VAGINA! Sorry, I had to get the awkwardness out of the way first. If you don’t like personal details then go read something else because I’m about to snuggle up real close and tell you some nitty-gritty stuff. Also, all art is from Mari Andrew (@mariandrew). Check out her Instagram because it hits home.
Let’s talk about #breakups.
A little over a month ago, I found myself in a very weird, very new position (not that kind). I was single for the first time in over three years. And it didn’t throw me for a loop quite as bad as I thought it would. Maybe because I was the one who initiated it.
But in all honesty, breakups usually suck. Everyone knows that. Nothing’s worse than feeling physical pain from someone leaving you (well, there are more painful things like child birth or being disemboweled while alive).
Breakups cause both physical and emotional pain. I feel it in my body and my mind. My stomach is going to drop out of my ass and my head starts to tingle in the unpleasant way that it usually does when I know I’m doing something wrong. My heart hurts. My stomach hurts. My whole body hurts. Emotionally, breakups can leave a void or a wanting. They can tear you down to the core of who you are and leave you feeling lost, scared, and really unstable.
I experienced my first breakup at 16 with my very first ever boyfriend. He lived 500 miles away downstate and we dated for 11 months. I can’t remember why he broke up with me, but I remember how I handled it. When it’s your first love you don’t handle it well. I’m so thankful that I had a tight group of girlfriends who let me sleep over and made sure I ate because I had no idea what I was feeling and I had no idea how to handle it.
This boy was the boy I lost my virginity to (sorry Mom). Two weeks after I gave it to him he broke up with me. The physical pain of the breakup subsided, but the emotional pain lasted for awhile. I felt used. I felt alone. I felt worthless and unlovable. That’s why friendships are so important, because my friends were the girls who pulled me through.
Three months later I started dating the guy who would be my boyfriend for the next three and a half years from high school into college. We had a rocky relationship for all three years and we were even engaged for six months in high school (worst decision of my life besides agreeing to take a Latin language course online). I loved this boyfriend more than the last one. He was by my side through a lot of changes and negative events, which he later tried to use against me. He was also the one who tore down my body image and confidence. Called my boobs small and called me physically unattractive and sexually unappealing.
Side note. Ladies, if a man ever uses the “I was the one by your side during **insert any dramatic event**. You can’t leave me. Do you think you will ever find someone else who would do the same?!” Tell him yes and walk away. That’s controlling behavior. And if one of the reasons he tries to breakup with you is because, and I quote, “Your boobs are too small and they don’t bounce enough,” give him a nice, firm tap to the crotch and walk away. You’re worth more than that.
After three and a half years of dating, the breakup came out of nowhere. I could tell things were not right for a few weeks leading up but I had no idea that it was coming. And then one night I showed up at a party that was happening at his fraternity. A party that everyone else in Greek life was invited to, but me. We got into a two-hour long argument and I was kicked out by the brothers and told to go home. I remember telling him that he didn’t love me and that he never loved me, screaming that over and over because I felt it was true.
The breakup with him was the worst I’ve ever experienced. It sent me into a full-on tailspin, one that was so bad I visually picture it looking like swirled paint on a canvas. The emotional pain that I felt lead to physical pain. I really felt like my stomach was going to drop out of my ass. One night I just sunk to the floor in my sorority house crying and feeling like I was being sucked into the floor because everything hurt. Everything.
The emotional pain that I was dealing with led me to make some not-so-smart decisions and those six months are the months that I am most ashamed of myself and who I was. And hey, I think everyone is allowed to have a “slutty” phase. I don’t like slut shaming, I try not to slut shame others but that’s what I’m going to call it. As a woman, or a man, you are allowed to make your own decisions and if you want to fly off the handle like I did and do some not-so-pleasant things in some not-so-pleasant places then go ahead but please, just have respect for yourself first.
I learned a lot during that time. I learned that long and drawn out breakups are never a good idea. I learned that I don’t like one night stands and that I am not a casual dater. I learned that it is never a good idea to lower your standards just to appear hot to others because you won’t gain anything from doing so. I also learned that some people don’t handle rejection well and you have the power to stand up for yourself by saying “No.”
I came out of that breakup relatively unscathed except for the rumors that people started about me on campus. After months of back and forth I decided to finally end my relationship with my ex. He went away to Army training without a cell phone and gave me his address. One morning I woke up wrapped in his comforter and asked myself “Why do I keep doing this?” It was then that I decided no more and it was like a light switch flipped. I never sent him a single letter that summer and he didn’t have a way to call me and complain. I still feel a little bad about it, but I needed to be the one to step up and follow through with the breakup.
And guess what happened next? Seven months after the first initial break up and three months after I finally stepped away, I started dating my next boyfriend and my most recent ex. I know. I need to take a breather.
Since he is my most recent, and since I only have two other people (and one sort of person) to compare the relationship to, my relationship with him is to this day the best I’ve had. I know when people breakup they say things like “We’re still friends. I have a lot of respect for him/her. They are really a nice person and I respect them,” all that shit. He is a nice and good person and I do have respect for him. He also has his negatives but I know for a fact that I do as well. Neither of us are perfect and if you end up feeling like something is missing, no matter how great they are, you can’t change how you feel.
I learned so much during the last three years of my life with him. I learned that I need to step up and go after what I want. I have a new appreciation for the Rolling Stones and fresh, ground coffee. He taught me that you don’t always need someone to be with you to do something. If there’s a concert and you want to go but you don’t have anyone, then go alone. It’s okay. And the importance of setting up your 401(k) even if you don’t understand the investment options.
But I also learned that I am stubborn, volatile, and chaotic. I learned that I love a little too hard sometimes and expect that in return (hint, you can’t make anyone else feel the same way you do no matter how hard you try). I learned that I am a jealous person, maybe because of the people who came before. I learned that when I drink too much my personality can flip and you never know what side of Sarah will decide to appear (happy, sad, horny, angry).
I learned all of my negatives and very few of my positives.
And that is why I decided to be the one to end the relationship this time. I think he knew it was coming because I had been on and off the fence for about a year on the subject. I don’t handle change well and with two people graduating college a year apart , moving states; becoming real adults it can make dealing with life difficult.
I think this breakup didn’t send me into a tailspin for a few reasons.
1) I’ve already experienced breakups that were, what some might describe as a “shit show”. Been there. Done that. Learned and moved on.
2) I’m older and significantly more mature.
3) I knew it was coming because I initiated it. That helps a lot.
4) I have some really awesome roommates now who I can lean on even though I’ve only known them since July.
Tyler Oakley used the metaphor of boxes for describing relationships. He said that when you first meet someone you have your house full of boxes and they have theirs. When you start dating you might slowly move a box from your house into theirs as you share things. Some people end up moving all of their boxes into the other’s house leaving theirs empty. They give everything to that person with nothing to fall back on. Others are more careful and slowly move a few over at a time. When a breakup happens, it’s typically because one person initiates it. The other might not know it, but for however many months leading up to the actual breakup their partner has slowly been moving their boxes back into their own house so that when the actual breakup occurs, the initiator is okay and prepared.
I’d say for the last year I have been slowly moving my boxes back into my own house.
Of course I felt physical pain and emotional pain. The day after I finally said the words, “Yes, I want to break up,” I woke up with that tingly feeling of dread, freaking out over what I had done. My heart hurt and I tried to cover it up by going on Bumble dates (I can write a whole post about that). But at the end of the day I was still me. I was still experiencing a void and a loss and it still hurt.
My roommate said something really wise to me. “It’s okay to miss him even though you ended it. I would be concerned if you didn’t feel anything. Just because you ended the relationship doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to feel sad. It’s okay to cry and be upset.” That stuck with me because I was feeling like I had no right to feel pain since I was the initiator.
Every day that I wake up and I look in the mirror I tell myself that today will be a good day. I tell myself that I will figure out my life and that the world is not really ending even though it sort of feels like it is. I won’t run out of money (hopefully, although if Old Navy keeps stocking sweaters I just might). I won’t be homeless. I won’t be hungry. I will be okay. Those are my irrational fears and fears that I didn’t have while I was with my ex because I thought that he could just take care of everything.
Now I only have myself to rely on and that’s terrifying.
While there is a void in my life where that person used to be, it will get filled eventually by the person I am meant to be with. I don’t know when that will happen. I don’t know how that will happen. And I don’t know who that will happen with. I’ve had a few nights where I go to bed and start crying so hard I hyperventilate. Bad. During one in particular, the only way I could calm myself down before I passed out was by saying, “I don’t know where you are. I don’t know who you are. But I know that you’re out there in the world right now living and breathing, unless I’m a cougar and you’re not born yet eww, and maybe wondering where I am too. We will find each other.”It’s very cheesy but it calms me down and makes me feel like everything will be okay.
I know that I am a capable woman and that I will survive and I will make it through my twenties in one piece. For now though, I’m embracing this new stage of my life because being single at 23 in a bigger city can offer some fantastic new experiences. I need to find out who I really am and who I want to be as a woman. I need to learn more about my positives since I can easily tell you my negatives first. I need to learn what kind of partner I really want (hence the multitude of first dates). Most importantly, I am learning how to live my life for myself since I was too busy living for others before.
My point to this long-ass post, especially if you are going through a breakup right now, is this.
You are not alone. You are not worthless. You are not unlovable. You will make it through and you will be okay.
I’m right here next to you, single and terrified about being alone. I’m right here next to you on those really terrible Bumble or Tinder dates or drunken one-night stands. And I am next to you when you’re feeling hella confident and sexy, or extremely sad and lost.
We will be okay.
Much love and confidence,