Anatomy of a Broken Heart
There are different stages of heartbreak. I’m about two months deep into my break-up and I have experienced almost all of them. First there’s shock, especially if you are the dumped. Then there’s the refusal to believe that you weren’t enough, followed by some combination of depression, anger and loneliness; in any order and sometimes all at once. Then there’s this period where you just feel numb and find yourself staring at your cell phone or computer screen thinking it’s been months, but it’s only been a few weeks. You’re thinking intro-to-psychology type thoughts like, “She can’t find her happiness with me because she isn’t happy with her own life.”
Eventually, after you’ve regained some semblance of dignity, you enter the classic “I’m strong and I got this!” phase. This is when your brain tries to trick your heart into thinking that you’ve moved on, and you suddenly have tons of energy for things you haven’t cared too much about lately or have been putting off, like writing in your journal in hopes that you never forget how fucked up it feels to be blanketed in heartache and doubt, unable to find sustenance in even the tastiest morsel if she isn’t attached to it. Thankfully there’s sports and the gym where you can indulge in working it out or maybe go for a swim. If you’re an athlete in my position, you look forward to the start of softball season cause sports is the gift that keeps on giving. Physical activity is also a highly recommended tool to help you stay focused on the future and not the past.
Heartbreak is most often associated with love, but we keep coming back for more because we are human and it is in our nature to attract and seek out that amazing emotion that can feel like the end of the world to lose. It’s sort of like with child birth. If the pain of labor and delivery were enough to dissuade women from carrying a second child, there’d be a lot of one child households and many of us might have never been born. Reconciling the pain of heart break and the joy of love is something people do every minute of every hour of every day, because love persists and heartbreak and the threat it brings always eventually ceases to exist. There is no magic potion or secret ingredient because love just is. You come to realize that if love is not enough, then it is not meant to be in that moment. It is up to you, me, us to work on loving ourselves in the interim and finding people who support us and our impending changes to come, because heartbreak changes everyone.
This is around the same time that we are supposed to begin the dreaded, at least for me, game known as dating. It used to be called a dance, but it’s not as graceful in my vision. For me, this phase begins with thinking something like, “Oh, gee, I’m lonely as fuck and miss having my girl to cuddle with and spoon at night.” I was going to write a poem about it, something sad and pathetic that I could keep adding my depressing thoughts to over time. But then I decided against it in honor of being honest and true, trying hard to maintain a positive outlook amongst the fog. I stared at what I had written for a long time before falling asleep that night. It was better than repeating the mantra I had come up with the last time I won her back. When she had become my fiancé and I was on cloud nine. When I woke up from my slumber, I downloaded the plenty of fish app… and immediately regretted it. So much so that I deleted the app shortly after.
The lesbian dating scene is an unspoken war zone. If you don’t watch out, your mind will be blown up and away and you’ll end up thinking you’re in a virtual mental institution waiting room, being evaluated (against your will mind you, for 72 hours straight) by a bunch of fembots. But that’s what happens when we act out the irrational, emotional state known as Lonely Desperation, USA. This is of course over dramatic but you get the sentiment. For me, the idea of “getting back out there” is torture, but at some point I will have no choice, because the alternative is sitting at home alone eating a family sized bag of Lays potato chips, watching reruns of The Walking Dead, wearing a pair of Elmo pajama pants your ex gave you, while simultaneously trying to decipher if true love really exists.
I won’t will myself into meeting and going on dates with women I do not know and do not want to know on a romantic level — something that apparently almost everyone encourages you to do after a breakup. In reality, that’s the last thing I want to do.
A couple of weeks after my break up, I went to a dance club with two of my buddies. I wore the blue Polo sweater my ex-fiancé’s mom bought me for Christmas and a pair of my favorite boot-cut Diesel jeans. These were my comfort clothes and they helped convey the message I hoped to get across that night. I wasn’t trying, I wasn’t looking, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t force myself to mingle because I didn’t want to.
I’m sure I could have become livelier with every bottle of beer I downed. I was eager for some sort of atypical experience, but all I could think of was her. That small dose of forced fun was better than no fun. We all have a little damsel in distress in us from time to time, especially following a break up. That’s what friends are for. To hold us up when we get too low.
I needed to continue to allow myself to feel the intense emotion I had felt for the past few weeks. I wanted it to swallow me up and then spit me back out. Two months in and I’m still being regurgitated. I lost weight and a couple of inches, but ultimately stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling stronger as the days progressed. My resolve as well as my fortitude have strengthened.
The reality is that it’s hard to find someone you can imagine spending the rest of your life with, who doesn’t also carry some level of uncertainty about your future together. If you don’t want to end up being 60 and alone, you have to readjust your thinking and review and revamp your standards. I pine for the days when I was the only one she wanted attention from, but I also know that I’ll get over that. I’ll eventually heal and move on. The healing time is longer after you hit your 30s. In the post-breakup fog, you tend to do shit that makes little sense yet comes so easy.
Ultimately, I don’t think modern dating is doomed. I will say that it’s eerily different from dating in the 90s and 2000s and goose-bump inducing when the same dating profiles you saw the last time you were looking are still proudly displayed as if time stood still and you were the only one moving. You start to wonder if you’re trapped in the same breakup cycle as all the others. Are these people serial daters, attention whores, female bots, couples perpetually looking for a third party. I literally had to ask myself just what the fuck was going on?
The funny thing about heartbreak is that it doesn’t matter who you meet or who entices you to look past the love you’ve lost, because at the end of the day – no one stands a chance.
“There’s a big difference between beginning to date after getting out of a bad relationship and forcing yourself to date after ending a relationship that you wish you were still in.” After I broke up with my emotionally abusive ex-ex-girlfriend – the one before my ex-fiance, I fell in love with any woman who so much as told me I was handsome and smart and meant it. “Wow, you actually think I’m good looking and intelligent and you aren’t upset because I feel great about how you just made me feel! Oh wow, and you’re not pissed off that I received a phone call, that I didn’t answer mind you, in the middle of you giving the compliment. Of course I’ll go out with you! In fact, why don’t you just move in and we can be U-Haul lesbians?”
But seriously, when you’re still in love with your ex, as I am now, the new people you talk to are stuck being compared to a version of your ex. The one you met and fell in love with way back when. It’s an unattainable standard for any new potentials to live up to. But I don’t feel like a hypocrite because of two reasons. I know I’m completely emotionally unavailable, and I’m not highly demanding of anyone’s attention right now except my own. That combination would be disastrous even for a rebound relationship, and to be completely honest I refuse to give anyone my energy. It’s hard getting used to the fact that I will no longer be with my ex, but I won’t stop letting my love for her flow. It’s harder to stop a leaky faucet than to let it flow. For example, when someone you love dies, do you force yourself to stop loving them? Of course not. There is no limit to love and I will still have plenty for someone else down the road.
Despite my reservations about the dating battlefield, I refuse to believe that true courtship is dead. In my old-school opinion, this is far from the case. I look forward to the day that I can show a special lady how it’s done. But for now, I can’t be that person because every other woman is not the woman I’m in love with.