When I’m heartbroken, I take solace in doing the smallest things. Drinking a cup of tea. Putting diesel in the tank. Hanging the laundry on the line. I find that by focusing on the little things that take up a lot of our practical time in life, I am soothed, somehow, in knowing that I am taking care of business. Step by step, day by day, if I don’t let these things fall to neglect—these simple acts of self and household care—it means that I am on my way to healing.
I’m heartbroken again, for nine straight days now. I didn’t choose to be this way, not on any surface level. But I know deep down–and all the psychology website and YouTube videos tell me so–that it’s essentially my fault.
I find myself heartbroken all too often, so much so that it must be my comfortable state–incurable love addict, hopeful romantic and general emotional basket case that I am. Although I wouldn’t call the catatonic way I can stare into space these days for what seems like hours on end; the unexpected and sudden crying when someone asks “How are you?”; and the nights spent in my bed staring numbly at TV-series episodes exactly the most “comfortable” mode of daily existence.
My nearly year-long relationship with a man I thought might finally be a good candidate to be a life partner—the longest relationship I’d had in, I’m not kidding, something like 14 years—ended with two simple WhatsApp messages. Then…silence so loud it’s been deafening.
Without getting too personal about what happened, my last ex is the latest in a long line of failed relationships, mainly because I usually find myself barking up the wrong tree when it comes to getting what I want—a stable partner with whom I can spend my life.
I also am not the type of woman who is very good at playing the “game” all the self-help books tell you that you need to play to keep a man—I tend to show my hand of cards far to quickly, speak my mind too easily, and imagine my ever-after far too soon–things that tend to kill most relationships before they even start.
However, I thought I did everything right this time and took it slowly. I didn’t even really like this man that much at first, but wanted to give him a chance because he was attractive enough and we had nice conversations. I also live as an expat in a rural Portuguese coastal town, so the availability of single men my age (mid 40s) is limited. Any man with decent looks, similar interests, a job and a pulse is potential life-partner material around here. Even some of those without a job or decent looks can be negotiable–teeth, however, are a must.
I ignored early red flags that he might be the noncommittal type, something we women like to do when we want very badly for something to work. Now nearly a year of a roller-coaster ride of push-pull with this guy—me being clear that I wanted a relationship and more time with him, him alternating between resisting (even once, for nearly two weeks, basically ignoring me) and meeting my needs in what seemed like sincere and even rather extreme ways that led me to believe he was in this thing for real.
Now, quite abruptly, I find myself alone again, dumped after a ridiculous argument only a day after he finally hung out with some of my friends and was asking me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday.
I’m stunned and incredibly hurt, of course. But when I look under the hood it’s fairly obvious that I should have seen it coming—that I was on thin ice the whole time, if not already kicking and thrashing in neck-high freezing water. This guy was never going to commit to me because we were playing out our respective roles in a toxic pattern of an avoidant-anxious attachment relationship. (Again, this is what the Internet tells me, so it must be true.)
He repeatedly told me he would never change when I would point out his clear resistance to a real relationship and to evolve as a person, and said that I also should not. I tried as best I could to accept him for who he was and adapt accordingly as best I could, telling myself this is what you do in a relationship.
I also carried on being exactly who I am and being perfectly honest, not playing games or holding back the less attractive parts of my personality—which inevitably led to his WhatsApp break-off of the relationship and respective refusal to speak to me. (Great idea that was!)
I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to move ahead, know I am better off without him and get on with my amazing life—which includes but is not limited to surfing, freelance writing, continuing to work on home improvements to my Mediterranean-style bungalow, yoga, drumming lessons, potentially interesting projects on the horizon, and lovely group of friends. I should be planning my next solo surf vacation. I should be working to learn from my mistakes and heal myself from my anxious attachment patterns and get ready to meet someone secure who is far better-suited to me and can meet me halfway in a relationship.
A bit more than a week after the shock to my already well-scarred heart, I’ve started slowly and gingerly resume doing all of these things. I planned a redesign of my garden BBQ area earlier today, and have plans to meet a friend for surfing later. I continue to diligently do the requirements of my freelance job every day. Tomorrow I’ll go to my mechanic to fit my van with new tires.
Slowly, after a week of being fairly useless, I am returning to the business of living and managing my life alone again, trying to push out of my mind the fact that I won’t have my boyfriend around anymore to support me and to do all the practical things I’m so inept at doing.
I’m also trying to wrap my head around the fact (without bursting into tears) that i have lost his companionship and my partner-in-crime for hiking, dining, swimming, boating, laughing, dancing in my kitchen, late-night grocery shopping, sex, wine-drinking, cuddling, movie-watching and the myriad other fun activities we used to share together. Because, aside from our opposite relationship styles, I can’t say that we didn’t have a shitload of good times together, and that I was hoping for a hell of a lot more.
I am slowly putting one foot in front of the other, it’s true, but all through a huge veil of sadness and heavy feeling that threatens to topple me when I stand up, so much so that I find myself feeling physically dizzy, the earth unsteady beneath me. I’ve certainly been through worse than the thoughtless dumping by a narcissist (the death of my mother the day before my 33rd birthday comes to mind), so it can’t be this singular blow that itself is such a knock-out punch.
What I think, though, is that for some reason, each new heartbreak, instead of getting dimmer with age and familiarity, seems to get more difficult. It as if all the heartbreaks of our whole life gather into a massive ball of emotional twine that gains momentum and rolls down a great hill over you, leaving you flat out on the ground. And when you do get up, it’s slowly, with much staggering and confusion, to a world that has been–without your knowledge or consent–irreversibly altered.
Time tells me wounds heal, sadness passes, people come and go. The spiritual teachings I read and witness tell me that the universe has a plan for me; that some relationships are not meant to be forever; and some people are put in our lives merely to teach us something or point out things we need to change.
I find the same solace in these existential things as I find in feeding the cats and taking out the garbage, knowing that with every day my head will get lighter, the sun will shine a bit brighter and I am one step closer to being back to not just my old self, but an even wiser version of me.