Initial Thoughts on my First Breakup

I was in a relationship for nearly 8 years. We were engaged. For pretty much my entire 20’s I had someone beside me. Someone who always texted me back, a perpetual dinner date, and someone to whisper to into the dark, “did you hear that? Oh, I thought I heard something.” For the first time in nearly a decade there’s no constant body beside me. Only a phantom limb I reach for when my mind plays tricks on me.

It’s getting used to the silence that’s hardest. In a most Pavlovian way I check my phone like clockwork at noon and 11:30 p.m. Then a feeling of withdrawal hits me — the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach, like being hungry for so long the pangs turn to nausea and the only thing worth doing is sleeping it off.

There was never a reason to do anything alone. Suddenly the most mundane tasks — trips to the post office, grocery shopping, and laundry pickups — become the most isolating experiences. It literally feels like relearning how to walk after a car crash. Amidst the car crash rehab comes the involuntary sobbing — on the train, in the office, on the toilet — don’t matter! As cold as New York can feel sometimes people are exceptionally kind in these moments; a concerned glance and often a crumpled Starbucks napkin of solidarity.

Presently, I’m awash with this oddly familiar sense of “aloneness.” Not “loneliness” per say, but a familiar realization that life is much more a solo journey than it may seem. You truly come into this world alone and exit it alone. I know that sounds crazy morbid, but when you really stop and think it’s kind of beautiful. There’s an oddly comforting feeling of trying to find home in myself again; relearning what I like, what it is to be selfish with my time, sleeping in the middle of the bed, staying out with no one to “answer to,” and creating new dreams with myself at the center of it all. Terrifying, but deliciously self-full.

For the first time I’ve been really thinking about that trite phrase, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. But truer words have never been spoken. I know I sound like a shitty Instagram quote with some girl in tight yoga pants backing the camera and facing a picturesque landscape, but it’s so true. We’re in a lifelong relationship with ourselves. It’s crucial to be truly comfortable with our own company — no distractions like our mobile devices, no being a voyeur into other people’s lives, just us diving into that “aloneness” and learning to navigate alone in the dark at times. I feel like it’s only then that truly healthy relationships can take flight. When it’s not based on a giving love, but a receiving love. Accepting ONLY the kind of love we know we deserve, and in turn being able to give that genuine love to another person.

The other night over drinks my younger sister asked her friend, “When do you think it’s time to leave a relationship?”

“When the other person stops making you happy,” she answered. Maybe it really is that simple.

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