to learn of a relationship that has since both started and ended.
Sorry about keeping that from you, I know it’s not great blogger etiquette. It can be tough to distinguish what should be shared and what to keep to yourself. I had to chew on this one for a bit.
And after some introspection, in the spirit of transparently writing about things that affect our wellbeing aside from cruciferous vegetables, here we are. Here’s what that breakup taught me and how I got through it, should you be facing a similar situation and could use some comfort that doesn’t come in a bottle of pinot noir.
Two and a half years after dating we arrived at the decision that maybe we weren’t in it for the long haul. Maybe this wasn’t it. Two and a half years of Netflix binges, furniture shopping, and dissecting our days over takeout sushi, and there was still a lurking uncertainty. Even though he was intelligent and made me laugh. Even though he wore those glasses I like, and always let me finish the popcorn, after I insisted I didn’t want any more.
We were fairly happy. And love is never black and white, despite what we’re conditioned to believe. There was no dramatic cause for severing ties, which made us wonder if it was the right move. There was no cheating to point to, no wrongdoing. Not even a heated argument over whether or not the dog should be allowed to sleep in the bed. Tears, yes, but not out of animosity. There was just a difficult decision that seemed to make sense because we wanted different things.
When I was younger I used to think that dating someone seriously if I didn’t see a future was not a productive use of my time. A fun little fling? Sure. But a long term commitment, without a potential future to map out in my head, seemed like a waste.
Now I believe in chapters. I believe people can float in and out of our lives, and teach us valuable lessons. Even, maybe especially, if what we’re learning is what we truly want or don’t want in a partner. In life.
I also believe that we can be grateful for the time spent together, regardless of how it ends. The few moments after a first kiss. Sharing a joke, one that only the two of you are in on. Learning to trust someone. Showing up and taking a freakin’ chance! These are all experiences to be grateful for.
I love this quote from Nora Ephron:
We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.
After my breakup I found hope in the idea that our lives have seasons. That our identities can change, and sometimes the story we thought we were writing evolves into something else entirely.
Still it’s a hard pill to swallow, isn’t it? Even when you know you’re developing as a human being, there’s a gut-wrenching sadness in waking up on your side of the bed, looking over at the empty space and wondering who’s gonna make the chocolate chip pancakes. Here’s the advice I leaned on.
Give it time.
Doesn’t matter what your friends say, or how much your mom tries to reason with you (you’re better off): you’re not over it until you’re over it. Until then give yourself some grace and be sad if you need to be sad, without judgement. Read every single Modern Love column in The New York Times archive. Listen to the soundtrack from Brian’s Song. Watch the notebook. Whatever you gotta do to experience your totally normal human emotions until you’re tired of feeling sad. And also keep in mind that you’re not going to find any answers at the bottom of that bottle of pinot noir. You probably won’t feel too good tomorrow either, but that’s okay. There’s another day after that and you’ll feel a new sense of normal soon. This was just one chapter, remember?
Hand in hand with doing what feels good, take some time to get to know yourself. Take a page from Julia Roberts’ book, and figure out what kind of eggs you like (though how do people not know what kind of eggs they like? They are the linchpin of brunch). Change out of your pajamas (optional) and cart your ass to a delicious restaurant for dinner, pick up some flowers, go see a terrible romcom that absolutely would have been vetoed and eat all the popcorn. Pay attention to what makes you feel great and keep doing it.
Endorphins… they work.
Volunteer to connect with a cause that’s bigger than yourself. Spend time with friends and family members who care (perhaps some who aren’t in a happy relationship, or at least not physically together in front of you right this moment. That can sting). Join a meetup group or take a class. See a therapist. Anything that puts things in perspective and helps you see that this relationship is small in the big picture.
Taking full advantage of all my new free time to just sit and read, I wore out my library card those post-breakup days. Great relevant picks, in my opinion, are The Power of Now, How Did You Get This Number, and Him, Her, Him Again, The End of Him.
Get back out there.
You saw this one coming right? Fire up the dating apps my friend, because one of the best ways to get your mind off your prior relationship and have some fun, or at least some mildly uncomfortable encounters to discuss with your friends, is to set up a few dates. You may discover that the guy you just went out with is simultaneously dating the sister of a friend of a friend (check) or utilize an emergency rescue call mid-dinner (check), but hey at least you’re back in the game. You never know what’s around the corner and no matter what comes of it, it’s never a waste of time. I should note though, that I only think this step comes when you’re at least partially ready to potentially meet someone new. Otherwise things can get messy when the date’s a viable option, even if accidentally.
Trust the Universe
Hardest thing ever to hear when you’re a week into newfound singleness and your mom’s assuring you, even though you didn’t ask, that she’ll be fine (just a little sad) if she never has any grandchildren. But like everything else, this boils down to the story we tell ourselves. Keep working at feeling good about yourself, then trust that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to, as long as you loosen up the reigns a little bit and let it.
What’s the best breakup advice you’ve ever heard? Any post-break up new date stories? I’m a sucker for the funny ones.