To put it simply, breakups suck. Unless you are one of the rare people in this world who married your first boyfriend, then you know what I’m talking about. Nothing unites a group of women more than starting a sentence with “We broke up.”(Starting a sentence with “Ryan Gosling” will also unite a group of women just as much, but for argument’s sake, break ups are universal uniters, ok?) Most women can relate to the pain of a fresh breakup and could probably sit and talk for hours about their breakup horror stories, the many empty tubs of Haagan Dazs, and bad rebounds.
Bad breakups is a topic I wanted to tackle for a long time, but I never really knew how to broach the subject. I wanted to come at it with the right amount of humour and seriousness. It is a hard topic to write about because I don’t want the piece to come off with a “poor me” vibe. In fact, I want the opposite. I want to show that going through a bad breakup, which can bring you to the lowest point of your life, can also shape you into a better person. I want the reader to come away with a feeling that going through a breakup doesn’t make you a failure, doesn’t make you unworthy of love, but simply means you haven’t met the person you are meant to spend forever with. Each relationship, good or bad, teaches you something about life, yourself and what you want and not everything is meant to last forever.
I’ve been through a few breakups in my time. Most of them occurred when I was much younger and dating was just that, “dating.” I wasn’t thinking long term, but right now, so the breakups didn’t affect me much. There were a few that were difficult and it took me a while to mend my broken heart, and there was one that took the wind out of my sails and the light out of my eyes. It is that breakup that I want to discuss, because most of us have had a breakup like that. What helped me the most during my breakup was hearing friends talk about their similar experiences and how they were able to move forward, because when you are in that moment it can feel like it is swallowing you up and consuming your life.
What I remember most about this breakup, was the day after it happened. I remember watching “Eat, Pray, Love” on the couch, under a blanket, with a box of Kleenexes beside me. Today, this image makes me burst out laughing. All that was missing was a tub of ice cream. It makes me laugh to think that in my desperation, I thought I would be inspired by Julia Robert’s soul searching journey and that the movie would somehow help me to move forward with my head held high. The desperation with which I clung onto many things over this difficult time always makes me laugh. I think it is good that I can find some humour in this and we should all learn to laugh at ourselves, even in our most pathetic hours.
In all seriousness, the first week post-breakup was hard. I started to realize that I had lost so much of myself. Being in that long term relationship, I lost a lot of my identity. I was no longer, “me” but “us.” I got so used to talking to him everyday – sharing good and bad news, the inside jokes, and all the places I would go to reminded me of him. I didn’t eat for three whole days because I couldn’t find a food item that we hadn’t eaten together at some point. I lost ten pounds in a week (not complaining here!). I let myself cry about the breakup for three days and on the fourth day I literally looked in the mirror and said, “OK, you’ve had your time. We are not going to cry about this for another minute. It’s over and crying is not going to help us here.” I started eating again, and refused to let myself dwell on the breakup.
I can’t say that everything was easy after this, because it wasn’t. I call this time in my life my “fragile bird” phase. I was flying along but anything threatened to break my wings. Driving by places we used to go to, forgetting for a minute that I couldn’t call him to tell him my good news, watching a TV show we used to only watch together – all of these little daily events threatened to crash my flight. I had a false sense that I was fine. I knew deep down that I wasn’t, but if I kept telling everyone (myself included) that I was fine, then I was fine, wasn’t I?
After the breakup I had to figure who I was, without him, which was scary. I had to figure out what I wanted in a relationship. I started dating three weeks after we broke up, which I do not regret. Getting out there and seeing that there was a whole world of men (or a whole sea full of fish) was important for me to know (It was also slightly alarming to find out how many complete weirdos were out there, but that’s a whole other blog post). To see that I was still desirable and that men wanted to date me was important.
Another important step for me was to move. I was living with a roommate at the time and you would think making the step to live alone would be a bad idea, but for me I needed a fresh start and a place that was completely my own. This was a hard but rewarding experience. It was the first time I made a huge decision on my own (without the input of friends or family). There were times when coming home after a long day of work to no one was hard, but at the same time it was liberating to have my own space that I could afford on my own.
Friends and family always told me that time heals everything, but when you are deep in the depths of breakup mode, it is hard to believe this. It does, and I did heal. I went through a lot of ups and downs. I would go through periods where I loved my freedom. I loved being able to go out and date and have fun being single, but then there were other times when I missed all the good things that long term relationships bring.
One of my lowest moments actually occurred months after the breakup. It made me realize that this whole experience is a process and not just an isolated moment in time. I had been dating a string of guys and was frustrated it wasn’t working out with any one of them. I remember calling my mom one Sunday afternoon and having her ask, “How are you?” I immediately burst into tears and started spewing off all my fears – that I would never fall in love again, that there were no good guys out there, that I would never get married, that I would never move out of my landlord’s basement apartment! I felt like my life was becoming unraveled, which is funny because on paper I had everything going for me. I had a great job, great friends, a place of my own, money in the bank, my health and going on four dates a week. I remember my mom saying that I needed to stop forcing it and that love would come when I wasn’t looking. She told me that when that when love came I would know it and things would happen quickly.
She was right, as moms often are. I met my current fiance in January of 2012. In just over a year and a half we have managed to move cities, change jobs, get engaged, get a dog, buy our first house and plan our wedding. If I could have looked into the future when I was that little fragile bird on the couch desperately seeking the advice of Julia Roberts it would have saved me a lot of sadness. However, I don’t regret going through any of this because today I am so grateful for my partner. I think of how I prayed for him to come into my life, how I wanted to have my prince charming and partner in crime more than anything and now that I have him I will never take him for granted.
One of my favourite sayings is no pressure, no diamonds. Diamonds are formed from carbon under extreme pressure in the Earth and without the pressure we wouldn’t have beautiful, bright, sparkling diamonds. Going through hard times, it is easy to ask “why me?” but important to remember how challenging times shape up into better versions of ourselves. My breakup brought me to one of my lowest points, but through it I was built back up and able to shine. Life challenges us all the time, but it is what we do with these challenges that is important. Like diamonds, choose not to break under pressure, but to rise up into an even more beautiful and stronger version of yourself.