Ah love. Sweet dreary love. It’s beautiful and wonderful until it all turns sour and you’re splitting up the towels, figuring out time-share custody of the dog and deciding who gets the friend neither of you really liked. When relationships end they can be brutal, but not to fear, there’s a few hard and true facts about breakups that’ll make the process seem a little less maladroit, and help make that light at the end of the tunnel glimmer just a bit stronger while you waddle through the dark raincloud that is heartbreak.
Breakups are ritualistic, at least, the more you experience them and the more you compare notes, they appear that way in hindsight. Let’s clarify. The dumping itself is fairly sacrosanct. It doesn’t matter what leads up to the breakup or if it takes you by surprise or if one person is more to blame, or you find out weeks after the apparent dumping, the details are very clear and they impart a particular understanding of the reality of the situation. You’re no longer a couple.
During the discovery and acceptance of this imposed reality is when the routine-of-the-breakup is revealed, or rather is ritualistically unravelled. But in the time that follows, those weeks afterwards, that’s when a breakup seems to be comprised of a loosely followed but rather concise regimen.
In the initial stages most people begin to deal with their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. Why was I dumped? Why is no one good enough for me? How come I keep failing? Why do I keep going for such knobs? When will I learn? Am I being insecure?
These questions are usually answered by bad judgements and annoying amounts of validation-pandering behaviour. These can include, but are not limited to, greasy one-night stands with bush-league players, stalking friends to generate a visceral feeling of wolf pack belonging, performing overblown niceties for people who would normally be reprehensible, changing one’s appearance to create an edgier or more youthful look (ie. cutting bangs, dying grey hair black, getting a tattoo, wearing mini-skirts, …,) crying in front of perfect strangers for an opportunity to unload and gain new insight, and possibly using social media to post numerous self-promoting and self-deprecating statements garnering insight into one’s status quo.
(At times this stage will have mild interruptions of obsessive and compulsive behaviour to determine the status quo of the ex. This behaviour is highly unusual, though quite common and widely accepted as normal. Information of this sort often leads to a cyclic pattern of self deprecation. People can get stuck here for years.)
If one survives the initial stage, they tend to move toward the self-medicating stage. In this short-lived phase, the heart strengthens and the subject no longer needs other people to help them recognize their dignity; their over-inflated sense of self-worth returns ad nauseam.
The recovering addict will then try half-baked challenges resulting in frequent failures due to far too high standards which most over-achievers tend to place on themselves. The inflated sense of ego, however, will provide sufficient padding whence such failures occur. These tests are an important rite of the ritual of the breakup, symbolizing a flag of independence, a line in the sand, a shout from the highest mountain that they are capable of attacking life on their own, even failing on their own. It’s important to clarify not all aspirations will culminate in failure. The tests the addict sails through will usually redirect their life and create a starting point for new directions and obsessions.
Which leads to the last and sometimes final stage following a breakup – the love phase. Following weeks (and sometimes months) of cycles, status updates, failures, shopping sprees, triathlons and contradictions the heartbreak will have cleared, the ego will have rebounded and the subject may rediscover other people. (Unless they get another pet. Then it could be years.) The past, while still a fresh and touchy wound on the achy heart, is tucked under the carpet where it can lie out of sight and not frighten away new bees to the hive.
The love phase is characterized by a want and simultaneous need to connect to another person – regardless of the chances of one day having to buy new towels again. The need for this connection is humane and human. The want comes from the indestructible part of the psyche that never involves itself in human or humane affairs. But regardless of the origin, this phase signifies a recovery. A person can survive numerous recoveries through their lifetime, sometimes hundreds. Some people are so adept at recovering and progressing to the love stage that they may appear to always be in recovery and to never go through the previous stages. Of course, there are also people who clearly have barely survived the initial stages or even people who never get past the self-medicating phases.
What’s important to take away from this is if you find yourself in the love phase, congratulations, you are recovering! Soon you will find yourself looking for another person to love. Who that person is and what stage they’re in should be of utmost importance, though, this is normally not the case and it is seen as acceptable to love any odd duck so long as they say or act like they will love back. And while this behaviour tends to keep people in the cycle of the ritual, it’s not seen as self-destructive or antipathetic. But as time comes to pass, love, sweet dreary love, finds most of us.
Relationships, on the other hand, are not to be confused with love. They’re the first stage after the love phase. But that’s a whole other topic. Happy loving.