Jan 12, 2010

What becomes of the broken hearted...

There is a famous equation almost everyone has heard: That is takes roughly half the length of a relationship to get through it's subsequent breakup.
In simple terms, this means you should be pretty much over a relationship that lasted a year about 6 months after it's demise.


I read another quote recently.
The first part of this quote asserted that this equation was, quite frankly, total bullshit.
I am inclined to agree.
The second part asserted that no equation can be applied to emotional situations, but that you can be pretty sure that the time it takes to get over a break up isn't going to be less than the amount of time it takes to feel good, again, about yourself. Or, more to the point, to stop feeling bad about yourself.

This equation I put more stock in.

Ofcourse, nothing is a hard and fast rule. And I imagine some people walk away from meaningful relationships, ego perfectly intact, feeling pretty swell about themselves, but simply missing the person they were with. I Imagine some people truly are confident enough to not take even the passive rejection implicit in a breakup personally, to really believe what is likely the truth: that they are great, just not the ONE. And perhaps that first equation is meant for them.

I, ofcourse, have never met one of these people, but I am sure they are out there.

It's been my experience, that most breakups are fairly rich with rejection, even if unintentional. Little bits of ego crushing dismissal peppered through the entire dissolution process, even, sometimes, if on the rejecting side. And it's beenmy experience that even in the healthiest of breakups these can haunt for a while, as each person learns to again affirm that they are, indeed smart, attractive and worthy of love, even if that one person hated their laugh or got tired of their body or grew weary of their whims.

And that is healthy breakups. Some breakups, well, let's be frank. Some breakups really really suck. And they can be a real blow to the ego, they can make us question everything: our worthiness, our judgement, our intelligence, our sexiness, our personal control. Lives we've built, carefully over time are suddenly fragile and our ability to control our very atmosphere can be threatened.

I've been there.

I realized once, a while ago, that I still hadn't gotten over a break up that was...well, far past it's expiration date. Far far beyond any reasonable amount of time anyone could expect fro healing. I'll spare you the details.
But the funny thing was that it wasn't my love for this old boyfriend that haunted me. No, long after I had stopped missing him, long after I grew annoyed, and even bored by the memory of what was actually him, I was not over this break up. Long after I began to fall in love with someone else that rejection still hurt. It hurt like hell, and it would get me angry and upset if I thought about it too much. So I didn't.

Looking back now, it only begins to dawn on me how very much this had to do with the complete abolition of my self esteem, with the ways in which this relationship slowly destroyed my sense of self worth. With the ways in which I began to doubt my sex appeal, my worthiness of love, doubt the value of my unique signature as a human being.

I mean we grow up being told that we are each unique and beautiful snowflakes, but when experience tells you that you have filled a hole as interchangeable and cheap as a frozen yogurt cup, then there is some reconstruction that needs to be done to begin to really believe it again.

And this belief is very hard to construct on one one's own. Because we are social creatures. Communal beasts.

And I think what makes it worse, even harder, is that, in our culture of self reliance, it's easy to feel bad about oneself when we look for affirmation in others. Weak. It's easy to feel, frankly, shame when you realize that another has done such a bang up job on your self esteem. They teach you that you can't love others if you don't love yourself. That no one can teach you self respect but you. That love starts within. And it's all true. And it's all words.

What does all that mean? How does it make any sense to a person who has made a healthy habit of letting other's in? What if outside experiences have created an information loop that any reasonable person would learn some very...unfriendly things from. What IF you have been repetitively rejected based on certain criteria, what if you've been denied love when others seem to swim in it, what IF you have told yourself you are amazing, only to have one or a series of partners demonstrate that they very much do not agree with that assessment.

Does a jumping to the obvious conclusion in a time of intense fragility make as a pathetic and sum results of these equations?

I mean, these are people we LOVE, or atleast did love, and as such it's only sane to value their opinion. And when their opinion seems to be that you aren't all that graet any more, that you really aren't worth the effort, well it's easy to see why our egos would take a little bruising.

And so I think about the cycles and spirals of self destruction people go through around breakups. The drama and hookups and also the walls they build. And I don't think they are simply about trying to find worthy distractions from the pain, or about learning to love and trust another lover again. I think alot has to do with trying to learn to love oneSELF again. Trying to prove we are as awesome as are supposed to believe we are. Trying to prove we indeed have control over these thoughts, and our own actions, and our own ability to have happiness in our life.

And this is hard. I have to admit, for years I wanted some affirmation that my ex had found the slightest value in me. I didn't want to hear I was "the one". Hell, I didn't even want to hear that I was one of the best, I certainly didn't feel that way about him. I just....wanted...to hear I was worth it. That I was awesome. That I didn't fuck up my own life by being so unworthy of true adoration and affection that he needed to bolt, needed someone else, needed very much not me. I wanted to hear he made a mistake when he rejected me. That no one would reject ME. I wanted to hear I wasn't a reject.

But I was. To him. The trick was to not be that to me. FOR me. For my new love. For my friends. For the large part of me that wanted to feel beautiful and alive and believe people when they loved me, believe that they could and SHOULD love me.

Again. repeat. HARD.

And so I try to remember this when I see people going through breakups. Especially hard breakups. Especially confusing breakups. Especially breakups they wouldn't have chosen or breakups that robbed them of their voice and their sense of control. Because they aren't just getting over the very real promise of happiness that love promised. They aren't just missing their lost love. They aren't just lonely.
They are grieving for a part of themselves lost, if hopefully only temporarily displaced. They are learning to re-believe in themselves and all the things they have brought into question. And they are new, they are different, each time, because their hopes, their aspirations, their understanding of themselves against the outside world has changed, and they have to learn to love this new person that they have, on some level, always been.

And finally, they are angry. And they should be, because someone they loved told them lies about themselves and that is cruel and unfair and awful and crushing. It is confusing. Even if they were wonderful people who would have never chosen to convey a message like that. They told them a lie implicit in all rejections: that they no longer mattered. Not enough.

Learning to believe you matter on every level is difficult when someone you trusts tells you don't.

What becomes of the broken hearted?
Well they mend their hearts. Over time. Just sometimes it takes longer than you'd think. And usually they are mending more than their hearts.

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