You’re alone and it sucks. The sadness and isolation that you feel is sickeningly heavy. You’ve replayed the breakup a thousand times. You’ve imagined a thousand different reconciliation scenarios. Everything else happening in your life seems disconnected from your mental processing; this is the only thing you can think about.
Your equilibrium is off. You don’t know how to sort out anything you’re currently feeling. You’ve been through so many emotional highs and lows in such a short amount of time that you can’t really tell the difference between missing this person and simply missing love.
How do you know you’re doing the right thing? How do you know you’re not making a mistake?
How are you supposed to know if you’re simply experiencing the normal pain of a breakup, or if this is your gut trying to send you a message?
The instinct will be to run back to them – to do it without thinking, to follow your impulse, to “listen to your heart.” That’s because we’re conditioned to believe that that’s love. We’ve seen it in movies, watched it on tv, heard it in a thousand love songs. But that’s not really love. It’s just a good storyline. The desperation, the race to win someone back, the dramatization of it all – that keeps us interested, watching, listening.
So we think that’s how we’re supposed to behave in real life, too. But real life doesn’t happen in 105 minutes, with a set-up, problem, climax, and resolution. It doesn’t happen in a tender, 3-minute song or a touching, 22-minute season finale.
As beautiful as they are to listen to, love stories don’t involve the eloquent, well-articulated, Shonda-esque monologues that you see on Grey’s Anatomy. Love stories and breakups do not unfold the way they do in a beautiful, well-lit Taylor Swift video. Rather, the processes you go through, and the pain you try to sort out, happen in boring, uneventful moments of life that are typically left out of a story.
You deal with your breakup, you feel the emotions, and you come to certain conclusions while you’re cleaning out the fridge, or scrolling through Netflix in your pajamas, or sorting through junk mail. You probably don’t look great. Your apartment is probably a mess. You’d rather be anywhere else than laying on your couch or sitting at your desk at work.
So it’s tempting to add some beauty and drama back into your life – you imagine running back to them, the flashes of your reunion, the romantic undertone of it all.
Maybe you actually are meant to be together. Maybe this breakup is something you both need to mature, to understand yourselves as individuals, to figure out that this is truly what you want. Or maybe you’re not meant to be together. Maybe you’re supposed to be alone for a while, or you’re supposed to meet someone else, or you’re supposed to focus on something other than love at this moment in your life.
But either way, you will never know if you run back to them right now. Right now is the time for you to live the beauty of a normal, painful, sometimes boring, three-dimensional life. You’re not a character in a Thursday night television series, you’re not a line in a song, you’re not the star of the latest Nancy Myers film. You’re a real person, which is so much better, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
The pain you will go through in your life (right now, and in the future) is so much worse than something a character will experience in a five-minute character-building montage. But the joys, the highs, and the love that you will feel are so much better, too.
But it comes at a price, and this is the price. You cannot get over this breakup (or reach your reconciliation) by romanticizing your experience. You just have to go through it in all of its unappealing glory. You have to feel it. You have to let it wash over you when you’re doing laundry. And eventually, with time, you will know what is right. You will know whether or not you should fight for this person, whether or not you’re meant to go back to each other. You will know it in your gut. It’s just going to take longer than a well-written 2-minute scene, set by a fountain in New York City on a bright, sunny day.