When you break up a long term relationship, no one really tells you that you'll feel a little less yourself. Like somehow you were a bigger person than you were and then the break-up cleaves you in two and you're left with your arm around an imaginary shoulder that's no longer there. Everything feels emptier, not just your heart, but everything; from your head to your body to the space you feel you occupy in the world. In your head, the subjects you used to talk about with him and only him just float along your mind because you can't bounce it off him any longer, until they pop soundlessly like thought bubbles of conversation no one but you is ever really going to hear now. You used to feel a little bit bigger in the world and maybe it was the security or the confidence of that relationship but when you could be alone and walk around the world, you were still a little bigger in the knowledge that you had someone waiting for you. And now it's just you. The death of a long term relationship makes you feel like you step lighter and more soundlessly in the world but who would really care now? It's just you. No one will really hear that step but you.
And your heart. People die of a broken heart and you used to think that was romantic bull but then you realize that there is an all too real ache and pain somewhere in your chest cavity that you could have sworn was your heart but really can't be because that's seriously all just empty space now (there can't be anything there, you just feel empty). The death of a long term relationship feels like if you did still have a heart, there's a gaping hole carved right out of it that you don't know how you can fill again. And maybe you never really do, because every love is different and no love is the same and no person can change you like another person can.
No one really tells you that when you love completely, well, maybe you shouldn't. Because all the embarrassing little quirks and funny little mannerisms you were only comfortable to show around yourself and that person, well can you imagine showing that to another person now? The embarrassment! That magical ability of yours to trip over nothing or to turn into a dark little anger management thundercloud -- you were only comfortable showing that to someone you trusted to love you unconditionally. Now there's all that work and potential risk of rejection and embarrassment if you show that to someone else. That gamble of showing those little bits and pieces of you that someone fell in love with, could anyone else love you that same way again? Who knows?
And no one ever tells you that the strangest things will set you off, like taxi rides or sitting in a cinema. That the most mundane things suddenly become monumental because they contain a glimpse of the best most comfortable things of your relationship that you won't be feeling for awhile, or even again, because someone new will give you something different to replace that instead.
And no one tells you that extracting your life from someone else's after the death of a long-term relationship is like separating something with extra extra extra heavy-duty super-glue. There's a period when nothing is okay and everything, even the air, hurts you like an open wound. And then the days when you are okay and then you pull open a drawer and there's a picture of the two of you that you had tucked away in there because you couldn't find a picture frame... well, that's a fresh new dagger to the heart or punch to the gut and you feel betrayed by yourself for leaving sneaky little traps of pain all over your room. There should be a manual on how to painlessly separate two lives that had been together for years into one that will stand alone for awhile. Nothing could prepare you for how intertwined your lives became that so many nooks and crannies in your room are no longer your own, that you will be digging movie tickets and photos and socks and forgotten things of his from your room.
And no one really tells you how you have to bargain with yourself when you discover something you have to put away. The easy things, well those are the big things, like framed photos or stuffed toys, that you put in that ex-box right away because you can't bear to see the big tangible things of how much he loved you. But the smaller items that have hidden itself away as you lived your life with him are things you have to bargain with. Cleaning your closet and finding a shirt tucked away, no one tells you that there's no formula except to hold it in your hands speechless because of that punch to the gut and feel and test the waters if you're ready to put it away or if you still need just a tiny little bit more time to keep it in the closet where it always used to be, self. You'd think that the actual step of putting things away in the ex-box would be more painful but no one tells you that the decision to keep/put away would hurt more. Putting away might mean you're moving on faster (and please you can't it's too fast) or keeping it might mean you're not moving fast enough. Sometimes you just have to plead, beg, ask mercy from yourself to be a little bit weaker and keep it there for a little while longer.
And no one ever tells you how difficult it is not loving someone. To have to turn it off feels like you're shutting something down physically inside yourself, like dimming or shutting the light switch that makes you a little bit warmer deep inside. No one tells you how exhausting it is to not make an effort for someone because you got used to the minute little details tailored for that person that it's easier to do those things than to stop doing them entirely. No one tells you how difficult it is not to do something so natural for you because you've been doing them for so long.
And no one ever tells you that even if you turn to your girlfriends to let everyone in and fill those empty spaces or decide to turn inward and shut the world out, that whether with them or alone, you will need to unleash the pathetic to let all that out to let yourself back in the new space that you will now call yourself. That doing all the stupid things of listening to sad painful songs and singing to them at the top of your lungs will actually make you feel more like a human being than most things. That being pathetic and a cliche and letting those feelings of not being good enough, all that has to run clean through you so you can refresh yourself again.
And no one ever tells you that the death of a long-term relationship means breaking the news to other people and it feels a little bit like a divorce. No one will tell you how invested they got to be in your relationship because they really liked him, not just for you, but because he was so likable and lovable and adorable and "but he fit you so well (I didn't see that coming)". No one ever tells you that sometimes your mother will cry, even when you've stopped doing that a while back, or that it will hurt you more to tell the brother that adored him. No one ever tells you that long-term relationships mean you weren't the only ones that got involved in it as well.
And no one tells you how it feels like when you start to numb and you start operating at a livable frequency where you don't have to hurt so much anymore but you feel so much less. Like God has taken pity on you and decided "you've been doing so much of that feeling business, I'll give you a little break from that for awhile, little girl."
And no one ever tells you how clinical and how awful that deliberation of moving on is in your head. Not just of deciding what to put away and what to keep of him for now but of what news to keep on telling him. Of weighing in your head whether you should tell him about a really shitty day you know he would understand or even a proud moment that happened to you that he might also be proud of. No one tells you of the click of finality when you decide, well... you don't need to tell him anything. And so you don't. And no one ever tells you how awful and cold that decision feels but you just have to take it because you need to get better and that is one step back to normal.
No one every tells you that you can feel like a failure. That in spite of all the time and effort and love, it just wasn't enough to keep it going. No one tells you of that feeling. You can be so good at what you do, your work, your friends and family, your hobbies, but the death of a long-term relationship is glaring proof that you failed. And for this time, you are a failure.
And no one ever tells you of that moment when you decide enough is enough and you can't. You have no more left in you. You just can't. And you are scraped raw and are at the bottom of your barrel but you have to decide for you. And choose for you, even if no one has been arguing with you about that choice anyway, because you have been alone for awhile. And that bottom of the barrel means you realize that a part of that argument has been with yourself, of clinging to what used to be or by moving along.
And no one really tells you the relief that you feel when you start being happy, when you become okay that you're single. When the days pass and suddenly what's normal isn't making an effort for another person, but making an effort for yourself. When the smile you show other people is genuine and no longer the faker you kept showing the world for months. When you can go out and be with people, and go home and be yourself and you're finally getting to be okay. You might not be totally happy but you're getting be okay. You might not be totally happy but you're getting to know yourself again.
No one ever really tells you about the anatomy of a break-up but people will always tell you it's going to be okay. And you finally let yourself believe that they could be right.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.