Forming Habits, Self-Evaluation and Letting It Die. Or, How I Learned To Get Over It.

Let’s talk about relationships. Namely, the one I had but have no more. I generally don’t like to write about really personal things, but I feel like I’ve reached a turning point and I’m proud of myself.

Yesterday would have been our two-year anniversary. For months, I looked ahead to yesterday and was certain that it wasn’t a day that I could get through without the aid of some mind-altering substance (read: lots and lots of alcohol). I didn’t want to face it because I knew I would be a mess. But yesterday came and went, and it felt like just another day. It didn’t feel like a cruel commemoration of something that I had and was forced to give up unwillingly. I sewed, I baked cookies, I had lunch with my brother: it was just another Sunday.

I’m not sure how I got to this point, and I’m not sure how I feel about having gotten here. I’ve experienced all of the stages of grief that people typically experience; because, really, breaking up is like grieving a death, only you’re not grieving the physical death of a person, but rather the emotional and spiritual death of a thing, a life, that you created in collaboration with another person. I’ve been in denial, I’ve bargained, I’ve been so depressed that I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and I’ve been so angry that I’ve contemplated doing terrible, terrible things to the person that I once loved. And now I’ve ostensibly come full circle and have accepted that our relationship is dead, and that it will never be resuscitated.

In my experience, it seems that forming habits is half the battle when it comes to acceptance. And I think that’s a large part of why I felt so miserable immediately after we broke up: my habits were disrupted. I was no longer allowed to call or text him, or go to his apartment after work, or eat dinner with him or watch Dexter with him. Reading over this list now, these seem like such small and insignificant things, but they’re really paramount in the context of a relationship. There’s so much comfort in habits, and it throws you into extreme discomfort when you can’t rely on those habits anymore. So I went through the withdrawal of the habits that I had formed when I was with him, and then I formed new habits. I started going to a community dinner on Monday nights, started sewing in the evenings when I came home from work, and started going out for drinks with my friends on a regular basis. And now three months have passed, and when I try to imagine what it would be like if we were still together, I truly can’t imagine it because the new habits I’ve formed have made my life so different than it was before, and so incompatible with being in a relationship, with him or with anyone else. I can accept that I’m not with him because I’ve adjusted my life to not being with him, in a way that has arguably made it better than it was when I was with him.

I can accept that we are broken up and that we won’t be getting back together, but what I can’t accept is how this one isolated event has completely toppled my entire perception of life. I thought, for several months, that if we could just get back together that everything could be fixed and that things could go back to the way they were before. But what time and distance has made me realize is that things could never go back to the way they were, and even if they could, the way things were wasn’t actually that wonderful. There were so many red flags that I was completely blind to because I was in love and I didn’t want to see them. I had the life I thought I always wanted and then I didn’t have it anymore, and that forced me to re-evaluate what I actually wanted. I thought I would be one of those girls that gets married right after college and starts having kids at twenty-five and falls into a very domestic life, and now I’m not even sure that I want to get married at all, let alone have children. And while I suppose it’s good that I’m recognizing this now instead of after I’d already embarked on that path and had reached the point of no return, I just feel like I’ve been transmogrified into someone so different, someone I don’t quite recognize.

Jenny Lewis, in her infinite wisdom, sings that “with every broken heart, we should become more adventurous.” I agree with the sentiment, and I’m working on getting to that point. As of right now, the thought of starting again with someone new is utterly terrifying. I spent nearly two years with one person, and I invested everything I had in him, and gave him the very best of me because I thought he was the last person I’d have to give it to, and now that it’s over I feel like I’ve been robbed of all this time and energy and love and experience and emotion that I can never get back. The mere thought of giving so much of myself to another person without knowing that it will last is both daunting and exhausting. I can hear someone saying “But that’s what love is: it’s a risk!” and I believe that’s true, that nothing is ever a sure thing and that to give your heart and your whole self to someone is a beautifully risky thing to do, but it’s just not a risk that I feel I can take right now, or anytime in the foreseeable future.

So, here’s a compendium of my progress: I don’t cry at the mention of his name anymore, and I don’t cry when I read his old text messages anymore. I don’t think about calling him or texting him anymore. I don’t hope that we’ll get back together anymore. I don’t love him anymore, but I do still love the thing that was laid to rest. I don’t want to be with him anymore, but I also don’t want to try to be with anyone else. I’m in a strange purgatory right now, but it’s a step up from hell, at least.

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3 responses to “Forming Habits, Self-Evaluation and Letting It Die. Or, How I Learned To Get Over It.

  1. I’m really glad you posted this and that you’ve been able to move on. It’s really amazing that you had a day where it all clicked for you.

    I hope you don’t keep thinking of it as Purgatory! Take it from someone who’s only ever had one relationship that turned out to last 4 years (and counting): You should enjoy your single life. I wish I had. I’m not saying I wish I’d slutted it up with everyone, but I do wish I’d flirted more, went on casual dates and stayed out late with interesting people, not worrying about getting home to see my boyfriend.

  2. I feel like we had this conversation one time.

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