A little chat about break-ups
My limited experience with heartbreak has ranged from feeling like I'm in a country song (my achy breaky heart) to full blown Bridget Jones' this time I choose vodka. A good friend of mine once referred to me as a 'wounded healer' and so in an attempt to soften the blow of the next time your heartbreaks. I thought now would be a good time to share the science, philosophy and psychology that has helped me on my journey to recovery.
In order to conduct a post-mortem on my relationships (all of which have ended so far), I thought it would be fun to take you back to the very beginning. Say hello to *Graham he was my first boyfriend - well I should say husband. We were married in a beautiful ceremony at my pre-school with ring pops and a make-shift veil crafted out of leftover fabric. As we sat in a toy house during our so-called honeymoon, we discussed where we would spend the rest of our lives. He was really keen on moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba to which I willingly agreed knowing I'd be close to my mom's side of the family. It was a simpler time until my family decided to move literally across the country. (To put this into the Canadian perspective, that means two time zones and a five hour flight away.) As we said our goodbyes I can't honestly say I was that sad, to be honest I was too excited at the prospect of moving somewhere new.
For two years Graham sent me chocolates on Valentines Day, I'm since convinced it was his mom, but at the time I felt bad because I'd never technically ended things. Nowadays, I still have him on Google + weirdly enough but never added him on Facebook. Will we re-kindle our love and move to the prairies? Here's hoping! As part of this experiment I finally looked him up on Facebook and he's done well for himself getting into a top Canadian uni studying poly-sci. Weirdly, I got butterflies just looking at his cute face and wondering how our lives could've gone differently.
This meant my next relationship with *Brian was technically cheating, which 8 year old me was racked with guilt about at first. I met Brian at school where he was in the year above, but we were in the same class because I was put with the smartie pants (go me!). Our whirlwind romance's high points were undeniably free meals at his parent's Vietnamese restaurant and the trip we took to Vancouver together. The trip is still up there as one of my most romantic ever: sad considering we never kissed and slept in different houses. My favourite and most cherished memory was the Build-a-Bear unicorn he gifted me as a symbol of his love - if you know you know. It's weird thinking about it now, but I don't know whether we would've ever broken up had I not moved to England. Pre-Facebook world meant we didn't even consider keeping in contact. Writing this article gave me an excuse to look him up and it seems he's also at a top Canadian university looking identical to how I remember him. Time flies.
Fast forward five years, aside from the occasional kisses and crushes I was living my best single life until 13. Honourable mentions go out to SNAP which apparently aimed to cut down on teenage drug problems, but for me and my all-girl school friends was our only opportunity to interact with the opposite sex. Flashbacks of dance-offs where my confidence far out-reached my booty shaking. There is a much-beloved photo of me and my bestie Louise in matching pink bunny costumes that I've been scouring the internet to find with no avail!
Senior school was an exciting prospect. New friends, new guys and an opportunity to re-invent myself - you know how well that's going to go. Third form there was a series of guys (no shame) normally with nothing more than a brief peck and a foray into holding hands in public. The problem with my school, which wouldn't have been a problem if we had had basic human decency, was everyone would date each others exes. In the wise words of one of the girl's mum "no relationships count before the age of 15". If that's the case then you can skip over my two longest love affairs thus far. But, nevertheless this gave me licence to have fun at the start of high school. I was still figuring out what 'my type' was within a very limited dating pool. You see, boarding school meant that dating or even having friends outside of the quad's walls was pretty unheard of. Also, pretty coveted was dating older guys which now looking back was pretty disgusting tbh.
After that important tangent to set the scene, at the beginning of fourth form I made a series of mistakes that culminated in my first real flavour of heartbreak. Most of my friends have heard this story multiple times (if they didn't live through it) because it was genuinely one of the most life-shaping moments of my teens and I believe impacted my dating life thereafter. Remember when I mentioned the girls in my school had a habit of dating their friend's exes - guilty. *Tom had spent the first year of high school dating one of my best friends. He had then broken up with said friend because he didn't want to be pressured to take things forward, nowadays I see this as endearing but back then all the guys made fun of him.
I had spent months consoling my friends about this heart-wrenching break-up. So, when she started seeing him again in September I physically intervened. I mean very physically, like I went into the bathroom where they were canoodling and quite literally cock-blocked. Who am I? Before I go any further, I know how much of a hypocrite I am but I hope this story can shine a light on how naïve young people and hormones can be. Long story short, I ended up dating this guy less than 2 months later he started hitting me up and I clearly lacked appropriate morals. What followed was three weeks of very deep feels. In this time we did long distance, shared a lot of kisses and I felt for the first time in a long time that I could actually be in this for the long haul. I was on holiday in Spain missinggggg him xoxoxoxoxoxo like crazy. We arranged to hang out at a mutual friend of ours halloween party the following week, so when he cancelled last minute to go and see a football match I was pissed.
Teenage Sam DID NOT know how to handle her alcohol, so after a delicious vodka sorbet and copious amounts of stolen wine I was pretty bevved to say the least. What followed was something pretty traumatic that I will save for another day, but I was pretty ashamed and lied about the details to Tom. There might've been a head being smashed against a wall or two in the weeks that followed and eventually he called me to say he wanted to break-up. I took this really hard. I bawled my eyes out for weeks. I was a god awful mess and we did everything you should not do during a break-up. From very angry and personal insults about each others physical appearance via text - this was impressive on my tiny Samsung type pad - to Tom getting with the same friend that was his ex within a week of the break-up. I was distraught. Not only had I lost a boyfriend, but I also felt I'd lost a friend - we've since forgiven and everything's great. But don't underestimate the power of the teenage brains to blow things out of proportions.
Although I didn't realise it at the time, I'd developed a habits in my previous relationships or crushes of always being in the driving seat. What I mean is I was always the one leaving, ending things or not getting attached. There's a certain security in guarding your feelings very close to your chest. Don't get me wrong this didn't mean I wasn't caring or gushing about my affections for these people. It just meant I kept a front that protected me from anyone seeing my true self. It was until I turned 19 that I started to let anyone into the real me, piece by piece. I don't think I'm only in developing these kinds of coping mechanisms as a teenager who felt very deeply. Moving around a lot was always a bit jarring because my whole life revolves around the connections I form with other people. I love people and feel most fulfilled when I truly connect to those around me. This is a blessing and a curse because it means I feel love deeply but I can also feel pain excruciatingly. Instead of being still with this pain when I was younger I would avoid it by staying in control and making sure I was the one calling all the shots.
I'd love to say that putting my guard down with Tom was a step on the pathway to releasing control in general. But, unfortunately I wasn't prepared for that kind of pain then and rather than learn from this lesson that love is always the answer. I chose to numb this pain with food, self loathing and then a series of surface level relationships. It wasn't until I turned 19 and started to rebuild a relationship with myself, reminding myself of how my happiest is when I love unconditionally and let my true self be seen that I started to make waves towards loving romantically again.
Confirmation bias is real: in that break-up with Tom I could've seen it as an achievement that I'd let someone see me for the first time in a long time. Instead, I viewed it as confirmation that I was unworthy of love and that if anyone saw the real me they would inevitably leave. I believe we have a choice whenever we leave a relationship behind either to use the pain to propel a newer sense of self-awareness and acceptance or plunge deeper into self-deprecation and despair. At the very least, the very fact you felt pain is proof that you took a chance with your heart which is what life's all about.
Another reason, I think why this break-up had such a profound impact on me was because nobody really cared. You see, when you date someone for three weeks people can only quantify the pain inflicted in terms of amount of time. I had more experienced friends who'd had long term relationships and were minimising how I felt. On a scientific level it only takes two weeks to become chemically attached to another person. What we refer to as 'puppy love' triggers the same parts of the brain as a cocaine high. Have you ever tried to battle a coke addiction? Yeah I don't fancy it either.
By contrast, I have since had relationships that were longer than this but that I didn't feel connected to. In these cases the break-up was smooth because I wasn't emotionally attached, partly in response to the pain I'd felt with Tom. So, when friends of mine come to me and tell me they're heart-broken I stop myself from asking the general questions of "how long were you guys together for?", "how did it happen?" etc. In all honesty none of that matters: we are way too quick to minimise other people's feelings based on these generic measures of what warrants pain. If I fell and hurt my leg, I would have a different pain threshold to someone else. You wouldn't judge me for how I reacted because pain is pain. Likewise heartbreak is really subjective and by having nobody care about my feelings I felt tremendous shame that I bottled up. So, please listen to your friends with an open heart and teach them their feelings of pain are valid no matter your views on the circumstances.
This blog is already becoming incredible long, so I will have to save my most recent break up for another day - that warrants a book. But, I hope you can take some lessons away or at the very least reminisce about the lovers that could've been for you. A fun game follows from the statistic that most people marry someone they met before they were 16 - terrifying if you ask me. One thing I need to highlight at this point is that I truly am a hopeless romantic and I still believe in love and commitment and all the gorgeousness that goes along with it. I know and trust that everything that has happened so far was meant to be, but it's my choice to believe my future will work out for the best - never lose faith my loved ones.
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All my love, Sam
*All names have been changed to protect their privacy.