I had to think hard about whether this was a post I actually wanted to publish on the Internet where everything is forever, or if I wanted to keep it to myself and work it out privately in my journal. I figured, though, the whole point of this blog is for you to see me untangle all the messy parts of my life on my journey to becoming happier, and it’s not a particularly honest journey if I show you just the tidy revelations, and not the far-less-tidy path it took to get there. So, here goes.
I’ve talked about my ex here before, but I feel weird, even dishonest almost, when I call him that. He was never my boyfriend, but we weren’t exactly casually dating either. I think we had what the kids these days call a “situationship.”
Over 14 months, we went on about ten dates. These weren’t “hang out for an hour or two and get dinner” dates. Our first date lasted 24 hours. After that, it wasn’t unusual for us to spend 6-8 hours together at a time. When we were doing long distance, we had phone calls that lasted just as long. In the first few months especially, my phone would light up with an “I miss you” text every few days. After he moved here, we had conversations about marriage and children—not necessarily with each other, but we both knew we were looking for something serious
But for the vast majority of our situationship (bleh, I hate that word), we lived across the country from each other. We’d only been on one in-person date before he’d flown back home and we’d started all this.
Given the unusual circumstances, it’s easy to see how two people with different ideas of dating and relationships could go in with such different expectations, a problem compounded by the fact that we hardly communicated about the important stuff at all in the beginning. Despite the distance early on, I would have been his girlfriend if he’d asked me. For him, the in-person stuff was too important. He couldn’t fathom the idea of starting a relationship with someone he’d spent so little time with.
I had been through a similar situation before I met him—though that one mercifully lasted only three months—and I’d wanted to avoid a situationship-type…well, situation. It’s hard being heartbroken and feeling like you don’t deserve to feel that way because it’s not like he was your boyfriend or something. Honestly though, after you spend so much time getting to know someone and investing in them emotionally, do the labels even matter anymore? It wasn’t two or three dates, it was 14 months! 14 months that included vulnerability and intimacy and so many deep conversations and wonderful memories.
The thing is, despite this post and the others I’ve written about my breakup, I’ve actually been doing shockingly great this past month. I started this blog, finished the second draft of my manuscript, got even closer with my family, read lots of great books, started practicing Stoicism, meditating and journaling regularly, etc. I spend the vast majority of my days thinking about these things, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about him, too.
I’ve gotten better (though not perfect) at not assigning emotion to these thoughts. If I think of a conversation we had in the past, I try to push it out of my head and refocus rather than dwelling on what he said or what I should have said. I’m okay having these thoughts because they’re normal and with time, there’ll be fewer and fewer until one day I won’t think of him at all. I’m also thankful that they don’t overwhelm me to the point that they incapacitate me and prevent me from being productive or being happy. Honestly, I’m proud of the healthy way I’m processing this situation and these thoughts.
But there are also thoughts I’m not so proud of. I listened to a podcast about breakups on This American Life today, and a writer who’d just gone through her own breakup talked about songs that have to do with heartbreak. There’s this one particularly pathetic genre exemplified perfectly by Dusty Springfield’s, “You don’t have to say you love me.” These are the sort of songs that make the singer sound like they don’t have any sense of self-worth or dignity at all, but you can’t stop listening because they’re saying all the things that you feel deep down. The things you’re too ashamed to admit out loud.
My feelings change day to day. Sometimes I think about how much I care about him and just want him to be happy, even if it’s with someone else. Other times (maybe even later in that same day), I’ll think he’s a jerk for playing with my emotions and wasting my time. It’s in moments like this that I have to contend with other thoughts that are so pathetic I’m ashamed to admit them:
- I secretly hope he’ll realize he made a mistake
- Every time I get a text or a phone call, there’s a part of me that wants it to be him
- That if he asked me today to be with him, I would (without even hesitating)
- That I hope things won’t work out with the girl he chose over me
- I fantasize that one day we’ll meet up and I’ll be doing so well, he’ll realize he made a huge mistake
I hate admitting that these thoughts exist, because they’re so petty and I don’t want to think them. There’s always a sense of shame that accompanies them and a whole lot of confusion. I want him to still be in my life, but I also never want to see him again. I want him to be happy, but I also don’t want him to be happy. Somehow, both of these contrasting statements can be true, depending on the day.
Maybe it’s important to accept these ugly feelings, too. Sometimes, as I make progress towards my happiness, I feel like I’m brushing a shiny coat of paint onto an uneven, broken foundation. I’ve never shied away from feelings that made me sad or angry, but shame is a harder thing to handle. It takes the focus off what the other person’s done to you and shines a bright spotlight on what you’re doing to others and even yourself.
The fact is, these are my feelings. They’re not the feelings I want to have. When I look at them all written out like that, I don’t see my anger and disappointment and sadness towards him but towards myself. My need for him to forsake her and be with me has more to do with the hole I want to fill in my life for companionship and acceptance than my actual desire to be with him. It reminds me of this quote from Yogi Bhajan:
“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior towards you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.“
I’m not sure what the conclusion is here or even if there is one. I wish there was a lesson or way forward I could offer you, but I’m still trying to work it out myself. I do think, however, feeling these things doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s far more likely that you’re just hurting, and accepting that these feelings are there and that they’re normal, seems like a good first step as any.