Dating After a Breakup

I'll never forget the date. It was March 20. He broke up with me on the phone while I stood in the driveway of my parent's house. As the words came out of his mouth, I felt like the entire world was rushing by and I was standing still. Like waves in the ocean were crashing into my body; the water whooshing past in the form of his horrible words and my brain screaming for him not to say them. Yet, inside me felt completely still. 

I went inside and, as calmly as I'd said goodbye to him on the phone, told my brother, Sam: he just broke up with me. And then I burst into tears while Sam hugged me and his best friend from college stood by. I have two sisters, I totally understand, his friend told me when I apologized, years later, that he had to go through that first day of tears with me.

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I always say you should get an exit interview when you break up. It feels like you're getting fired from the relationship; evicted from the life you knew. Don't you deserve the chance to ask questions? 

The obvious questions came first: After almost two years of being oh-so happy, what changed? Didn't he think I deserved an in-person breakup after, ya know, 663 days of being together? Not that I did the math or anything. 

Then the harder questions came: Did he not find me interesting anymore? Did he not think I was pretty? Did he not like kissing me? Am I boring? Am I annoying? Am I too nice? Not nice enough? Does he think I'm fat? Doesn't he think I'm hot? 

My mom always says the best thing, after a breakup, is when you move from sad to mad. It's when you stop feeling hurt, like there is something seriously wrong with you, and start to think maybe, just maybe, he wasn't perfect either. Get mad! She told me one day on a walk in May, when I was still crying about him and wondering what I'd done wrong. I want you to get just a little bit mad at him for a second. Even if it's fleeting, she encouraged. But I love him! I told her as I cried in front of a neighbor's daffodils. 

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You begin to move on.

You process through the sadness and the madness and then, eventually, you realize you're doing OK. Things are a little better. You are feeling like yourself again. You can eat and laugh and enjoy a night out with friends without constantly thinking of him, hoping and praying he'll text you to say sorry.

But then you see one of his friends. Or, perhaps, you run into his mom. Or see an old photo of you two from a year ago, when it was your grandma's 80th birthday and everybody in your family loved him - even your grandpa, who never loves anybody! You crumble. You cry on your bedroom floor, looking at the photo, talking to this little picture: why did you do this to me? You ask the photo. Why did you throw us away!?

You're annoyed after that because you thought you were over him and, as it turns out, he can still control your emotions. What you forget, in the moment, though, is that these moments are fewer and further between. They still hurt and that's OK. You're a human, not a robot. It's OK for things to hurt, as much as we don't want them to. 

But you're doing better. Little by little. Each day. 

People email me most often about relationships and breakups. The question I'm regularly asked is this: how do you get back on the horse? How do you start dating again? How do you trust that the next guy won't change his mind like the last guy did? 

I always pause for a long time when people ask this because it's such a tender, personal question. It is so hard to start dating again. My first date after this guy - let me tell you - it wasn't pretty. I agreed to go on a date but wanted to meet there because, you know, serial killers. I cried on the entire drive there. Can you even imagine how my makeup looked when I got to that little Mexican restaurant? 

The best thing you can do, I think, is to be as gentle as ever with yourself. Remember, you're not getting back on the horse right away. First, you're just petting it. Maybe after a little while you'll walk along side it. With a little more time, you might be able ready to take it for a ride, but it takes a lot of time. 

Nothing is more important, when it comes to healing, than listening to your needs. 

Keep reminding yourself that you are beautiful and loved. Be your own biggest cheerleader. Remind yourself daily that it gets easier. Remember each morning that you're better off today than you were yesterday, because you're further along in the healing process.  

I believe in you. I know you can get through this. 

In solidarity,
Whitney