Breakups are almost universally miserable and the feelings, pain, and memories that they cause can linger and linger like dust in the air. And no matter how many times you dust yourself off, dust your home and memorable places off, that dust often just seems to collect again.
I’ve had my share over the years, special people that I lost either because of something they did that I could no longer put up with or because my needs had changed and I had changed as a person so that we were no longer compatible. But these breakups always stuck with me months after they happened even when I was the one who initiated it, even when it was for the benefit of my own mental health and well being. As a result, I would carry pain from old breakups for years and that pain would cause me to question myself every time I approached a new relationship.
This month, I went through an especially difficult breakup and it’s not just because it happened during the Christmas month of December. Brian (not his real name) and I had been dating for a little over a year and for the most part it had been wonderful. We liked the same music, our sex drives were compatible, and we made each other laugh.
However, the longer we dated the more I realized that Brian and I don’t ultimately want the same things. Brian and I will both be graduating college this Spring and what Brian wants for his life aren’t the things I want for mine. I want to travel for a year before jumping into my chosen career but Brian, I discovered, had plans to move back to his hometown and take over his father’s business. In October this all came to a head and we fought about what we thought one another’s futures should be. He thought I should move back home with him and I thought he should take off with me after school and see the world. It was an impasse, a judgmental, cruel impasse.
So, in late November I made the decision to break up with Brian so that I could have six more months of college all to myself without the pressure of a relationship and the future hovering over me. I’d never made a decision like this, for these reasons, before and while Brian was hurt I found that I was also hurt both because I knew I cared about him and because I knew I was hurting him. And during all this I did a lot of soul searching about why this breakup, which was definitely a good idea, hurt so much and why old breakups hurt so much and, more importantly, how to come to grips with them.
I think I have an answer.
I’ve realized that at the end of every relationship I always look back and long for what was lost, what will never occur again, and all my tears are because there’s now a giant hole in my chest where my heart had been. But, really, this isn’t the case. The truth is that with every new relationship we have the opportunity to take what we’ve loved and learned and become larger people for the experience. That’s why I’m suggesting the following mantra for when you have a breakup. It’s a reminder that you are a growing and real and true person who loves and is loved and that even bad experiences and memories carry with them the beauty of experience.
“I loved you. I love you, and despite all the bad things, I thank you for so many good things. Goodbye to you and may you have all the happiness I want for you and that you wanted for me when we were so in love.”
And this is how you will own your pain and turn it into a shining beacon for others that says we can love the people that we were forever and be better for it.
Goodbye, Brian, I wish everything for you.