On this day last year, at approximately 6:28 pm, I finally built up the nerve to break up with someone I was very much in love with.
My boyfriend of a year had admitted three days earlier that he’d been cheating on me throughout our entire relationship. So for three days in a row, I called in sick to work and stayed in bed crying and embracing him, while he gradually confessed to more lies. On the second day, I went with him to band practice because I was afraid to let him out of my sight. Actually no, that’s not true. I was afraid to be alone.
I was afraid to be alone because I already knew that I had to break up with him, and if he left me alone with my thoughts for even a second, I would face that truth immediately.
And the truth would hurt.
When the door of the practice room finally concealed him from me but for an hour, that hurt flooded my senses so intensely that I was forced to rush from the lobby crying. I cried myself into the next day.
Which brings me to the notorious third day, otherwise known as this day of last year. I had exhausted my tears, and stock piled my nerves, and then finally after three big breaths, broke up with the asshole. August 28th 2019, marks one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but it’s also the start of healing from years of putting romance before my own well-being. I learned how to become self-reliant all over again and began to re-infuse myself with aspirations I’d forgotten.
I ventured through a series of both gratifying and ugly emotions in the months following, and documented each stage of healing so that I would remember exactly how it felt, and in what order.
- Shock, Confusion and Mental processing
I experienced the denial for about a week or two. Coming to the decision to breakup with him was a start, but in the days after I experienced a lot of doubt and had difficulties reconciling that the part of him I loved and the part of him who had done this to me were of the same person. I took up a bit of a mantra to force this understanding into my brain, which I would angrily repeat out loud to myself when I was riding my bike or was walking home and thought no one was looking- “my cheating ex boyfriend, my cheating ex boyfriend”. I changed his contact on my phone to that same phrase for an extra reminder.
2. Depressed and (Semi) Un-functional
By societal standards I was actually expected to spend a few nights in my sweats pants with a whole tub of ice cream, so really there’s no shame in the below images. As you may deduce, I also relinquished daily responsibilities such as showering and cleaning.
I’m very grateful that I got to be angry (and continue to be angry) because anger is a really empowering feeling. It’s even nicer to feel because it’s generally outside of my nature. I’ve heard a lot of reaction stories about people who find out their partner is cheating. I heard from a friend that when she found out her boyfriend had been cheating on her, she threw all of his clothes out their apartment window. I don’t embody that kind of energy myself, I couldn’t even really get myself to yell at him. As a subtler alternative, my grandfather suggested that we cut all the zippers off his pants. But even that, as tempting as it was, felt wrong. I had no desire of harming him or his things. That was until I got a small taste of destruction- one item thats all. A jacket of his that was given to him by the girl he cheated on me with (a jacket I already knew he didn’t care about). I ripped it seam by seam and dissected the main chunks with a pair of scissors.
It felt good and I immediately wanted to move on to the giant teddy bear he’d given me for Valentines day. We named him fat bear, which I’m sure was no inspiration of my own. But my roommate hid him from me and convinced me to donate him instead, explaining how senseless it was to destroy him when their was a child out there who could benefit from him much more then my need for destruction. So I stuffed him in my back pack and biked him to the Salvation Army donation box the next day, repeating my angry breakup Mantra.
5. Taking back my body
I felt violated by my ex-boyfriend because he’d led me to believe fundamental things about him that were not true. He violated my heart, my home and my body, but the latter frustrated me the most. I hated that he knew my body so well, that’d he indulged in me and got away with it. I desperately needed to change something- to have a place he hadn’t been to. So a couple days after the breakup, I followed my roommate to her scheduled tattoo appointment and impulsively obtained what I like to call- my “fuck my ex tattoo”.
6. Permission To Be Single
There is no rule that says you have to immediately re-enter the dating world after a break-up. In fact, you’d be commended for taking time for yourself. But there is some credibility to severing your emotional connection to your ex-partner, via a new one. I called it permission to be single. And I’m not referring to a rebound, or any other kind of physical interaction for that matter. I wasn’t ready to be with another person at this stage of my breakup, but I did want to stop feeling a commitment to my ex. So I pushed against my discomfort and downloaded the dating app Hinge. Seeing the profile and receiving messages helped my single status sink in, even if I wasn’t ready to go on actual dates. And the personalized question prompts allowed me to incorporate my break up into that experience. The effect was both cathartic and ego-boosting.