It’s easy to forget someone’s magic when they’re no longer in your life. Their faults, mistakes and indiscretions become a narrative louder than “Remember how happy he once made you.” Those times they made you feel amazing are now foggy and time-worn; the passionate sex is a dimly lit, bland memory. Yes, it’s easier to villainise and critique, to condemn and resent; to forget the glimmering fantasy-land you once shared. It’s simpler to do this than it is to heal and forgive; because when you still carry a torch for someone, holding onto the terrible ways they treated you is sometimes the only thing keeping what you had alive.
One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling unwanted by the person you once wanted the most. They say breaking up with someone you love is one of the most difficult and potent aches you’ll ever experience, but I’d like to challenge that. For me, it isn’t the breakup itself; nor is it the wise and somewhat jaded “posting inspirational things about love on social media” stage. No, I find that the hardest part comes after the separation; it occurs a few months, maybe even a year, down the line. It’s the part when you see them with someone else, someone new. That’s a sobering moment, one in which you realise they’ve moved on while you’ve been standing still.
Accepting that someone else now makes your ex happy isn’t an easy pill to swallow, and it’s one that makes you feel as though there’s a pit in your stomach. This happened to me recently, in a bar, unexpectedly, on a cold and crisp night, while out for a few drinks.
I knew he had moved on; I’d heard about it from friends, from his other-ex and from enemies. I’d be surfing Instagram, peering in at the lives of people I don’t know, and I’d stumble upon several cute pictures of him with his new partner. I’d attempted to ignore it, but like a rash it was all over my social media, taunting me. No matter how hard I tried to cover it up or make it go away, it just seemed to spread.
The reality was quite different though. The encounter was brief, and for that I am eternally thankful; but despite being fleeting it was long enough to fill my head full of hodgepodge thoughts and leave it spinning for a few days. Amid the mayhem of this moment one thing caught my eye: He appeared settled with this new guy. I don’t know the dynamics of his new relationship; their story was unreadable to me. But what I could loosely translate was something that seemed like happiness – their happiness, not ‘ours.’
After seeing them I felt a need so immediate it was like demanding that a bus driver pullover, so I could go to the bathroom despite being in the middle of a manic highway. I wanted to know: ‘What did I do wrong?’ Why was it ‘them’, and not ‘us’? And how do I accept that the short string of guys I once loved found happiness and warmth in the embrace of someone else?
I never asked him the questions, I just assumed this is the game of love and I am no good at it.
After a breakup, my take is always ‘I loved him too much’ and I feel in this case there’s a sharp truth to that. I perhaps did love him too much, in way that he wasn’t ready for, in a style that didn’t suit him. I always knew that after things ended we’d slip away from each other in a series of impossibly tiny steps. What I didn’t prepare myself for was how much he’d change, and how quickly it would happen.
Yet I remain the same. And I am no less heartbroken.
I am not saying I want him or any of my exes back. But to me love is a really cool, powerful, lasting thing and it doesn’t have to be defined the way Western Culture define it as ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends.’ But something snapped when I saw them together. Maybe it was the feeling of barely recognising someone I once thought I wanted to spend my life with. Perhaps it was being told these new relationships were 100 percent happiness, but after studying them for clues realising that these new guys aren’t treating them any worse or better than I did.
The gap between what I believe I contribute to a relationship and what actually unfolds is widening. In order to close it, I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Change my behaviour and dysmorphic perceptions. I will work my ass off to re-parent myself, to work out where I went in wrong. To sieve out what faults were solely mine, but also to acknowledge that I am not entirely to blame and sometimes, it really is them and not me.
I always say that holding onto anything toxic is what stops you from growing as a person. If you see your ex with someone else, it’s okay to feel hurt or even heartbroken. It’s alright if you need to listen to sad songs and cry it out, but accept it’s over and be happy for them.
In the mean time I will continue to find happiness for my exes, no matter how deep down I have to dig. When images or posts pop up on my feed, I’ll silently support the new relationships they venture into. I am many things, but I am not bitter. I won’t wait for them any longer, but I also won’t harbour any feeling of negativity.