Why Pretending To Be Okay Never Works

I used to think there was bravery in hiding your emotions and courage in pretending as if everything is dandy and that the world is your oyster.

There are only a handful of things more tormenting than finding out, most likely via Facebook, that your latest ex is now involved with someone else. Be it casually or seriously or sexually, any way you slice it, it hurts. I say tormenting because your reaction inevitably involves several contradicting feelings, including but not limited to: anger, compassion, denial, sadness or, if you’re so lucky, ambivalence.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s been two weeks or two years, when you really loved someone, your mind and your heart just naturally react because you are being presented with tangible evidence that this person is no longer yours. Your relationship with them has officially become a former relationship, one that’s been relegated to memory and a few pictures you have yet to stash into storage.

You lay in bed alone, your brain turning over the pictures you’ve managed to find on the web of the new person, blankly assuming that this new girl will be the one, that she’s the one who is going to be able to give him what you could not. As if this already wasn’t a horrible way to fall asleep, your thinking inevitably turns into where you and your ex went wrong; the couldas, shouldas and wouldas come charging out of their cages and the next thing you know, a lump comes creeping up your throat.

You shove that lump back where it came from.

Then you start getting mad. You’re mad that he wasn’t able to commit to you, you’re mad he didn’t see the scars of your past relationships, you’re mad he always said ‘making love’ because how dare he make a mockery to your face, since it was clearly not love, so Fuck That Guy. None of this is necessarily rational because your anger has expanded to his very existence, for making you feel pain you do not want to feel, for making you cry when, just last week, you went out, got shit-faced, declared you were ‘over it’ and took home a bartender. You really, really thought you were over it. More importantly, all your friends thought you were over it.

So you start repeating, “I don’t care, I don’t care.”

Your thoughts regarding this ex turn into a palate of black and white. He’s trying to make you jealous or he’s trying to make you mad. You want him back; you want him to rot in hell. The new girl is a slut or, well, the new girl is a slut. You need to see him immediately or never, ever, ever again. They’re going to stay together forever or breakup tomorrow. And just when you’ve stopped looking at his Facebook everyday, you’re right back on the page, scouring for details, desperate to know What It Means.

Someone who knows him will get dinner with you and you’ll put on a front and pretend like you don’t care but you’ll think of a movie, a subject or anything that the ex was really into and drive that into the conversation, all in a thinly-veiled attempt to find out what the fuck is going on. In reality, you only want to know if it’s bad news, but you can’t bring yourself to say it, because if they say nothing, you know it’s good news, the kind of silence that thunders in poignancy. Better to just have it said out loud.

You don’t tell anyone that you know. You pretend like you haven’t looked at his Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. You didn’t know he was in Morocco for two weeks on a shoot; you didn’t know he was at the same LCD Soundsystem concert you were at. You don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know. You’ll get really good at putting on the mask of the indifferent ex, the ex that truly moved on, instead of using sex to hide from emotional growth and pain.

I used to think there was courage in this. Then I graduated college, dated lots of randoms and upon my latest breakup—with someone, I hate to say, I suspect is my Mr. Big—realized that not only is that kind of pretending not bravery whatsoever, but it demonstrates a cowardice of deadly proportions, a fear that’s directed towards no one but yourself and your emotions. If you never let yourself feel the anger and the sadness, it doesn’t mean it goes away. It just means that you’re going to get caught off-guard six months later when you see your ex at the Jane Hotel, duck behind a banister, find your friends, take 12 shots at the bar and while puking on the sidewalk, wonder why the fuck you ducked behind that banister.

No one, and I mean absolutely no one, should apologize for how they feel. Yes, of course, you don’t want to bother your friends, they’ve listened to this shit enough, but forget about them, help yourself and cry and get as mad as you want to be for fucking sake. This is how humanity works, we feel things and one of those things is pain. You deserve to open a window onto the Bowery and scream, “I FUCKING HURT!” or to crumble into the couch, doing nothing but thinking about your pain, your relationship, your last few memories of being happy with him. Play Claire de Lune, “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Staring at the Sun” over and over and over until the day you actually don’t want to hear it again.

Because eventually, you’ll realize that there is no true permanence in this life. Suddenly, it really doesn’t matter that he’s seeing someone else because you remember that you’ll see someone else. And it’s a true blue, honest to god Okay, not the shitty plastic Okay you had been using before that only worked half the time and kept cracking along the edges.

That’s why when my best friend asked me if I was okay, I said, bitch please…I can’t even be bothered to pretend like I’m okay. TC mark

image – nanagyei

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  • Bellestar

    whoa! spot on. good job!

  • SisterRay

    Good call. I totally relate to this. I don't know if it was because I grew up in a repressed WASP town but I didn't let myself feel all this stuff when I went through my last big breakup, and my feelings ended up manifesting themselves as an inability to eat. Part of it I think was denial though – if I don't feel these feelings, I'll be okay, and our relationship will be okay, and everything will be okay, which of course is not the case. But you gotta feel your feelings because that's the only way to deal and move on. Nice work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I can relate. My friend put it as, “It's like a territorial thing.”

  • http://twitter.com/emorwee Emily Atkin

    Uughhhhhh.

  • Rahelielio

    Uggggh. This was me at 2Am last night “as if this wasn't already a horrible way to fall asleep…the lump starts creeping up your throat.” And even though we never called it a “relationship” this post is making me choke up at work.

  • http://chitbreaf.blogspot.com Al

    “Omg gurl, word.” 'til ∞

    What a glorious ending.

    • reyaizyu

      Haha that was the whole reason why I wrote this…I said it and was like hey that's kind of brill!:) thanks

    • cecile

  • douchegirl

    When I went through the breakup with my “Mr.Big” I decided I was gonna do it right. I let myself cry whenever/wherever I wanted/needed to (within reason), I listened to Adele's 21 on repeat until I actually got tired of listening to it and every time I felt angry at myself for “letting him get the best of me” I would remind myself that I was in love and that people who are in love give the best of themselves.

    I don't know man, all of that helped a lot with the healing but it still hurt like a bitch.

    Anyway, great article.

    • reyaizyu

      Me toooo Adele is awesome for this shit!

  • http://about.me/thechaz thechaz

    nice

  • inflammatorywrit

    Perfect.

    • reyaizyu

      Thanks man

  • http://twitter.com/nuclearcabbage Nive

    I So Totally Relate To This…I'm Still Sort Of Going Through This Phase. And Yes, Screaming 'I Fucking Hurt' Is The Only Placebo To The Pain…

  • pewpdude

    This must be a girl thing.

    • wackomet

      nope

  • Justaname028

    I could not have read this at a better time, thank you!

    • reyaizyu

      :) that makes me happy! -reya

  • Pfft

    you're not carrie, he's not mister big, and fuck i hope you didn't move here because of sex in the city. You better not be one of those annoying 22 year olds from ohio that keep asking me to make them cosmos.
    How old were you when that show even came out? twelve?
    jesus.

    • reyaizyu

      Ahahah no, I'm not Carrie. Thanks for the reminder. Never had a cosmo in my life. Also #getoveryourself

  • Pfft

    also, #whitepeopleproblems

  • ela_kaimo

    This could not have come at a better time for me. I hate myself for hurting so I pretend I'm okay… That worked for a few months until now. Now, I'm crumbling again, and this time I'm going to let myself feel the pain instead of running away from it. Thank you.

  • Jordan

    Good stuff.

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    Yes please and thank you!

    I feel glad to know I'm not the only one to listen to Nothing Compares 2 U, un-ironically, on repeat. My last break-up happened before 21 came out, so I had to make do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Timberman/922794 Steven Timberman

    One thing I loved is how you brought in how important friends are to the whole healing process. After one bad breakup I pretended like I was fine for a solid month, while privately falling to pieces on vicodin, mint-flavored ice cream, and Southern Comfort.

    And then once I had the inevitable breakdown moment, all of my friends felt like I betrayed them. “You said you were fine! You said you were going to be mature about this! You said X, Y, Double Z!”

    So please, by all means, if you feel like shit, say you feel like shit. Easier said than done, as always.

  • Vee

    I remember being 17 and loudly declaring to my best friend on the phone. “i'm telling you Han, it's all about detachment. I've just detached. Detached. De-tached. And I don't like him anymore at all. It's ALL about detachment.”

    And then 4 years later, watching a movie with him and his girlfriend for the first time, getting back home and crumpling on my parents' bed. My mother couldn't understand what I was saying, but between the sobs and during one of those big gulps of air, I managed to get out “He. looked. so. HAPPY.”

    Fuck faking zen.

    • Vee

      and just to clarify, I realize in retrospect how ridiculous and angsty that was. But that's what happens when you don't deal with your feelings when they first hit.

  • Recinos83

    Thats bs. Its not always good to show your friends how you feel, thats showing weekness, why would u allow friends to feel sorry for you? Now when ure alone cry it out or what ever and tell your self he/she was/ is NOT WORTH IT!!! I know its hard though.

    • stop your sniffling!

      great advice… i guess you didn't read the article at all or its been completely lost on you.  Tell me again why its wrong to expose yourself, especially to the people who are close to you, and show them you've had a moment or a string of weakness or pain?  

      Just bottle it up, right… You're reinforcing the flawed logic, which reminds me of this song by matt stone/trey parker:

      **cough** C'mon… what are you really hiding???

  • Donnerunbaiser

    amazing amazing amazing. captured the phenomenon perfectly. glad to know it's not just me.

  • http://personalgiggle.wordpress.com Personalgiggle

    This made warmed me up in a strange and sensational was… Thanks for the expression of what should be shared wisdom. I feel so stupid when it comes to life and emotions. That's why reading articles online can really help to provide some sort of insight… Or a reminder of sorts… Whatever…

    I just dig it

  • heehee

    booooo i want you to be wrong. i want detachment to be okay. i want the easy fucking road. bitch! love it because adele and claire de lune (and the NEw Moon soundtrack(kill me)) have gotten my through the last 3 months and omg fuck my life because this sucks

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