Breakups are even worse when you don’t know what happens next.
1. You will engage in small acts of self-destruction. I once did not eat a single morsel of food for days, so despondent I was at the loss of a man I loved. He did not love me in the least. I told him (nine or 17 times) that I would take him back on any terms. And I did. And, shock of the century, it never worked.
2. You will suffer from exhaustion. You want to sleep, but you can’t. You lay awake at night, thinking of him, hoping that he will one day return, well aware instead that he is having a fabulous time nursing his non-existent emotional wounds with smooth alcohol and a gorgeous woman in some tropical paradise. This thought prevents you from getting the rest you so desperately need, rendering you even more emotionally fragile than you would have been otherwise (which, for the record, is plenty).
3. You will lose weight, or maybe gain weight. You will lose five or 10 pounds, or you’ll gain five or 10 pounds. But the point is: Who cares? When it comes to a broken heart, your weight is immaterial, your appearance is immaterial, your personality is immaterial. Many times, women emerge from a breakup defiant, convinced that they will lose weight, get hotter, and get the ex back/have revenge sex/take over the world. Relax, comrades. You are hot enough already. Contrary to your deluded expectations, there is nothing that you could have done to change the outcome here. The universe, as they say, is unfolding exactly as it should. You are perfect exactly the way you are.
4. You will see and speak to ghosts. You will, at times, see mirages of your beloved, although he is not there. Nevertheless, in your bed, you will feel him pressed gently beside you. You smell him in your car, a smell that never goes away. You imagine the sound of his voice calling to you that the coffee is done while you are in the shower. You hear him singing, and the sound of his beautiful baritone lingers in your bones.
5. You will rationalize with a precision generally reserved for sociopaths. You never really loved him anyway. (Oh, but you did.) You did not want to be in a relationship because you need to be single for vacation with your girls. (You are lying.) You should have sex just one more time, to get over him (this doesn’t work) or to prove to him how good you are together (yes, but only in the sheets). You can still be friends, after all, and that is what counts—just because you weren’t meant to be a a couple does not mean that you should leave one another’s lives indefinitely. (Only it probably does.)
6. You will see him again. You live in the same town, and you will run into him again, at the library or the bar he tends on the weekends or on the local bike path. And maybe you have the luxury of imagined distance, by virtue of living in a city of millions, or on opposite coasts, and cling to guarded hope that you will successfully avoid one another indefinitely. But geography does not matter; you could move to Siberia and your bodies will cross in time and space, and there is nothing you can do about it.
7. You might sleep with him again. I’m not saying that I’ve ever done this myself (I most certainly have not), and I’m not saying that you should. What I’m saying is: you might. You shouldn’t, but you might. You will walk into it with a falsified innocence, a sense that you are just giving him a hug that lingers a little too long, a kiss on the forehead intended to be endearing, a small touch on the back, a gesture of kindness and goodwill in spite of your recent folly. You might accept what you hope will be a tepid hug, but find yourself lingering a bit too long, inhaling the heady mixture of his skin and cologne. You will be done for. So it’s best to avoid these situations wherever possible.
8. You might sleep with someone else as comeuppance. This one is a no-brainer. You shouldn’t do it, but you might do it. The same rules apply as with ex-sex: use protection, and do not get emotionally attached. If you think that this is easier said than done, you are right. But this is sex, not love, and there is no wedding canopy above your head. In short, rebound sex is practically inevitable, and it can even be cathartic, in its way.
9. You will find work as a revisionist historian. You will revise your history, in ways large and small, so you can convince yourself (1) he was a terrible person, (2) you are better off without him, or (3) (worst of all), you might have been meant to be. In due time, the dust will settle, and you will find clarity. Maybe the revisions will reveal that you were ill-suited to one another, or just a temporary distraction from the things and people and circumstances that really mattered. But, you never know: Maybe something more is still between you. And maybe when the revisions are all that’s left, the record will reflect that you loved one another, however imperfectly, and that you were open, even when you were fearful, and that through the depths of your fear, you never ceased to be brave.
Adina Giannelli’s writing has been featured in publications including Babble, Feministing, Salon and the forthcoming anthologies Book Lovers and Three Minus One Equals Zero. She is most certainly not still in love with her most recent ex (or any of his predecessors).