I’ve had my fair share of heartache and being dumped, starting in fifth grade and continuing steadily into my 30s. It never gets easier. Thoughts of dying alone, that I’ll never be able to kiss and hold hands with my No-Longer-Significant-Other again, that my recent ex will soon be intimate with others — it’s enough to make me sit in my pajamas for months, trading dating for Sex and the City reruns.
As if break-ups aren’t challenging enough on their own, they seem to encourage the opinions of everyone you know despite never being requested. These opinions may be well intentioned, but let’s be honest — they are often utter nonsense, never appreciated and way too premature.
In no particular order, here are the most common phrases and unsolicited pieces of advice given to me during the aftermath of my break-ups:
I hate this suggestion. Why should I smile when I feel like crying every time that I inhale? Is it to make people feel less uncomfortable around my misery? Is it better to fake a semblance of happiness? Either way, a smile is not going to fix things. That’s the equivalent of telling someone with acne to just wear a bag over her head. It may hide the problem, but it’s not going to resolve anything.
2. “There are other fish in the sea.”
Okay, so yes, there are technically hundreds or thousands of eligible alternatives out there in the universe. And statistics wise, I’m bound to recover and date a whole school of fish in the future. But this phrase makes it seem like such Eligibles are just swimming by me 24/7 and I can just simply put a hook out and catch one at any moment. Relationships don’t work like that. Chemistry is a tricky thing and timing is everything. So yes, there may be lots of fish in the sea but many of them are damaged, foul, bad-breath plagued, vertically challenged, too fearful of commitments, too hairy, gap toothed, horizontally challenged, too attached to their mother, too immature, too much in debt, on drugs, should be on drugs, etc. This fish analogy diminishes the fact that MY former fish, my special, handsome, talented ex has gotten away and you think it can just be replaced with another one. Well, it’s not that easy. And now I feel like a failure because there are so many fish and I can’t seem to find just one good one.
3. “You really dodged a bullet.”
This line is really someone telling you that you’re a moron and should have seen the break-up coming from miles away. It suggests that I, the Dumpee, should be elated about getting dumped even though I’m miserable. Oh and that I have poor judgment in dating the person in the first place. Insulting from any angle. It’s possible that this phrase could be appreciated about one year post-break up, but even then it’s a snide remark and unnecessary. Unless my ex turns out to be a mass murderer, gun specialist terrorist or a sniper-gone-rogue — in which case, I really did just dodge a bullet.
4. “This is the best thing that ever happened to you.”
Nonsense. How could feeling like complete crap, crying at hourly intervals and getting your heart ripped out of your body be the best thing that ever happened? I can certainly think of far more enjoyable events. Like a nasty head cold or getting a flu shot. I’m sure whomever uttered these ridiculous words was probably looking into my future and assuming that things will get better. But it’s pointless to say such things now and at best, insensitive. But hey, if this is the BEST thing that’s ever happened to me, then anything I do from this moment on (like chewing gum or taking a shower) will feel like winning the lottery.
5. “Are you sure he / she wasn’t gay?”
I don’t know what to say to this. It would be very convenient to label my ex “gay” just because he’s not interested in me any longer, but most likely his sexuality is not the reason that I was dumped. The person suggesting this explanation is offering up a loophole for why my otherwise promising relationship has come to a crashing halt, but it ends up making me wonder if everyone else thinks my ex was gay too and why on earth I didn’t pick this up. Of course, my ex being gay is very unlikely as from every article, book and movie I’ve studied in the last 10 years, the break-up cause is obvious: he’s just not that into me. Why couldn’t this be the advice offered? It’s harsh, but at least it’s honest.
6. “My friend’s cousin’s co-worker’s sister had a situation just like yours and it all worked out.”
I know this person is just trying to make me feel better. Giving me a glint of hope that, perhaps, my recent ex will have some time away and come to the brilliant epiphany that he can’t live without me. This is about as likely as having a one-night stand turn into a full blown relationship. The person doesn’t mean to keep my hopes up and encourage the impossible. But I am desperate for a reason to continue pining, and so I’ll keep eliciting more examples of unlikely exes getting back together in the hope that I can become one of these stories one day. It’s not healthy to hear these examples. If it ends up working out for me, I’ll be ecstatic, but these stories only delay the inevitable truth that Taylor Swift knows so well — we’re never, ever, ever getting back together (probably because he’s gay).
7. “One day, you’ll look back on this and laugh.”
Ehh, I don’t know about this one. It would take a really long time to look back on such pain and aggravation and find it comical. Maybe if I had done the dumping and the person turned out to be Justin Timberlake or Derek Jeter but even then, it would be an ironic laugh, a sad chuckle — not something I’d be entertained by.
8. “Everything happens for a reason.”
I hate this one the most. It implies that I got dumped because I’m destined to marry a much richer, more handsome, generous plastic surgeon or something. It mocks me. So, I got cheated on because it’s my destiny. I got kicked to the curb because someone designed it this way. And that time I went shoeless at a bar mitzvah and got a huge splinter from the dance floor lodged into my big toe and had to go to the doctor where without any numbing medicine, he yanked it out and I bled like crazy and screamed equivalently — what grander purpose was that for? What about the time I got pink eye? Or the evening I spent picking dead lice eggs out of a little girl’s hair that I was babysitting? Or when my childhood golden retriever dog died? Were there spiritual, soul-searching reasons for all of these events too? This statement attempts to put a positive spin on the fact that some things just suck. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can move on.
I request, no beg of you, to stop saying these things to us heartbroken, pathetic souls. We are very sensitive right now and anything you say to us will not be absorbed by a clear-headed, thoughtful human. We are cloudy and bitter and on the defensive. Don’t be offended when we roll our eyes at you.
Just sit and listen to us while we tell you we’re sad. Just look us in the eye and be there when we go over the details of the break-up and how we’re so confused and don’t understand how it happened. If we ask you for your opinion, resist the urge to tell us what a schmuck our ex is. Just smile and tell us that it will all be okay eventually. Then take us outside for a walk, good ice cream and to point out some of the other fish in the sea.