There is a protocol that exists when we experience a break up, apparently. First, we cry and it’s socially acceptable to do so. Then, we’re supposed to look within ourselves for happiness. We are obligated to “find ourselves” again, and find joy in being alone. If we can’t be alone, then we must be broken, so we’ll need to take this time to rediscover and fix ourselves–we have to “love ourselves before we can truly love others.” We are told to sweep our memories under the rug, because he obviously wasn’t Mr. Right if things have gone so horribly wrong. We are supposed to think about all the negatives instead of idealizing and obsessing over the positive aspects of the relationship. Stop clinging onto the memories, because they obviously weren’t that great if it ended in heartbreak right? We are told to channel our energy into doing the things we love, and find inner peace in being single. And then we are told that it will be difficult, but we need to stop crying, because it is no longer okay or healthy to wallow so long. When “we are ready,” we should start dating again and keep our hearts open.
Let me be blatantly honest: this is a bunch of shit. Yes, perhaps this applies to some women. These types of articles are about empowering yourself to climb out of the rubble; to learn from mistakes and mend broken hearts, to vilify him so we can feel better about no longer being together. Yes, perhaps if you came out of a relationship where you fought all the time, where you treated each other like crap, lacked respect and understanding or were overtly codependent.
But it is entirely possible that we already knew ourselves when we entered the relationship. What if we were already strong, independent women before him, we were already content being single…but we wanted more. What if we wanted what everyone inevitably wants out of life–to share it with someone? What if we had already learned much of life’s hard lessons, already experienced the feeling of loss over and over again, yet still managed to keep our hearts open? What if the relationship was not toxic or abusive? What if the positive aspects of the relationship outweighed the negative? What if the happiest moments of your life were a result of the relationship? What if the relationship made you a better person?
How do we then overcome the feeling of grief? We know our inner strength, we know our own worth, we know about letting go, we know we should occupy ourselves with hobbies and surround ourselves with friends and family. We know it’s a part of life. We know all that. This is for the women who love themselves, who know what it means to be with and without. This is for the women who are smart enough to know they should move on, but also understand that there was a profound value and significance to the relationship.
This is to say that it’s okay. When you have a firm grasp of yourself, you know your limits and capabilities. You know more than the repetitive insert-a-number step guides to getting over him, because you know yourself. The real comfort is in knowing what you felt was real, despite any other circumstances. You were true to yourself, and to him. You loved deeply and with intention. You loved him when he drove a rusted Ford Contour, when he spent his food stamps to buy groceries to make you a romantic dinner on one of your first dates, when he opted for a kiss on the forehead after your first meeting. You loved him when he set aside his discomfort to spend time with your family, when he offered to pay for half of your new laptop (but you declined), when he planned a Marvel movie marathon, and bought two-player video games just so you could play together.
That love is real, un-replaceable and unforgettable. Getting over this break-up is not so much about finding myself as it is about taking comfort in knowing that I loved him wholeheartedly, purely and without malice, or ill-intention. It’s in knowing that I don’t seek vengeance, or retaliation, that I loved him in a way that was sincere and true to who I was. This is the real way to accept what you cannot accept–to face it head on.