A week ago I was caught completely off-guard when a 15 month relationship came to a screeching halt. He came over , cuddled up to me and proceeded to tell me, while using his usual pet names, why we can’t be together anymore. He’s too busy at work, he can’t give me the time I deserve, he just can’t see a future for the two of us given the current situation. A long list of heartbreakingly corny lines that, I assume, were supposed to make me feel better about myself.
I didn’t cry (much) or beg or ask him to reconsider or try to convince him.
After I realized that he had given up and wanted out I let him walk out the door with my dignity intact. I haven’t sent him drunken texts since, I haven’t insulted him on social media. I told him that I can’t be friends – at least not yet – and that I trust him to respect that boundary. Internally, however, it’s been a completely different story. I found myself doubting everything that had happened throughout the relationship – every word, touch, smile and look.
I felt completely useless and redundant. I felt used. I spent 15 months of my life in utter devotion to this guy; I nursed him back to health after an accident; I supported him through incredibly scary situations; I gave up pretty much all of myself to give him what he needed. And he threw it back in my face.
And that was the problem – I gave all of myself while, deep down, I knew he would never do the same. The breakup happened a week ago, but the crumbling and breakdown of the once-amazing relationship we had happened about three months ago. Maybe that’s why I was able to let go with relative ease; why I didn’t fight him on it; why I didn’t crawl back. At the back of my mind I had known that it wasn’t going to work out. We wanted different things, we needed different things. When we met, I was carefree, fun and independent. He had the willingness and time to dedicate days on end to me and to us. When things got tough, the cracks began to show.
The most haunting thing is that, around two months ago, I gave him an ultimatum: I asked him if he saw a future for us, because if he didn’t then I just couldn’t see myself going through all of this drama for something that will inevitably end. He responded with “obviously I see a future with you”. That reassurance was enough to convince me to ignore the nagging voice at the back of my mind, telling me that it wasn’t healthy anymore.
The point of this article isn’t to break down my ex to some dirty piece of scum with no heart. He’s an amazing guy and, as I see it, I’ve come out on the other end with a lifetime worth of memories, stories and lessons (cue Christina Aguilera “Fighter”) . I have no hate for him as an individual or our relationship. It was beautiful and fulfilling and precious. But it didn’t work. And that’s something that I’ve had to make peace with. Sometimes two people love each other (true, deep love) and it just doesn’t work. That’s no one’s fault.
The day after the breakup, I joined Tinder. Partly because I wanted to see if he was on there (he was) and partly because I was joking around and putting on a brave face. I was staying with a friend at the time and didn’t want her to see that I was still struggling to come to terms with all that had happened in the previous 24 hours. As I was swiping vigorously from one guy to the next, an incredible thing happened. I got matches – actual matches from (possibly) actual men.
In that moment I didn’t feel quite as unwanted as before. Sure, these men knew absolutely nothing about who I really was, I guess they just like my glasses and boobs. But the mere fact that I could still be considered attractive after everything that had happened meant the world.
Now, I can already hear the critics: “WOMEN NEED TO STOP MEASURING THEIR WORTH BY HOW MEN TREAT THEM,”
“IT’S NOT HEALTHY TO JUMP INTO DATING STRAIGHT AFTER A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP ENDS,”
“YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF!”
Well, naysayers, let me address each of you individually. Firstly, I wasn’t measuring my worth by men’s standards. Me joining tinder was no more demeaning than walking into a full bar on a Friday night. After being in a relationship for as long as I had, I lost touch with myself. I forgot how to flirt and laugh and engage with people.
I got comfortable with knowing that the person would always be there. I let myself go and instead grasped onto a man to make me feel better. So, trust me, no one is more against women trying to find their worth in the eyes of a man. I joined tinder because I needed a confidence boost and a distraction. And because I didn’t have an endless supply of alcohol at my disposal.
Secondly, to the people yapping on about not jumping into new relationships: I have no desire to be in a relationship right now. Nothing excites me more than the realization that I, finally, have the time to invest in myself and my own needs. But that, unfortunately, does not mean that I won’t get lonely and seek some companionship. Am I looking for my husband right now? God, no. Am I looking for someone to share funny things with, cuddle with and talk shit with? Hell, yeah.
The secret, I think, is keeping yourself from falling back into old habits (sign of insanity, and all). I made countless mistakes in the past and, I’m happy to say, I’ve learnt from them. I’m also not stupid enough to ignore the fact that fate has a bunch of surprises in store for me. I met my ex on a dating site because I was looking for a laugh – and that brought me more than a year of, mostly, very fulfilling times. I’d be stupid to discard the idea of dating right now simply because my past relationship failed. That would be pessimistic and defeatist and I’m not ready to subscribe to that just yet.
To the third group of critics: I haven’t been loving myself for a long time. For the past four years or so I’ve been going through immense depression with multiple suicide attempts and countless sleepless nights filled with tears and painkiller addictions. I’ve realised that there’s no magic fix for that and complaining won’t get me far. After this breakup I managed to gain the perspective that I’d been lacking before – I realised that I’m not meant to be a silent victim in the corner, grasping at whatever love she can get. Joining tinder isn’t some quick-fix for me to love myself (see point one). Instead, tinder is a vehicle for me to explore what I want, where I want to go and what I’m looking for.
Joining a dating site has, so far, given me the gift of laughter, distraction and interest. It’s given me a chance to objectively look over my life and see my mistakes and triumphs, making me smile and cry in equal parts. There aren’t any concrete rules for dealing with breakup and heartbreak. Don’t let anyone tell you how to deal with your situation – if you make mistakes, you’ll hopefully learn. And at the end of the day, you’ll have some truly great stories to tell.