“We need to talk.” Possibly the worst four words in the human language. No one wants to hear this brief and ominous statement, because more often than not, it’s leading to a break-up.
Everyone has suffered through at least one break-up in their lives. The reasons people part are as varied as stars in the sky — they cheat, they realize that they are unhappy, they realize a relationship is harder than they thought and they don’t want to put in the effort or they merely grow apart. No matter what the reason or who you are, it’s never easy. Sure, we lie through our smiles and say it’s no big deal as we hide behind our armor, but beneath the facade of tanned muscles, expensive clothes and feigned self-confidence that make it seem like we’re living our lives like nothing has happened, the broken, splintered hearts lie bleeding.
It could be a relationship of ten weeks, ten months or ten years — the razor-sharp sting is still there. When a relationship ends there’s not only the grief from losing someone who is important to you, there is also the pain of seeing all the visions of your life together disappear. Your future is suddenly empty. When two people connect, their lives become entwined. Now, seeing your life stretch ahead of you without your partner means its time to start over.
In the beginning there’s the empty hope of denial as you think that maybe it isn’t really the end. Maybe you are just going through a rough patch and any minute now the phone will ring or the text will chirp and you will realize that it was nothing but a silly misunderstanding. But the phone remains silent, mocking you with its blank glass stare. So, maybe you should call or text, right? But when you do, there’s no response. That’s when the empty rooms start to close in on you as you wander them like a ghost, the heavy weight of the truth pressing harder and harder on your heart.
Then, the “if only” stage starts. If only I had paid attention to the little things. If only I hadn’t been afraid to show my true feelings. If only I hadn’t worked so much. If only I could have one more moment, one more kiss, one more chance. But it’s too late. When the cold reality that the relationship is lost forever finally sets in, that heavy pain in your heart spreads and crashes over you like a wave, dragging you down into the darkness.
The stage that comes next is the worst. Days (weeks? months?) pass as you lay in bed staring at the ceiling or the television, seeing but not really seeing, walking through the motions of your life like a wraith until you move to the second tier of this stage. This consists of listening to the saddest songs you can find and crying uncontrollably at the lyrics that remind you of happiness past, the miserable present and the empty future. Fix You by Coldplay is a good choice. My Immortal by Evanescence is also gut wrenching. Someone Like You by Adele is practically perfect. Whatever you prefer, it seems there are more songs about breaking up and being crushed by love’s cruel touch than there are songs about the giddiness of falling in love.
So, as you pour whatever alcoholic beverage you think will make you feel better down your throat, these songs will almost make you feel like you aren’t the only one in the world who feels the way you do right now. But you are the only one who’s ever felt this much pain in the history- of time, right? At least that’s what it feels like. People will try to console you and comfort you, and they will say: “I know how you feel.” But they don’t. Not really, anyway. Because just like every relationship is different, so is every break-up. The reasons, the circumstances and the events that fill up your past all differ from person-to-person.
Looking back over the ruins of a failed relationship you see the tiny things that meant nothing before are now treasures that sparkle mockingly in your mind. The way they said your name, the way they laughed, the smell of their skin, opening your eyes in the morning and seeing them there; each minor detail now seems like a monument to
what you had together. You think of all the things you never did and all the places you will never go, all the moments that are lost forever on the empty road in front of you. You lay awake at night with tears drying on your face saying all the things you wished you would have said in the first place to the empty pillow next to you.
As you force yourself to avoid the places and things that remind you of the one who broke your heart the pain begins to lessen. You hide the photos and the souvenirs.
You stop looking at your phone with the hopes of seeing their name. Even the dreams begin to fade in the light of each new day. Until you are blindsided. Someone you haven’t seen in a while asks you how your relationship is going. A stranger walks by in a cloud of the same cologne your ex used to wear. You find a forgotten note tucked into a book you decided to read again. Then there is the absolute worst blindside: you see your ex with someone else. And it’s like a sucker punch right to your healing heart.
After you recover from that thunderbolt, the real question bubbles up from the bottom of your mind: how do I compare to this new person? Am I better or worse? Because if their new love is better than you in some way you think the reason they left you was because maybe you weren’t good enough. But what if they aren’t better? What if they are someone who doesn’t deserve to be with the person you once loved… someone less attractive, less attentive, less intelligent? How should you feel then? Happy because you know you’re better? Or what the fuck was wrong with me to make my ex leave me for that?
When the last stage comes and you’ve healed and moved on — alone or with someone new — you look back on the pain you felt would never end and view it with a fresh perspective. Maybe you will hold the good times before the break-up in a special place locked deep within your heart. Maybe you’ll think of your ex fondly when they cross your mind. Maybe you’ll realize you’re better off without the person that caused you so much pain. They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone. They say that it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them. These are myths, my friends. You’ll get over it when you’re ready to get over it and not within a situation or a timeframe. And every day is one step closer.
No matter how painful a break-up can be, there are people out there who stay together- even though every instinct is telling them to part. Maybe it’s because they’re scared to be alone or scared that they will never find another person to spend their life with. But that is not the case. The world is groaning under the weight of available partner’s and they are everywhere. The grocery store, the gym, the dog park, Target, Starbucks, walking down the street — maybe even standing next to you right now It may happen quickly or it may take some time, but there’s nothing wrong with being on your own as you learn to trust your-self and your emotions before jumping into your next relationship. It’s a time for self-discovery and reinvention as you find yourself unfettered.
We all have people in our pasts who have left us and broken our hearts. There may be people in our future that do the same. If you believe the old adage that time heals all wounds, it’s time. But some wounds leave scars. And just like the scar on your knee or your shoulder or your forehead, the scars on your heart have stories that go with them and are a constant reminder of the trauma that caused each one. As the days glide by, you will see that the sun still shines, the world keeps turning, the flower’s still bloom and the seasons keep changing. Moving on is simple. It’s what you leave behind that’s so hard.