How To Survive A Blindsided Breakup

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Two-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Two-Disc Unrated Collector’s Edition)

The untimely moment came just before Valentine’s Day–chocolates already purchased, card already signed, legs already shaved. One phone call and boom–it was over.

I’d quickly discover that statistically speaking, February tends to be open season in terms of heartbreakin’, but when it happened, it was the furthest thing from my mind. Prior to that fateful evening, there were no red flags, no obvious signs that things were cooling off, and so many reasons to believe that we were on the up and up. It was like being on the incline of a roller coaster, its track not fully constructed, so instead of a gradual decline, the relationship reached its peak and plummeted off a cliff to its death (fun to do on Roller Coaster Tycoon–much less fun to experience in real life).

I’d been through many a breakup before, but what really shook me to the core about this one was how suddenly everything ended. I spent the ensuing weeks in a confused haze, alternating between wallowing in my self-pity and crying until I looked like Charlize Theron in Monster, and trying my best to suppress any hint of distress in public. But sooner or later I had to confront my emotions head on. And in doing so, I learned the following things:

1. It’ll Hurt Your Pride: Even the most humble of people will spend the days after an unforeseen split nursing one hell of a bruised ego. Admitting defeat isn’t fun to begin with, but there’s a palpable layer of embarrassment and awkwardness when just yesterday, you were gushing to family and friends about how well things were going.

2. You’ll Discover the Close Link Between Mental Anguish and Physical Pain: This one took me by surprise because prior to dating this particular gentleman, I prided myself on having the emotional detachment of Dennis Reynolds. Getting dumped so suddenly not only messed with my head, but it took its toll on my whole body as well. My initial reaction was somewhat akin to shell shock; a white-hot streak of searing pain spread instantly through my arms and legs like some kind of full-body Acid Reflux Disease. I spent hours lying in bed, partly because I felt too deflated to move, and partly because I lacked the motivation to do anything at all.

3. It’s Okay to be Upset for Awhile: When I finally managed to pull it together (well, somewhat), my knee-jerk reaction was to numb myself completely and deny any trace of hurt. But ultimately, all that led to was a painful lump in my throat as I desperately tried to not be that person who cries on the subway (the 2 train’s freaky enough as it is already, ya know?) When you have such happiness and security yanked away from you without a moment’s notice, it feels like ripping a Band-Aid off a fresh wound. You have to allow yourself to feel pain before you can even think about healing. In fact, it would be more concerning if you weren’t upset–it’s human nature. So pour the Franzia, grab that Drake album and run through the six with your woes. You deserve it.

4. Perception is a Funny Thing: In the same way you convinced yourself the Beatles were speaking directly to you when they said all you need is love, it’ll sting more than ever when they tell you that love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight. Just like that, all the Taylor Swift songs you naively condemned as commercial garbage now reaffirm every symptom of your condition (sorry gurl, I was so, so wrong about you). The lens of heartbreak is one that accentuates the bad and plummets you into a black hole of cynicism that’s hard to crawl out of. In a split second, the world looks grayer, the air feels colder and you’ll be slightly convinced that the couples you see in public are part of a vast conspiracy to drive you crazy. Despite this, you have to fight the urge to become cynical in the face of rejection. Don’t give your ex the satisfaction of ruining your favorite songs, movies and everything else that defines you. Don’t give someone custody of the things you loved before you even knew them.

5. You Can’t Make Someone Love You: Bonnie Raitt doesn’t lie either. Sure, there’ll be a definitive period where you convince yourself the breakup was a fluke, and that maybe–just maybe–the two of you will get back together after they realize the error of their ways. But after you’ve performed the Scarlett O’Hara finale of Gone With The Wind, you’ll realize that a relationship cannot function if it’s one-sided. It’s shitty, but it’s not worth chasing someone who doesn’t want to be chased.

6. You’ll Experience the Five Stages of Grief, but Not in the Way You’d Expect: I initially assumed the “healing process” followed a linear progression of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but now I’d argue that it’s not quite that simple. The healing process isn’t so much as straight path as it is one of those terrifying traffic circles you have in like, France or Boston. I skipped straight to depression, then moseyed on over to denialville before reluctantly landing on acceptance. Even now, even at my most over it, I still have those brief “and ANOTHER thing!” kind of moments where I circle back to anger, or a particularly sad Sam Smith song will have me taking a misty-eyed wrong turn in the middle of a CVS. Grief takes a long time to go away, and it doesn’t follow the same timeline or trajectory in each person.

7. It Might Just Be Better to Go Cold Turkey: If only there were some kind of nicotine patch for reducing cravings to talk to an ex. Post breakup, I can’t tell you the amount of times I reached for my phone expecting a text, or thought of a clever anecdote that only he would appreciate, just to remember that I was grasping for something that wasn’t there. It’s like having Phantom Limb Syndrome, but with a dude. There’s no exit interview or course evaluation to let each other know what went wrong–in one swift moment, it’s just over without any sense of closure. But although you’ll feel the constant compulsion to reach out, you have to be honest with yourself: what’s your end game? You can’t try to be friends with an ex if you have ulterior motives. Until you can be platonic friends–and that’s a big if–put down your phone and walk away.

8. It’s Probably Not Your Fault: I don’t blame this particular guy for calling it quits, nor do I fault anyone who chooses to end a relationship that they’re not feeling. After all, why waste someone’s time if you know it’s not going to work out? But still, I do think the manner in which these kinds of breakups are handled–er, mishandled–demonstrates a larger communication issue that isn’t addressed while dating. If someone can pull a complete emotional 180 like that, it either indicates that they were too afraid to address existing problems, quietly allowing them to fester under the surface until they burst, or they did something pretty devastating to you on a whim. Either way, the silver lining of the cloud in this shitstorm might be that you’re dodging the bullet of a needlessly temperamental relationship.

9. You Will Get Over It: It’ll do some damage: It’ll leave a scar on your psyche for a little while. And even though it seems like no one could ever possibly understand what you’re going through, you’ll come to realize that this kind of thing happens to everyone at some point or another. And voila, you’ll get over it. Soon enough, you’ll laugh at your misfortune. You’ll seek guidance in your friends and family, even if it means having to hear a cavalcade of well-intentioned-but-clichéd consolation speeches. You’ll grow and learn and make the best of a crappy experience. Maybe you’ll even write a Thought Catalog article for all the interweb to see. Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned, right? TC mark

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