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October 26, 2003

  • Surviving Breakups: An A to Z
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    A is for All Comes Crashing Down
    The first twenty minutes after you’re told a significant relationship is over is perhaps the most concentrated experience of pure despair anyone is likely to face short of having their entire immediate family taken out by a rogue tractor-trailer. Every single hope you ever had for yourself and someone you love bursts into white flame like those dummies in pre-fab houses in the old atomic test films they used to show you in history class. The first twenty minutes after you’re alone to yourself is even worse.

    B is for Blankets and C is for Chocolate
    My own personal survival tactic involved cocooning under several blankets and eating nothing but peanut M&Ms while watching the W Network. The good news is this is probably as pathetic as it will get. The bad news is, you won’t know that in that moment.

    D is for Denial
    The human mind after breakup is the best spin-doctor, ever. You will find yourself thinking one (or more) of the following:
    1. She’ll come around when she discovers that she misses me.
    2. If I demonstrate x, maybe this will prove the missing piece y and she’ll reciprocate z.
    3. Even though we’re friends I’m sure I can still get some occasional nookie.

    Just in case there was any doubt, the answer to all of these, and many more, is it’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

    E is for Emerging
    Eventually, you find that you must actually get out of the house—if for no other reason than you’ve run out of M&Ms or seen that episode of The Shopping Bags on W Network for the 35th time—and you’ll have to start interacting with the human race once more.  There’s the inevitable phone calls to family and friends where you tell them it’s over (“That’s a shame.” “There’ll be someone else”). And you just go back to what it is you were doing.

    F is for Facing Up To It (and Forgetting, or the lack of it)
    At some point, you’ll get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “It’s over. They’re not coming back.” You do this in the hope that if you say it enough, you’ll eventually forget how you felt and move on with your life. Unfortunately it doesn’t work as easily as this.

    G is for Going Nowhere Fast (or Getting Used To It)
    And, since the forgetting thing doesn’t seem to be working, you find yourself in a rut, wondering when your feelings of loss are going to subside. The best thing you can do at that time is just learn to live with it, the same way you do a missing tooth or a sore shoulder, because the first rule of breakups seems to be: nothing goes as fast as you would like it to go.

    H is for… well, we’ll get to H later.

    I is for Individuation
    Gradually, all the things you associate with your life as a couple breaks down into things you do by yourself. There’s the first time you go to a film alone. The first time you watch a favourite TV show. The first time you go for a walk somewhere nice. The future markers of things you had talked about doing—holiday weekends spent together, would-be special occasions—eventually become the present and the past, and you go through them by yourself.

    J is for Jerking Around (Or Not)
    There will come a point when you find yourself mad at your ex and you just wish you could get back at them some way, or make them understand a tenth of how miserable you are through all of this. There is no point in following through on any of these instincts, because real people never respond in the same way that the simulacra you’ve created do. It’s a dead end. Trust me.

    K is for Knowing Better
    Then come the moments where you do something, or say something, that you wish you hadn’t, whether that’s simply saying to your ex “I miss you” or winding up spending the night to a morning after just as unforgiving as before. You can’t win in these situations. It’s better to simply forgive yourself and move on.

    L is for Lies We Tell Ourselves (or Love)
    In our heads is a version of events that we have constructed. We tell ourselves what we think the reasons are, or should be, that things ultimately didn’t work. Or we cast ourselves as the hero, or the victim, of a particular scenario. Being in love is about constructing a mythology about yourself and someone else. Most of the time we aren’t even aware that we’re actually lying to ourselves until we actually start comparing notes in a shouting match via e-mail. But if it’s any consolation, the other party has most likely constructed a similarly artificial version of events.

    M is for Missing Them
    There is no way around this.

    N is for Normalizing
    Sooner or later, you and your ex will go out to dinner or coffee. Your ex wants to see how you’re doing and, as with anyone who is suffering, really they want to see if the patient is better. This is fine if you are doing better, but it’s lousy if you are not. The ex will most likely want to normalize the experience of being with you into a non-relationship relationship. Which is great if you’re doing better, but lousy if you are not.

    O is for Other Universe
    The one question you’ll never quite work your head around is “Why can’t they feel the same way I do?” The irony is that your ex is probably asking the same question.

    P is for Porn
    If you’re male, one thing you’ll notice as the weeks and months unfold is that your interest in Victoria’s Secret actually increases quite a lot after a breakup. Funny, that.

    Q is for Questions unanswered, and better left unsaid
    The longer you’re apart, the more you find yourself assailed by unsettling questions about your relationship. Was it really as good as you said? What if you were actually being used? What went wrong? Why did x happen? Why didn’t y happen? What would have happened had I done z? The only thing more agonizing than these questions is the knowledge that asking any of them would only do more harm to yourself (see L is for Lies we tell ourselves) and to your ex.

    R is for Rebound
    The next major tragedy that lies ahead is that whatever relationship in which you find yourself in the immediate future probably won’t last very long. So enjoy the nookie while you can.

    S is for Single, and hating it!
    Possibly the one thing that sucks the most on a daily basis of being single again is…well, being single again. You find that all the reminders of our heterosexist society—from couples being clingy in the street to the seeming proliferation of romance movies—are even more intense than they were before you started going out. When you think about it, this probably explains why the action movie is so dominant in our culture.

    T is for Try, Try Again
    Inevitably, your friends will keep suggesting that you get yourself “back in circulation”. They will even have suggestions on how you can do this. Your friends may be wise, but they’re wrong on this count. You return to the dance floor when you’re damn good and ready, and not a moment before.

    U is for Unknown Duration (or Understanding Nothing)
    The hardest thing about all of this is not knowing how long you will continue to miss your ex. Most people say that in time, you meet other people, have other experiences and eventually erode it all gone. But that’s cold comfort on when you find yourself wishing your ex was beside you while watching Saturday Night at the Movies. In the end, you just need to accept that there are some things you will never quite comprehend and just go on living.

    V is for Valour
    There will come the time when you will have to make a stand for the sake of your own sanity or what’s left of your tattered heart and soul. It may be enormously painful to you to stand your ground and say that you can’t see them anymore, or that their demands are hurting you. But if you can, try to enjoy that moment. Savour it. You may never find yourself capable of such bravery ever again.

    W is for Whining (and the people who put up with it)
    Treasure your friends, for they put up with you at your rockiest and shakiest and keep listening to your moanings as you struggle through all your feelings. In fact, dinner and a movie sometime in the future in recompense would not go amiss.

    X is for X Chromosome and Y is for Y Chromasome
    At the end of the day, if you’re heterosexual, people of opposite genders will continue to struggle to understand each other, and daily work through the matrix of compromises, joys and sorrows we call being a couple. And all this is worth the other 25 points listed here. Or so we keep telling ourselves.

    Z is for Zen is just plain fucked up
    People who tell you that there is a graceful, serene way of working through a breakup are bullshitting you. It’s messy as hell—if only to witness your own feelings get splattered about like the residue of a water balloon. Good luck to you as you try to work your way through it.

    H is for Heart
    As a muscle, the heart is possibly the most fragile, and most robust, organ of the human body. Which makes it utterly perfect as a metaphor for the human capacity to love and be loved.

    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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