It always hurts when long-term relationships end. The more we see this person as being the right match for us and the more we picture our futures with them, the more we expected things to work out.
When we realize the future we once pictured suddenly doesn’t exist anymore, our sense of heartache and disappointment runs deep.
Reflecting on these painful breakups, we try to figure out why things didn’t work out, whether there were any red flags we overlooked or what we might have done differently.
We might determine the other party was afraid of commitment, was always angry over trivial things or think, “If I had just opened up more, maybe he or she would have stuck around.”
Sometimes, we have trouble moving on from the relationships we’ve invested so much time and effort into. We replay the breakup in our minds over and over again.
We remember what he or she was wearing, the way he or she smelled, the words he or she spoke and the color of the curtains in the living room. The memories are so vivid, we begin fantasizing how it could have turned out differently.
The most brutal moments are when we see he or she defriended us on Facebook or changed his or her profile picture to one with a new significant other.
We become obsessed, even a bit possessive. Though we know the relationship wasn’t right in the end, it still hurts to see the other person move on. It’s hard to see him or her touching and holding someone new. We may question, “Why isn’t it me? What does s/he have that I don’t?”
We convince ourselves the breakup is temporary. That this new girlfriend or boyfriend is just a fleeting romance, a rebound to get over you. We know if we reached out, he or she would take us back in a heartbeat. We think, “S/he loves me. Not this other person.”
Maybe they’re just doing this to get back at me, to make me jealous. You find it difficult to accept the reality of the situation. You can’t imagine your life without this person.
When the reality of the situation starts to creep in and the pain of the breakup emerges, we deflect those intense feelings and replace them with a far easier emotion: anger.
We think of all the annoying traits of the other person: how he snored in his sleep, how she smacked her gum or how he never separated whites from darks.
We chew on the wrongdoings, like that one time he forgot your mom’s birthday or that time she flirted with another guy at the bar. We start feeling resentful toward the other person.
Maybe we gave up certain opportunities to be with him or her, like turning down a job in a new city or not going on that around-the-world trip that was always a dream to take.
Maybe we’re just resentful toward him or her because now, our hearts are in a million little pieces.
Through the anger, we start making deals with the outside world. We promise to be better, more attentive partners if we could just get a second chance. We’ll do anything to postpone the inevitable and to make the heartbreak and loneliness go away.
When we realize no amount of bargaining will help us, we begin to bury ourselves in depression. We hide underneath the covers, refusing to come out of our rooms for days on end.
Pizza boxes, Chinese takeout containers and cartons of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream litters every square inch of our apartment. We watch “Dirty Dancing,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally” over and over to reignite our belief that true love does exist.
We’ve gone through boxes of tissues, wiping away the endless tears and the snot dripping from our noses. We wonder if we’ll ever move on. All we want is for someone to give us a hug and tell us everything will be okay, or for someone to buy us a few beers to drink the sorrow away.
As the days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, we start finding ways to cope. We reconnect with the friends we neglected during our relationship. Maybe we even find ourselves journaling, trying to make sense of everything that happened so we can start healing.
We start pursuing new goals, anything to distract us from the heartbreak and disappointment. Maybe we train for a marathon, buy a kayak or take a feng shui class.
We do anything unrelated to our past relationship. This reminds us that we have interests and goals outside of the person we spent so much of our time with. In a sense, we rediscover our identities and we begin to recognize there is life beyond the breakup.
Without really having known how we got there, we reach a level of acceptance. We let go of the need to know and find ourselves, and no longer gnaw over the “whys” and the “ifs.”
At times, it felt like we would never get here. Though there may still be a lingering sadness, we are making a conscious effort to move forward with our lives. Maybe we’ll even start dating again.
They say time heals all wounds, but time just makes it easier to endure the pain. The breakup stings a little bit less as each day, month and year passes.
Eventually, we do move on with our lives. We find someone else, we marry him or her, we have children together. But, we never forget the ones we’ve shared our deepest vulnerabilities with and given our hearts to with reckless abandon.
No, we never truly get over them. We carry them with us, always. Because through the heartbreak and disappointment, they demanded we re-examine our lives, do a little self-reflection and become better versions of ourselves, so someone else may love us completely.
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