There are those few minutes — maybe a few hours — after you get dumped, when time seems to stop. Or maybe not stop, but it suddenly doesn’t matter anymore. There’s a surrealness of the moment. You know it’s happening, but you also know it shouldn’t be happening, and you rack your brain for the exact right things to say to make it stop. But what you might not realize in the moment is that he or she has been thinking about this for a long time, agonizing over the decision. So when it happens, it’s pretty much a sure thing. Nothing you say or do is going to change the inevitable.
Later, when you’re apart, you’ll think about all the things you did (or didn’t do) that may have led to that moment, and then punish yourself over them. Maybe you’ll plead with your ex-partner that you’ll change; things will be different. You’ll punish yourself further by only remembering the good times and forgetting about all the yelling matches and the times you went to bed without saying goodnight to each other.
In a long-term relationship — especially a marriage — this can feel like your world got flipped upside down. Your vision — your expectation — was that you’d spend the rest of your lives together. When that vision crumbles, it’s a huge loss, perhaps the biggest you’ve ever dealt with. Maybe it’s right to fight for the relationship, but at some point — if you don’t win him or her back — you’ll realize it’s fruitless.
From my experience, the fastest way to a healed heart is to accept what is. After four years of marriage (and seven years together), I surprised myself by coming to peace with my break-up within just a couple of months. I often wondered if I was suppressing my pain, trying not to feel what I didn’t want to feel. It felt too fast for me, like I should have gone to a really dark place and lived there for a year. I mean really grieved.
The separation was extremely mature and amicable, and I half wished it would have ended badly because I thought that would make it easier to get over her. I wanted to be mad at her, but the fact is, I still loved her as much as at any time in our relationship.
But then again, maybe that’s why I accepted and let go so quickly, because I really did want her to be happy. Accepting allowed me to look rationally at the relationship. I saw the troubles, the differences, that I was able to gloss over during the marriage under the guise of fear (of being alone). It allowed me to take a step back and look at it from above, to see it for what it was. What it was was our time together. The roles we played in each others lives. Her role in my life. She was responsible for taking me out of a life I wasn’t really happy in and pushing me into the direction of something better for myself. I started to think, “well maybe that’s what this relationship was about. This is why she came into my life.”
It seems to me that whenever we have something we enjoy, we tend to try to hang on to it, to cling to it. We want it to last forever. The truth is, nothing lasts forever, so we need to become comfortable with the fact that at some point it will end. I’m not saying breaking up is easy. It’s goddam bloody awful. But the sooner we’re able to come to accept it, the sooner the healing begins.
[Feature photo: h.koppdelaney]