If someone had told the bright-eyed and new-to-the-city version of myself four years ago that I’d spend a large part of my twenties writing about heartbreak, unrequited love and ill-fated summer romances, I would have laughed. Moving to the big city to find love was not a cliche I planned on living, and being the kind of woman who disguised her need for affirmation of self-worth as a string of men entering and exiting my bedroom seemed a far off impossibility.
And yet, there I was at 2:34 am rolling away from the handsome man sleeping next to me to check my phone because an old flame at texted me, and the part of my subconscious awake at that hour wondered why. At some point, in a moment of vulnerability, we all make decisions based on temporary emotions. Maybe it’s texting “hi” to someone we know we shouldn’t, or maybe it’s a more disambiguous “Can you come over?” past the natural hours for these kinds of conversation. I know I’m guilty of extending olive branches to men who’ve scorned me or forgotten me, simply because I was lonely. In a city of millions, these moments are fleeting but can have lasting effects.
When do we start to live and love responsibly? After the first heartbreak? When we discover the person we’re dating is dating someone else? When do we become mature enough lovers to recognize when aspects of our romantic endeavors are causing more harm than helping us? (Looking at you, Tinder.) I’ll tell you when. It’ll happen when you have that last failed first date and realize you’re tired of telling your story to men who don’t excite you. It’ll happen when that guy you really liked goes back to his previous girlfriend and you spend way too long wondering if you really reminded him so much of her that his only solution was to seek her out again. It happens when you stop wondering where all the good men are and go out looking for them instead.
The man sleeping next to me that night isn’t around anymore, and for the first time in a long time, I’m okay with that. Part of me wants desperately to reach out to him, to beg for his attention and affection, but there is a voice in my head that’s getting louder every day reaffirming a truth we all need to accept: if someone is acting like they don’t care, they don’t care, and no amount of sex, home-cooked meals or your best attempts to the kind of woman you think he wants is going to change that. There are over seven billion people in the world who aren’t him and who are, frankly, better than him. You have to stop going back to people that are bad for you, and then you need to say that louder for the versions of ourselves sitting in the back pretending we didn’t hear it the first time.
It’s okay if your heart hurts a little bit every time you see two lovers out in public, but stop using your sadness as an excuse to let people use you for their needs without demanding that some of your own be met, too. We all deserve to be loved healthily and adequately and the first step is putting a stop to toxic behaviors. Cancel the pity party and take responsibility for everything in your life, unfollow his Instagram, forget the names of all the exes of his that you think are prettier than you (they’re not) and move on. At the beginning of this heartbreak, I’m sure you thought you couldn’t live without him. Spoiler alert: you are. I’ve learned that one of the best times to discover who you are and what you want in life is right after a break-up. Take your pain and anger and channel it, instead of letting it simmer on the back burner. Being bitter is overrated, buy some new mascara and go out on Friday nights to find men who don’t remind you of all the ways he let you down.
If I can get over the disastrous attempts at bangs from my freshman year of college, you can get over the guy who doesn’t want you. Love yourself enough not to tolerate disrespect, disloyalty and half-assed affection. Love yourself enough to move on.