It’s like Neil Sedaka said: breaking up is hard to do. No matter how long you were together — a week, a month, a year — cutting someone out of your life or dampening out a future with them is hard stuff. When you’ve been with someone for a shortish period of time, you’re more likely to dump them early for things that might seem silly but that for you are fully rational deal breakers. You go on a date with some guy and you hate the way he talks, deal breaker. Or maybe you hate the way he chews or maybe you can’t deal with the fact that his toes that look like that. If he can’t take care of his feet, how is he supposed to take care of you?
When you’ve been together for 2 years, 4 years, 6 years and so on, you accept their ugly feet and you love the way they chew and you overlook all those little things that might ordinarily annoy you to pieces. Because you love them. Love isn’t good sex or a nice bank account, because those things don’t take you to the hospital when you’re sick. Love is cooking dinner together in your underwear, it’s binge-watching your favorite shows together, it’s missing their voice when you don’t hear it, it’s thinking about them when you’re not even thinking about them, it’s sleeping with the teddy bear they gave you when she or he is not around. Love is feeling safe.
Dating someone for a long time means your lives get intertwined, kind of like the dirty clothes hamper you share together. Your dirty socks and her or his socks, your t-shirts and theirs, your underwear and theirs, your pants and theirs, your towel and theirs — it’s all one giant mess. The truest sign of coupledom.
The truth is, you don’t break up with someone unless you already have someone new waiting in the background OR if you’re ready to dig into that laundry bin and reclaim what’s yours: your space, your life, your friends, your emotions, your heart. Maybe you’ve thought about breaking up with them before, but you kept holding on because you love her or him. Is any relationship ever that perfect? You wonder if things would work out if she or he did this or if they acted this way. But relationships are never that cut and dry. The grass is always greener.
After a break up you feel sad, numb, because this person you loved or still love isn’t by your side anymore. You feel this even if you break up on bad terms. You text them and they text you back, politely, but the texts are abrupt and less intense as they used to be. You get some good news and your impulse is to pick the phone and tell them about it, since it’s something you were working on while you were together. Something funny happens to you or in pop culture and all you want to do is tell them about it.
Whether you initiated the break up or were broken up with, part of you is glad to have your life back, to go out when you want to and stay out as late as you feel, to spend time with your friends again, to take a job wherever, to do as you please. But another part of you wonders is sad and wonders if it was worth it. Did you make a mistake? Should you try again?
Break ups always come with a huge punch of shock value — shock at the mean things you said to one another, things you’ve never said before, shock at how quickly your former S.O. can cut you out of their lives, shock that you will never see their family again, shock that they will find somebody else, shock at how final it is, shock that you don’t get to share the bed with them anymore, shock that you no longer matter to them. Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s the shock that makes it so damned hard.