Last week, I went an entire day without thinking about my ex-boyfriend – and the realization of this was cause for major celebration.
No, this isn’t a fresh breakup by any stretch, which is what makes the celebration all the more warranted. We’ve been broken up for nearly three times as long as we were together (which admittedly feels really pathetic to type). But when we broke up, the heartbreak was real. It was raw. It basically crippled me.
I think I cried my way across the city for the first two months – in the back of Ubers (for some reason, it happened a lot in Ubers…God bless the driver who stopped to buy me some juice and an apple), at the office (my coworkers were amazing about it), on the walk home, and sitting beside the lake. Oh, and in my condo lobby to a psychiatrist of a doorman.
It was terrible. It was all consuming. It was grief.
It was the kind of heartbreak that is only possible if you’ve fallen stupidly, sometimes irrationally, in love. And that I did. Unexpectedly, and – actually – beautifully. But the high of being stupidly in love came with the crash of an all-time low when it all unraveled; one missed red flag and excuse at a time.
Heartbreak is tougher to handle these days – a main reason being that it’s harder than ever to fall in love in the first place in our increasingly disconnected, app-facilitated dating world. So, the loss of such a rare thing inevitably begs the worry of when – if ever – you’ll find something so intense again. Then there’s social media. Sure, the smart thing is to delete them from social media, but many of us know that advice is easier to preach than to practice. In search of answers (not long after the break-up, when questions still remained, he cut off all communication), insight, and some sort of peace of mind, I would check his barely-used Instagram account often. Daily. So much so that it became a habit more than anything. But the knowing what he was up to and guessing his relationship to those in photos with him drove me even crazier.
Jealousy, longing, missing: I let those feelings set in too. They were there along with the heartbreak.
“Keep busy,” your friends and family will tell you after you’ve poured your heart out on the phone or over cocktails. But staying busy only ignores the problem. It distracts you from it. The thing about heartbreak is that it is felt at its hardest during those lonely Sunday mornings, during a mundane morning routine, or late at night when nobody is around and there’s nothing to busy yourself with. In short, “busy” is a bandaid.
Of course, in the weeks following the break up, the attempted set-ups, suggestions of dating apps, and advice to “get back out there” also starts to pour in: be careful with this. I can remember watching Sex in the City years and years ago – back when I was a total novice in the dating world – and something Samantha said resonated with me. It was along the lines of, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” It seemed to make sense at the time. But, actually, it could be the worst idea ever if you’re still not over the person. The only way that turning to the attention, arms, and bed of someone else could (could) make you feel better about anything is if you’re over your ex already.
If you’re not, the only thing you’re going to gain from turning to another person are more tears and a few extra weeks tapped onto the recovery process. The sad reality is, however, that many of us try to heal broken hearts and hard-hitting breakups with other people – some more actively than others. No amount of back-to-back Bumble dating is going to help your get-over-my-ex cause. In fact, it will render those dates – which are already iffy at best in terms of success rate – worse when you find yourself comparing the stranger across from you to your ex in everything from their lack of knowledge of the arts, to their food and drink choice. You then leave with an emptiness that wasn’t as bad going into it. And it makes you miss your ex even more.
While the attention of a sexy new stranger post-breakup can feel good and fuel the ego (everyone needs to feel like they’ve “still got it” now and then) it’s just as much of a quick fix as going out and drinking away your heartbreak is (sadness makes a hangover 100 times worse). The only way to truly get over someone – like grieving a death – is to let yourself feel all the emotions and, frankly, to wait it out and let it run its course. Grief is a force more powerful than reason, and if you try to suppress it, it could easily return in some sort of manifestation down the road. So, deal with it. Embrace it. It’s going to be tough.
You know what the best feeling is, though? After you’ve somehow waded through the heartbreak – through birthdays and holidays, through couple-filled dinners, and through social media angst – it one day ends. You no longer have the urge to check their social media; you no longer feel a sting of anxiety when walking near their house or work; you no longer get that lump in your throat when you hear certain songs.
And that’s the best feeling in the world. It’s that of recovery. And, finally, of moving forward.