Writing In Bed

On Ending Relationships, Sometimes For Good

A reader asked if I would take a moment to write about ending relationships. I sort of feel I may not be the champion of this subject. I live my life with the flavor of heartbreak still metallic on the back of my tongue. It’s a lingering anxiety I wake up with almost every morning, always afraid I’ll hear something I don’t want to listen to or see something I don’t want to see.

We’ve all got a way that we handle heartbreak after a relationship ends. When it’s a romantic relationship, some like to cope by going out drinking and dancing. Some like to watch movies, eat ice cream and sob into a blanket. That actually sounds pretty good right now with or without the tears.

As for me, when it comes to long term serious relationships that reach a very stormy end, I sort of become catatonic and stop eating. Sometimes I cry, but for the most part I’m disconnected from the real world and forget to do the important things like laundry, dishes and flat ironing my hair.

When I was mourning my one big bad breakup a few years ago, I had my first “wake-up call” the day I got out of bed and walked into my kitchen on a Saturday afternoon to find a moldy batch of coffee that I had brewed who knows when. That’s what indicated to me that I needed to take ownership of my own happiness and start living life for myself again. That one tangible piece of evidence helped me reconcile the divide between the world in my head and the one in which I should have been living.

A romantic relationship is wonderful for as long as things are going well. So when it ends, how are you supposed to get over it?

There isn’t one singular, universal way for everyone to move on.

The first thing I did was reconnect with friends. You may or may not have noticed that some of us girls tend to give our free time over to our relationships and pass up opportunities for girl time. I feel this happened to me because I didn’t fully trust him and felt that if I wasn’t around, he would probably seize the opportunity to do something uncool. That in itself should have been a sign that I didn’t need to be with him. But my girl friends really came through for me post-breakup and they didn’t even hold it against me that I wasn’t spending that much time with them before it happened. They didn’t give me that hurtful line, “Now that you’re single you wanna hang out?” Instead, they gave me Lilly Allen’s Alright, Still and a whole lot of support. I still listen to it now to feel better.

It also helped to spend more time with my brother. We went to the movies a lot more and he’d also come over to my apartment for pizza. It felt good to have family over at my place. Pepperoni and cheese taste amazing when you’re also laughing.

I redirected a lot of my focus back into being a better teacher. (I taught English at the time and was in the middle of a credential program.) I even gave dating another try. In fact, there was one day when I had a lunch and dinner date with two different guys. I didn’t like either of them, but I was able to see how bad I’d gotten at conversation and small talk. I got a sense for how much more time I would need before even trying to pursue romance with another person.

Some relationships that have to end aren’t romantic. Even if you’re not walking away from a boyfriend or girlfriend, it still hurts really badly when you have to end a friendship and completely let it go. Whatever the circumstances, ending friendships has always put me right into a very humble place. However upset I am with the other person, I’m forced to examine what I could have done to be a better friend. I am forced to accept that the friendship is over and that the energy that went into it can be redistributed to the friends who are still in my life.

The days of moping are still there. The obsessive thoughts have a good run. The obscure Facebook status updates happen.

I wish there was a secret sentence that could be spoken to a heartbroken person to make him or her feel better. My mom used to say that she wished there was a way to remove that one part of your brain that still dwells on a person (and this was before Eternal Sunshine…). It just wouldn’t be a normal life if we weren’t bombarded with disappointments and broken hearts. They’re going to come from breakups, job losses and worse, when people we love pass away. We wouldn’t be functional human beings if we didn’t let things hurt. But I will tell you that if your heartbreak has reached a point of desperation so intense that your thoughts turn very dark, you must get up and move and call your friends immediately. I did, and they saved my life.

Featured Image by SliceofCake on DeviantArt.com. Definitely check out the amazing cake designs.