Warning: This story is long. It tangents a little but it comes back around. This is part of catharsis, and honestly, it doesn’t paint anyone in a good light. Not even me. It shows humanity at its pettiest, its finest, and most irrational. It’s a love story. I hope you understand what I write. I hope you find something you identify with, and maybe you take something from it. Grab a cuppa and take a seat. Let’s begin.
About 7 months ago I alluded to being in a relationship. That ended shortly after it began. The relationship was so intense, so emotionally fueled (which was ridiculous for two rational, logical thinkers) but because there was so much passion, things moved far too quickly. We had met online while he was in another relationship. We were just friends, but he broke up with his girlfriend and things moved rather quickly after that. His ex had said we were inseparable from the very first message, and she was right. Not a day went by that we didn’t talk for several hours.
We became fast best friends and after 7-9 months we decided to date officially. After all, we’d said “I love you” a million times. It seemed like the natural progression. From that moment things escalated exponentially. A beautiful semi-commitment ring was given, weddings were discussed continuously, and we needed to slow the fuck down. Neither of us were ready for that level of commitment but we didn’t know how to slow to a steady speed. So we ended it. He had wanted to experience the single life, and I wasn’t ready to give it up. It was an amicable decision and it was honestly the best decision we both could have made. It hurt, and we missed each other fiercely but it was the right thing to do.
Over the months we began fighting over bizarre things. Casual remarks would be taken as attacks, tempers would flare and we’d both shut down. We both realised that for everyone else in the world absence made the heart grow fonder, but for us absence made us hate one another. We couldn’t deal with the separation. So we found solace in other people. Me with a few, he with one. One he is now officially dating.
I had seen this coming a mile off and had even told him as much. When he told me they had decided to date, his message concluded with “You were right”. Of course I was. I had pretty much made sure it had happened. I’d sown the seeds of expectation and fostered them during our arguments. It didn’t help that half of the arguments were cultivated by someone else feeding me her weird “game” to get him to love her back. So I gave her what she wanted. This is still a source of contention he and I choose not to discuss. It gets no-one anywhere, and it serves zero purpose. Several of my friends who had been in the loop during our arguments and disagreements said I was better off. He didn’t deserve me. He was a waste of time and space. But honestly, I felt (and to a certain extent still feel) left behind. Like maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe he was ready for commitment, just not with me.
I’ve always been an expert in self-sabotage and while I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying not to do it, I still find myself in situations where I can’t stop myself. This break up, and therefore the grieving process is one of those times. Despite my awareness of what was going on and what I did to cultivate it, it doesn’t stop the tiny little piece of me that had felt hope from now feeling heartbroken. Part of me had anticipated that despite the arguments we were having, and despite both of us casually seeing other people, we’d end up at the altar – a thing neither of us had previously ever wanted.
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that, as a person who cherished and was proud of their singledom, I had come to depend on the comfort of another human. I craved their affection and their time. It’s even harder to come to terms with it when this person who I had fallen in love with was (and more so now) is hated by most of my friends. My best female friend is getting married next year and asked me to be the maid of honour – something I am genuinely honoured by. But a caveat was this person was to not come near the wedding in any way, shape, or form. She threatened to throw him in the lake. Other similar threats have been made by those nearest to me simply because they disliked the way they think I was treated during my relationship and subsequent breakup. They view me as the victim in need of protection.
The problem with this is they only ever heard my side of the story, and they usually only heard it when I was emotionally hurt, feeling lonely or very angry. Sure, an argument can be made that when you love someone who loves you back, those things don’t happen very often, but I promise you: I was not the only person being hurt in this. We were slowly growing more and more toxic for each other. We work well as friends, but as lovers we were turbulent and discordant. We brought out the worst in each other to prove points and keep each other close by. You can’t be healthy and happy in that situation. The highs you feel are not worth every other emotion you experience.
Another problem with the way they speak about him is it makes me seem like a complete moron. Friends will usually try to console you with platitudes like “They don’t deserve you” and “He was a waste of time”. What you’re inadvertently yet deliberately saying is “You chose poorly”, “Your decisions were stupid and not worth a second thought”. It sounds like I should feel shame for spending time and effort on another human. The thing is, I’m no better than another human and what happened between he and I was unfortunate, but a worthwhile experience. I was handed the opportunity to learn and to teach. What he and I benefited from learning from and teaching each other, friends have dismissed as a waste of time.
I learned a lot over the last 18 months. Not only about how I handle certain things and how I can change, but how much I’ve grown as a person since my last relationship. A few years ago I managed to build an emotional wall that turned me extremely cold and calloused. I’ve heard a lot of people discuss how awful “feels” are, and for the most part I tend to agree. They can completely suck. The idea of the wall was to protect me from having “feels” for another person ever again and to save me from having my heart broken. Again. But here’s why that doesn’t work; I started to push away the feeling of love to platonic friends. My family life got tense and as a result my brother and I who were once close have very little to do with each other. Work became unbearable because I had to “suffer other people”. I isolated myself as much as I possibly could without going AWOL. It fed my depression, which fed the isolation.
This experience with this particular person broke that wall down. I once told him that my heart was a heavily guarded fortress and somehow he walked straight through the front gate, unseen and unheard. Once he’d settled in and made a home, it was easier to break down walls and refurbish to allow room for him rather than kick him out. I still like the imagery of that. I imagine my grumpy self – sitting by a fire, nestled in a tiny fortress. I imagine someone squeeeezing in to that tiny space and I roll my eyes and push the wall out a little further so I can have a little more room. Over time the walls become other rooms. More people walk in to the fortress and settle in. Next thing I know, I have a citadel inside my armoured walls. A thriving palace where people are welcome and safe within my heart. That’s the freedom of heartbreak; The fortress is no longer there to keep me isolated, but to provide shelter for those who need it. It allows for expansions and renovations.
It’s a romanticized vision, and not entirely accurate, but it’s one I adore. Alas, like a thriving citadel, it’s hard to maintain. So I practice what I preach consistently – Communication. I tell the people I hold closest to me when I am struggling. When I cannot keep up repairs on the wall, and when I need support. I try not to isolate myself but I also stay aware of when I require alone time. Thankfully those who have made a home with me are amazing people. They dust the cobwebs, they fix the support beams and they bring me a cup of tea and a hug when I need it. They send me messages of love throughout the week for no reason other than I let them in to my life and I keep them close by. My friends – my chosen family – build me up as I hopefully build them up.