My phone buzzes several times, which I mistake as a good sign. He’s got a lot on his mind I say to myself, with the smugness only ignorance can provide, and he’s confiding it in me. This is a good step, I think. Just be cool.
Just be cool. You see, even in my severely misinformed state, I was still the hesitant one. Past wounds, fresh and old, still ache at the deja vu of the pre-lationship sequence, so I’m painfully cautious. Like, stupid cautious. Especially since this is fairly recent, I’m holding my cards a good bit closer. You know, for emotional safety. But though it’s still relatively new, the comfort that forms and sustains with him feels familiar; like it has been this way for quite some time now.
The suddenness of this comfort and closeness weakened my well-placed defenses; with my guard significantly reduced, that final text was blindsiding. So unexpected my kneejerk was to laugh, knowing it wasn’t a joke and that I certainly didn’t find it funny. I found it devastating. For me, sure, but much more so for him.
Now, if I was a different person writing a different piece, this would launch into the empowered single person phrases of independence and a near-arrogant disregard for the former romantic- interest. If he can’t see what a catch I am, he’s going to die alone Or His new boyfriend is so [insert unnecessarily offensive adjective]! Or I’ll piss on his grave! But I didn’t land there.
You see, after laughable disbelief, I landed on sadness. Sadness, in this circumstance, differs from pity, which often manifests in similar false empowerment phrases to those above. I mean, I just feel soooo sorry for him because his life is going to be terrible without me.
That’s the break-up equivalent of telling someone you’ll “pray for them” when, in actuality, you’ll only continue demonstrating immense judgment about foundational parts of who they are. I don’t pity him. I feel sad because I know things will be hard for him; not because he doesn’t have me, but because of the unsafe relationship he now has again.
The interesting predicament of sadness at being dumped mixed with sadness on your ex’s behalf can be a perfect cocktail for self-blame. I wasn’t enough’s and If I’d only’s are shaken, not stirred around until the only deduction is a previously unseen yet critical flaw that will stand obstinately between me and happiness for all eternity.
It’s easy to settle into this negative space along with ice cream by the pint(s), and unabashedly weeping to “Someone Like You” like it’s 2011.
Instead, I’m happy to report that this time I decided not to blame myself.
I just made the decision; after that, I work to remind away any of the once crippling self-doubts. Anytime my mind wanders to personal causes for the dissolution of this brief-and-casual-exclusive-but-ill-defined-romantic-thing (this just in, millennial dating is the WORST), I remind myself: Despite knowing me a great deal, he chose someone else. He had his reasons; maybe it was about me, maybe it was about his other option, more than likely it was about both and more. But, here’s the spoiler and the best part, sweetheart*; it doesn’t matter. I’m still the same me that I was before meeting him, and I will keep striving to be the person who loves me most of all. Only then will I see what it means to really share in love with someone else.
*Yes, I refer to myself as sweetheart. Yes, it’s meant to be flirty and yeah, I’m totally into it.
Emotional responses ebb and flow and I don’t pretend to always exist in some enlightened state of emotional self-awareness. Self-doubt, Ben & Jerry’s newest flavor(s), and Adele’s strong yet vulnerable weep generators (AKA albums) aren’t going anywhere.
But in the moments of disbelief and disheartenment, I am grounded by a deeper comfort than he provided; the only person who defines my worth loves me unconditionally and isn’t going anywhere.