Brush Credit: Miss M
I’m having one of those days. Every once in a while all my efforts at recovery seem useless and I withdraw into negative thoughts. Maybe it’s because it’s been exceedingly slow at the office since people are on vacation for the holidays and I have too much free time to think. Never a good thing for me. I used to become depressed when I remembered moments from my relationship. Now.. I just feel anger and bitterness. I’m not sure if this is necessarily an improvement as it means I’m still placing way too much emphasis on my ex. But maybe this is just something I need to do. I always held my tongue when it came to him. I’m not a particularly confrontational person so, when he did something that bothered me, I opted to pick my battles and kept things to myself. Even when we were breaking up, I remained fairly subdued and didn’t say one mean thing to him. I regret not giving him a piece of my mind that day. And I regret not punching him in the face a little too. To help ease my anger a bit, I decided to address the things I never said through a letter I will never send:
Hope you’re having fun in Hawaii. Good to know that once again you get to blindside me all the while claiming that it’s “best for both of us” and then immediately run off on an extravagant vacation paid for by your trust fund. Remember when you dumped me the first time around and then jumped on a cruise to Alaska the week after? I got to sit at home in bed for a month crying while you sent me cheerful emails from the ship detailing the fun things you were doing. Thanks for leading me on when I was at my most vulnerable and giving me that glimmer of hope to hang on to so I could never really get over you. I especially appreciated how you kept sending me friendly texts and continued to refer to me by the pet name you always called me when we were together. Seriously. Why would you ever think that would be okay? It felt like you purposefully made an effort to reach out to me just to slap me in the face.
You know what I think it is? You cannot stand having anyone dislike you. Everyone has to not only like you, but also respect your opinions because your opinions are the only correct ones. Ease up you pretentious dick. I have a right to hate you. Stop acting like we’re best friends with no history. Stop telling me how this is just as hard for you as it is for me. It’s not. You had a choice, I didn’t. And for the love of god, stop trying to describe how you see the situation through ridiculous metaphors. Remember when you were dumping me and you explained that our relationship was like a “buoy bobbing in the ocean that was spending more and more time being pulled under water?” Just so you know, that sounded insane. I literally stopped being sad for a moment because I was trying to figure out what the fuck you were saying. That was also humiliating. It was like you were trying to explain the break up to an 8 year old by providing simplified visuals. Actually made an already uncomfortable situation 10x worse. Good going.
Also, stop thinking you’re better than everyone else. I get it, you read nonfiction. You don’t watch TV. You’re a a strict atheist. You think anyone that doesn’t think and live like you do is an idiot and that society is crumbling yadda yadda yadda… You’re completely inflexible in your beliefs. Thanks for making me feel like I was ridiculous whenever I dared to disagree with you. You really showed how much respect you had for me when you gleefully tried to rip holes through any of my arguments. But I guess I shouldn’t even take that personally since you take pleasure in doing the same to anyone and everyone who gets into a conversation with you. Seriously, give it a fucking rest. It’s not as fun as you think it is for me to sit at dinner parties listening to you aggressively try to convince religious folk that their beliefs are flawed. I’m an atheist too. But guess what? I don’t bring it up with acquaintances at casual events and demand that they explain their faith. Show some social decorum.
Finally, you’re 26 years old for christ’s sake. Be a fucking grown up. Your mother still makes dentist and eye doctor appointments for you. She still takes shit to the dry cleaners for you. You live in a condo your trust fund paid for and you dare brag that you “handle your own bills.” Well yeah, you’re right. Technically you do pay for everything yourself.. with free money given to you for no reason other than the fact that you hit the genetic jackpot. Congrats to your grandfather for making a killing in the market 40 years ago. Congrats to the rest of your family too for being able to live in luxury for the rest of their lives even though none of them have actual jobs. Hope you’re real proud of all that you’ve accomplished.
By the way, how is it that at 26 years old I’m the only real relationship you’ve ever had? The only other girlfriend you’ve had.. that was long distance. She was in rehab half the time and cheated on you throughout. You only called her once a day and saw her twice a year. I’m amazed you even count her. But I suppose that’s actually the perfect relationship for you. Being separated by the pacific ocean probably made it real easy for you to live your life exactly the way you wanted without having to have the inconvenience of fitting another human being into your rigid schedule. God forbid you dedicate some time to meeting another person’s needs.
Maybe I am being harsh. But I’ve kept my mouth shut for our entire relationship. Oh and finally, your best friend is a bitch who shot me judgmental looks every chance she got. I never said anything because I didn’t want to fuck up your relationship with her.
Have a great life. Good luck finding a girl that doesn’t mind being low on your list of priorities and agrees with everything you say.
I don’t like dwelling on this residual bitterness, but that felt good. There were just some things I needed to say, even if it is only to anonymous people on the internet.
There are times when I idealize my ex. He was a “good on paper” guy. He was smart, funny, rich, responsible, tall. He had a steady job and showed social responsibility. And, while those are good qualities, they do not fully define him. There were contradictory sides to him. He could be generous while also selfish. He would encourage communication, while still keeping me in the dark. He would want a steady relationship, though not want to dedicate any time to it. Luckily, now I have hindsight. And that’s a pretty powerful tool for ripping through the persona he put out to really dig into his flaws. I’ve actually been looking forward to writing this post.
A few days after the break up, I got together with a friend from college who had been through a devastating break up of her own a year before. She told me how her ex never got a job after college so he moved in with her. She let him live there for free, paid for his food, and never complained when he refused to introduce her to any of his friends. At times, he would disappear for a couple of days to party with friends and then come back and live with her again. For months, she didn’t see anything exceedingly wrong with this arrangement even though he was the poster boy for deadbeats. So I started thinking… what blatantly wrong things did my ex do that I let slide because I was delusional about the relationship? In an effort see him more accurately, and not as an idealized “good on paper” boyfriend, I decided to compile a list of cons about my ex:
He was an unreasonable germaphobe but couldn’t be bothered to sort out the piles and piles of crap all over his apartment.
My ex carried hand sanitizer with him at all times. He bathed twice a day. He washed his hair twice a day also and refused to get into bed without being freshly cleaned. He also freaked out if any visitors sat on his bed. Now here’s where it gets weird(er): my ex didn’t want his feet to touch the ground before climbing into bed so he wore socks. He would take the socks off if he needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, then pull them on again before getting back under the covers. Really dude? In addition to that, he hated dogs because he thought they were dirty. His apartment building was full of dog owners and, of course, I’d always go up and say hi because I love pets. If I pet a dog, he would refuse to touch me afterwards until I had washed and sanitized my hands. But despite all this OCD cleanness, he left piles of crap all over his place. There were clothes spread out over every sofa and chair. There were beard shavings all over his bathroom counter. There were dishes piled in the sink. What the fuck?
He kept a routine more consistent than most 80 year olds.
Every Sunday, my ex would go grocery shopping and purchase the exact same items. Every Monday he met the same people for dinner. Every tuesday he ordered take out from the same restaurant. Every Thursday he went to the same restaurant in Chinatown and requested the same waiter. Every night he was in bed by 10:30. You get the idea. He loved his routine and he refused to deviate. If I wanted to spend time with him, I had to adhere to his schedule. Despite the fact that we lived 20 minutes from each other, I only saw him on weekends. His weekday routine was already set, and there was no place for me in it. And, even though we were practically in a long distance relationship while in the same city, he still requested more time to himself. Oh, and also he would only call me twice a week- once on Tuesday and once on Thursday – because that was part of his routine also.
He prided himself on being the dependable friend that was there everyone – except me.
My ex saw himself as a good listener. Friends would call him up when they were having problems and he would go talk them through it. It seemed so important to him that he be there to support the people that needed him. So, why couldn’t he do that for me? I remember when he was sick with pneumonia for 2 weeks. I would drive to his place straight after work, during LA rush hour, to take care of him. I brought him dinner, picked up groceries and meds for him, entertained him so he wouldn’t become depressed from being cooped up so long. You know what he did when I got sick for a week? Nothing. I got a phone call.
Laying out his flaws like this makes him seem like a terrible human being. He’s not really. I’m not doing this to be vindictive or to seem like the victim in this mess. I just want to be able to see him as he actually is without the delusion of our relationship.
At times, life really seems to be moving forward. I haven’t cried in weeks. I don’t really feel the urge to. There’s no severe depression this time, just a sort of calmness. I’m not particularly happy nor sad. When I think about my ex, I just feel drained as if I simply don’t want to put any more effort into thinking about him. There was a point when I was consumed by the thought of “What went wrong?” But now, I actually feel comfortable just giving up trying to explain what happened because in all likelihood, I will never really know. The things I set out to do at the start of my recovery process have helped:
The set of rings I ordered by Colby June to replace the one my ex gave me arrived yesterday. I was so upset when I had to stash my favorite ring in a box to avoid having reminders of him. It was a birthday gift he bought me while we were traveling in Greece. Now I only have negative emotions associated with the ring and that trip. I love these new rings though, even more than my previous one. It’s nice looking down and seeing something that represents me and not him.
I have also finally altered my environment. My ex dumped me as we sat on my bed surrounded my pictures of us from when we were happy. Obviously, the pictures came down immediately. The stuffed animals he had given me were shoved in a box also. My room still felt tainted in a way though, and I decided I needed to make over my bed. My new duvet and shams arrived last week and I’m pretty happy with the result.
What’s ironic is that we actually barely spent any time at all in my room while we were together. I always had to go to his place because he had severe difficulties sleeping anywhere other than his own bed. I would have had no memories associated with him in my apartment if he hadn’t chosen my bed as the place to break up with me. So thanks for that, ex. I have a new bed now because of you.
Volunteering with the animal shelter has kept me busy. Not being able to have pets in my apartment, I thought just being around animals for a bit might cheer my up. It’s certainly been a good distraction as I find it fairly impossible to be sad when there’s puppies around. I also met the sweetest cat today as I worked an adoption event at the mall. I was so tempted to take her home.
Now I just need to make a new list of things to work on so I can keep moving forward. Suggestions?
I admit I’m a fairly stubborn person. I hate being wrong and I hate losing. When my ex broke up with me, I realized I had 3 choices: I could succumb to depression, lying in bed crying all day while not eating for a couple of weeks, I could grow resentful and angry and think of manipulative ways to screw with his life, or, I could better myself until I was too good for him.
I had already gone the depression route the first time he broke up with me (because I let him do this to me twice). I stayed in bed watching reruns of The Simpsons and Friends, refused to eat anything but ice cream, and cried every single night for months. I dropped 10 pounds in 2 weeks. I started forcing myself to eat again after I hit 100 pounds. It was the only time in my life I ever felt I would really not make it through. I decided I couldn’t do that again this time around. I have a real job now. This isn’t college anymore where I can skip classes when I don’t feel up to it. I’m a semi-adult and that requires an ability to maintain some sort of stability.
Conspiring to secretly screw with his life was tempting for a while. Unfortunately I’m not vindictive enough to come up a worthwhile plan. And, being a longterm planner, I couldn’t see a positive ending to that scenario. I didn’t want to do anything which would result in my ex seeing me in an unflattering light. Acting out in a stupid and rash manner would only lead to him feeling justified in breaking up with me. I would be the crazy ex who couldn’t handle her shit. I would be the story he’d tell all future girlfriends and they would sympathize with him while judging me. I’m too proud for that.
That left me with the final option: bettering myself. Being a competitive person, I was determined this time to come out better than him in some way. I wanted to be happier, more successful, more fulfilled. I needed to prove to myself that he wasn’t the sole source of happiness in my life. Being a nurturer, I had naturally put my ex first. I caved to him, sacrificing my needs in order to fulfill his. But I couldn’t fulfill his needs. And he certainly wasn’t even trying to fulfill mine. I gave up time with my friends until I barely had contact with them. I gave up hobbies I once enjoyed. I gave up weekends to run errands with him or help him out in some way. When he was sick or having a rough day, I dropped my plans to go take care of him. All the while, I knew on some level that he would not have done the same for me. He was a selfish boy disguised as a nice guy.
I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting around wallowing over him. I knew I needed to get back on my feet as soon as possible. The first few days after the break up I took walks. My roommate and I walked around the neighborhood, to the local park, up the street to pick up dinner, etc. We talked about ways to better fill my free time and brainstormed how I could find hobbies that were more meaningful. The first week after the break up, I started hitting the gym – a lot. I needed to keep busy somehow and it made me feel a little more energized. The second week after the break up, I found a therapist. I had never been much of a believer in therapy before. I had tried going before but wasn’t able to find a good fit. In an effort to do anything I could to move on, I started attending therapy once a week. Three weeks after the break up, I submitted a volunteer application at an LA animal shelter. Tomorrow I have my first training session.
I actually feel okay right now. Maybe I’m moving forward out of sheer stubbornness.
While I still sit and feel sorry for myself occasionally, I’ve come to realize that my life is not broken. I still go about my days holding it together and doing things that I enjoy or that calm me. I’m actually a little proud of myself and extremely surprised how maturely I’m handling this. I almost feel like an adult. I know now that things could be worse, significantly worse in fact:
Yesterday, my best friend from high school called me bawling because her boyfriend of 2+ years broke up with her out of nowhere. They had begun their relationship from two separate states. For over a year they maintained a long distance relationship that, from the outside, seemed very loving and healthy. And then, one day, he breaks up with her…over a text message…while she was at work. Two weeks following, he begged forgiveness claiming that he realized his mistake and wanted to make things work. She took him back and decided to make the major commitment of moving to a new state to be with him. She left her family, friends, and job and moved in with him. There was no way she would have taken those steps unless she felt that this was the person she was going to spend forever with.
Last Friday night, he once again broke up with her unexpectedly, claiming that he had been unhappy for a while. They had only been living together for 5 months. She had just recently changed her drivers license, license plates, registration etc thereby making her an official resident of her new state. Now, since she doesn’t have many friends there, she has no option other than to continue living with him until she can find a place of her own. He sleeps in a separate room now, but she is unable to let go of the hope that he will change his mind. How could she? He’s still right there. I know at this point it’s impossible to talk sense into her. It’s only been 2 days since the break up and she’s convinced if she moved out they could work on their relationship.
I remember feeling that desperation. In the first few days following my break up I fantasized about how to win him back. I thought about calling him a million times. In one terribly pathetic moment I even considered just showing up at his door. Luckily I realized that that would be more crazy than romantic and that this was real life and not a movie. In those crazy moments I thought to myself, If this worked, what is the best case scenario? I realized that if he agreed to work on things, he would be doing it out of guilt. He wouldn’t really put all his effort into it because otherwise he would have done so already before deciding to cut and run. I thought about how things would be if I held onto the relationship and he agreed to try again. He would have all the power. I would have no say since I would feel constantly anxious about him changing his mind. I couldn’t imagine living like that. I wouldn’t be able to handle being always on edge not knowing how he was feeling about the situation. I realized there was no going back. I can’t force a happy ending for us and I can’t rely on him to make everything better again. The only choice remaining is to make myself better…and pretend like he doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s surprising, but haven’t cried very much since my break up. I can only think of two instances over the past month when I’ve actually lost it. The first time, it was the morning right after it happened. I woke up early that Saturday and proceeded to bawl for a couple hours before I pulled myself together, got dressed, and forced myself outside to have lunch with my roommate. The second time, I was at a karaoke bar with a group of 20 people I didn’t know that well. I drank for the first time in a long time and started getting really depressed. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom a couple of times to pull myself together.
I think one of the things that grieved me most about the loss of my ex was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to have the same intelligent conversations with someone else. He was smart. He watched obscure documentaries and read books on science and philosophy for fun. He stayed up-to-date on current events and was great at debating issues. I thought he was so deep. I thought he was unique and that no one else pursued learning for the sake of learning like he did. As I take a step back from the relationship however, as I meet other people and get to know them and have real conversations, I’ve come to realize that that’s not true. Other people watch documentaries. Other people have intellectual interests. I learned that one of my own roommates likes watching obscure documentaries. I never even knew that before because I never spent much time really getting to know him. I was always busy being wrapped up in my relationship. I found out that other people have meaningful conversations. I spend last Saturday night bar hopping with a group of people I went to college with. After last call, we didn’t want to go home yet. One guy in the group mentioned his office was in a building nearby and that they kept beers there. We ended up sitting in a big conference room overlooking downtown LA just drinking and talking until almost dawn.
Perhaps he wasn’t that special. Perhaps he just had a quality I really liked but is also present in a lot of other people. It helps me let go of him to think in this way.
Every once in a while when I’m spending time with friends or doing something new and exciting I feel really good about being single. Granted this feeling doesn’t last nearly long enough and it requires constant effort to train my brain to think this way but it’s an improvement. The break up motivated me into taking a lot of positive actions. My desperation in not wanting to wallow and desire to “win the break up” forced me out of my comfort zone and into situations that I think will improve me in the long run. I realize there is no real winning a break up as anything I accomplish he won’t know about anyway but I figure my competitive drive is put to good use in this case.
In an effort to remember the positives, I started putting together a mental list of the good things that have happened post break up:
2. I look a lot better than I feel. I’ve upped my gym days to keep myself busy and to get those endorphins going. This might actually be a little offset by the increase in junk food I’ve been eating as I’ve been craving french fries like crazy lately. Plus, in my obsession with making everything new, I’ve revamped my beauty routine and splurged on skin products. My roommate randomly complimented me on my skin recently and that’s when I noticed that the new cleanser, softener, and creams actually seem to be working. I also bought clothes to go out in for the first time in years so I’ve prepared for my Vegas trip (though the December weather might pose a problem).
3. I actually have downtime. I woke up this past Saturday, laid in bed for a bit watching Netflix, then got up and walked down the street to the little coffee shop on the corner and got a latte. It was nice taking a little walk by myself in the morning. It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve really done anything by myself.
This may seem strange but every once in a while I forget the break up actually happened. I’ll be going about my business, watching TV, cleaning my apartment, running errands etc, and I’ll actually forget that I’m sad. It’s as if going through all the motions of a normal life is actually fooling me into thinking everything is business as usual. Then something pops up that surprises me and brings back all the memories. I was picking out jewelry to wear the other morning and grabbed a gold locket I’ve had for years. There was nothing sentimental about it. It was merely a fashion piece I bought for myself in college. I absentmindedly opened the locket as I was trying it on with my outfit and there he was. Early on in our relationship, my ex jokingly drew a little doodle of himself on a scrap of paper and secretly put it in my locket for me to find. I had thought it was adorable at the time and left that scrap of paper in there. I completely forgot about it until that morning. I felt my heart rate accelerate. As calmly as I could, I pulled the paper out, crumpled it up and threw it away.
I still have the bag of my things that he gave back to me. I haven’t had the heart to look through it yet so I pushed it to the back of my closet and blocked it from view with my spare comforter. This is actually a little impractical as I know all my extra toiletries I had kept at his place are in that bag. I’m running out of shampoo and there’s a full bottle in there. All I need to do is suck it up and go through that shit but I can’t bring myself to do it. I know if I open the bag I’m going to find all the lingerie I bought for him for various special occasions as well as the t-shirts he didn’t want anymore that he gave to me to wear as PJs. I have no idea why he would think I’d want his old t-shirts to keep following the demise of the relationship. Seriously, did he think I’d still wear them? Does he consider his unwanted shirts a gift to me to serve as a keepsake from this train wreck? In the days immediately following the break up I considered passive aggressively shipping all the clothing and gifts he’s given me back to him. This would serve no real purpose other than to remind him of his guilt. I decided it wasn’t worth the shipping fee.
Systematically removing all reminders of him from my life is infinitely more difficult when I can’t remember where all these things are.
The main issue I’m having right now is filling up my newfound free time. Before, weekends were spend with the ex shopping, eating in nice restaurants, going to museums, spending time with his family etc. Now weekends just feel like empty time to fill. In a way, there’s excitement in the spontaneity of it. I kind of like when I’m sitting in the living room with my roommates and someone randomly suggests we go somewhere. The problem is the time leading up to the weekend when I start dreading not having enough to do. Some people enjoy that time to themselves, sitting around, being lazy and just relaxing at home. My roommate is like that. Often I come home to find him camped out in front of the TV with his laptop watching ESPN. Time to myself on the weekend feels wasted to me though. I spend so much time sitting at the office during the week that sitting around on the weekend seems like a waste of life.
I’ve been trying to revive a lot of friendships I had neglected over the course of my relationship. It feels like I’ve missed a lot though. Everyone’s lives have evolved without me. They have their own routines and groups of friends. I have friends here and there that I have dinner with, but it’s nothing compared with the close knit group I had in college. Everyone seemed to scatter after graduation. Now I barely keep up with most of those college friends. I think I need to focus on establishing enough connections that I never have to worry about having someone to hang out it. If I can get to that point the panic that arises from thinking about the weekend might actually subside.
It’s become an obsession of mine lately to make everything in my life new. For about 2 weeks after the break up I was in a paused state. I didn’t pick up after myself. I didn’t take care of myself. I left everything as it was when the break up happened. The bag of my things that he gave back to me just sat there on my floor where it was originally left. I couldn’t stand looking at it or even recognizing that it was there so I simply walked around it for days. There were clothes and shoes scattered everywhere. It looked like a shoe bomb had gone off in my bedroom. I ignored all this cause there didn’t seem to be a point in cleaning.
It wasn’t until this week that I decided I needed everything to be new. It started with my computer. I had an HP laptop that was about 3 years old. It was full of pictures of us, copies of his resume etc. There were all these files I had to avoid. I decided to get my first Mac. Clean slate. I transferred over only the files I actually needed. Didn’t bother with the pictures of us or the documents I haven’t looked at in years. It’s a nice feeling to know that there’s nothing old or unnecessary on this computer. And, I know if I ever do want to see old pictures, they are all saved on an external hard drive.
Next I moved on to the clothes. I’ve been slowly picking up new articles of clothing since a large portion of my outfits remind me of him in some way. I’m sure that will stop happening eventually but until then, it’s nice to have some new clothes that aren’t at all associated with memories of him.
My next projects are: a new ring, a new haircut, and new bed covers. The ring is important because I can no longer wear my favorite ring. It was a gift from him for my last birthday and I loved it to death. Wore it everyday. It was perfect. And now it’s stashed in the back of my jewelry box where I don’t have to look at it. So now I’m looking for the perfect ring. Something I can treat myself to. Something that will remind me of the fact that I got through this.
The haircut is merely to serve as a confidence booster. I always feel better after a new color and cut. I could be a nice self esteem boost at this point and make me look more put together than I feel.
I want new bed covers in order to change my environment. It was a little cruel of him to dump me in my bedroom…where I have to continue sleeping every night. Redecorating will get me to focus on a project and make me feel like I’m starting a new life. If only all this weren’t so expensive.