I was 19 when I first fell in love. I was 22 when I looked him straight in the eye and felt nothing. I couldn’t conjure up any single emotion. No anger, no hatred, no resentment, no sadness and – most noticeably – no love.
No one really tells you how to prepare for falling out of love. Maybe that’s because it’s such a depressing, glass-is-half-empty thing to talk about. Everybody wants to talk about falling in love because it’s magical and pretty and when you finally experience it, it’s like you’ve been granted membership to some secret society that seemingly everyone else already belongs to.
What they don’t tell you, of course, is staying in that society takes a lot of effort and perseverance – more than any love novice is capable of comprehending. And sometimes, despite your strongest attempts to keep a love afloat, it just doesn’t work out.
That’s when shit gets real.
Having survived the hell that is falling out of love, I thought I’d assemble a collection of the most valuable lessons I took away from that experience. Obviously, no two loves are the same and, therefore, neither are any two instances of falling out of love. However, I hope those who have gone through that exhausting process can relate to some of these lessons. And for those who have yet to experience falling out of love, A) count your blessings and B) take some notes and plan accordingly.
1. You won’t know when the falling-out-of-love happened.
The poet Henry Wadworth Longfellow once said, “It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.” What Henry didn’t elaborate on is how the reverse is true: it’s difficult to know at what moment love ends, it is less difficult to know that it has ended. Sure, you’ll have a breakup of some sort. You’ll exchange words (though probably not in the most civil way) and, if you’re lucky, get some type of “closure” (aka vague-notion-of-acceptance-that-no-one-really-knows-how-to-attain). You’ll begin the grieving/healing/letting go process. But it’s quite possible that the love had ended well before that breakup was initiated (as was the case for me). It’s equally possible that the love will continue to linger long after the breakup and it may take months, if not years, to fully let it go. No matter the case, the most important thing to remember is that the love does die. It may be immediate or it may be the most fucking painful death you’ll ever witness, but you must trust that when it does happen, you’ll still be standing and you’ll be stronger than ever.
2. When you know it’s over, act like it.
My ex and I had a nasty breakup. I mean, milk-that’s-been-expired-for-a-decade nasty. We were on and off for about a year after our initial breakup, and let me tell you: bad idea. Not having clear definition in a romantic relationship is almost always bound to backfire. Casually hooking up and/or insisting that the two of you can “still be friends” is seriously the stupidest thing ever. No, you can’t be friends – at least not without a lot of time and space to recuperate and figure out who you are when this person is removed from your life. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Plus, there’s nothing worse than “kind of” being with your significant other and seeing them get awfully friendly with X person on Facebook (or in real life, ugh) and wondering whether or not you’re “allowed” to be upset, which leads me to…
3. Social media is an evil life ruiner and your worst enemy.
Nothing adds salt to the wound that is a failed love more than seeing a photo of your ex with [insert description of someone unfairly attractive here] on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al. Depending on where you’re at in the falling out of love process, it could be less about the fact that he or she has apparently moved on and more about the fact that you haven’t. And OH GOD is that the worst. Losing the “I’m so over you that I’m already sleeping with this super good-looking person” race is no fun, especially when you think about how much you invested in your now-defunct relationship (including, but not limited to, your emotions, birthday/holiday gifts, going to weddings/baby showers you didn’t care about, so forth). This example best illustrates why you HAVE to unfriend/delete/block your ex from ALL social media sites so you can go about your life without being reminded of how supposedly amazing theirs is (it’s probably not even that great, but that won’t stop you from thinking it is). I say block the bitch/bastard for a minimum of half the duration of your relationship. Together two years? Welp, consider them blocked for at least a year. Every situation is unique, so use discretion. My ex and I haven’t been connected on social media since we broke up three years ago and I never plan on opening up those lines of communication again. To each his own.
4. You need a promiscuous (read: slutty) phase, and that’s okay.
This mandatory phase is different for everyone. Some people put on their skinniest jeans or their tightest dress and take the train straight to Slutsville. They are adding many notches to their belt. Others, like me, rely more on being mentally and emotionally free, as opposed to being physically down for whatever. After my ex and I were done, I was more open to meeting new guys and talking to them – even if they struck me as “not my type” – than I had been in years. Embrace the attention. Flirt a lot. Be coy and playful. Let the guys (or gals) buy you drinks (so long as you’re right there to ensure nothing fishy happens to your mojito). In short, stay focused on the fact that the only person you’re required to make happy is YOU, and let that empower you to keep moving forward with your life.
5. You will fall in love again.
And yes, it is better the second time around. Someone once told me that in order to find your true love, you need to have your first love – quite the caveat, huh? Now again, no two loves are identical, so that statement may not be universally applicable. However, I can attest that the relationship I’m in now is more fulfilling, positive, and promising than I could have ever imagined. I feel loved in ways I didn’t know possible, and he makes me want to be my best self. I could go on listing the cheesy clichés, but I’ll end by referencing what Winston Churchill once said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Because there’s something – someone –beautiful for you on the other side.