broken up but not broken

Every month, members of teamTEENauthor write a blog post for teens on a specific topic. December’s topic is Breakups. For links to more posts on this topic, scroll to the bottom.

She left me for God.

At least, that’s how I like to tell it. In truth, religion was a big part of our breakup, but it wasn’t the sole reason for it. It’s a cliché, but two people in a relationship really can drift apart. We’d started dating in our sophomore year of college, and six years later we were different people with our lives and interests taking us along different paths. In some ways, we were perhaps always too different to last, but we made it work until those difference no longer complemented each other. These things happen. No one was at fault, and the friendship survived.

It’s easy to look back on a breakup when you’re happily married to someone you can’t imagine being without and life is pretty good–and that’s a lesson in itself. In the aftermath of our mostly-mutual breakup, my ex and I were both miserable. We tried to think of ways that we could get back together, but intellectually, we knew it was the right decision. People told me I would be all right one day, I would even be happy, but at that moment, I couldn’t believe it. It hurt too much.

It turns out that love and breakups are full of clichés, but for good reasons; though everyone’s experience is unique, there’s a general flow that these things take before you can move on with your life. I think they’re commonly called the five stages of grief, because you really are mourning a kind of death, not of a person (unless you take it really badly) but of the relationship and the person you were when you were together. That person, that half of a couple, the way you define yourself as so-and-so’s boyfriend or so-and-so’s girlfriend, simply doesn’t exist anymore. Poof! Gone. It kind of sucks when you realize that.

I think of breakups as three stages though, because a dear friend of mine gave me three mix-CDs of music to help me cope with All the Feelings, presciently labeled “Breakup: Sad,” “Breakup: Rage,” and “Breakup: Fun.” I did work my way through tracks at the appropriate times, listening to them over and over again, and I’ve passed them on to other friends in their times of need.

Just after a breakup it’s also hard to see it as a positive thing, as just a “break”, but it can be. After six years together, I wasn’t sure who I was on my own anymore, and I used those months to spend time with friends, get back into shape, buy some new clothes (yup, more clichés), and write. Eventually I began dating again. (That part is terrifying and I wouldn’t recommend it.) Eventually I met a great woman who seemed perfect for me, and fortunately she seemed to think so too, and this month we celebrated eight years together. We’re different people now than we were when we met, but we’ve grown with each other, and that’s important.

It’s also important to realize that whether you’ve broken up after six days, six weeks, or six years, none of that time together has been wasted. I firmly believe–and maybe I’ve stolen this from Quantum Leap–that everyone enters our lives for a reason. Every life we touch touches others, and those still others, and so on… I would not be the person I am today without the friendships and relationships I’ve been in.

My ex taught me to appreciate art museums and theater and Jewish literature and foreign films, and how to talk to people who aren’t geeks, which is a vital skill because mundanes are kind of weird to interact with, don’t you think? I taught her to enjoy Star Trek, so you know, that’s a fair trade. I also met some of my best friends through her, and in some ways, she helped me become a better person and boyfriend for someone else, which obviously worked out nicely in the end.

So yeah, breaking up is hard to do, but it’s also an opportunity to figure out who you are and what you really want, meet new people, make new friends, and experience one of the best parts of dating all over again: getting to know someone else and exploring the possibility that you might want to spend the rest of your lives together. That part is awesome.

Read more writing advice from teamTEENauthor participants (more to come):

Hilary Weisman Graham

Elizabeth Amisu

Janci Patterson

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