Heartbreak Lessons: Who doesn’t want to live happily ever after? I know I do. I know that most of us, even those who seem to look at love and relationships in a cynical light, dream of creating our very own happy ever-after with the person we are in love with. Many of us give our all just to make that dream happen.
Happy ever after was certainly what I had in mind when I said “yes” to a relationship with Ethan. We had planned to get married in three years. We’d use the three years of our engagement to save up for our dream house, our dream wedding, and the dream family we were going to build. We didn’t mind waiting that long. We were so in love and were each other’s best friends. What were a few years compared to forever?
The Job Offer
Two years into the engagement, Ethan received an offer to work at a country in Europe. It was an extremely good offer, one that would set us up comfortably for life. It was an offer that was too hard to resist, and Ethan was more than willing to accept.
I was excited for Ethan. The problem was it would mean we would have to live apart for a year. I would stay at home, while he would be working in another country. How would our relationship survive the distance, the time zone differences? How would I live each day knowing I wouldn’t end it asleep next to the one I love?
What’s a year compared to forever, Ethan had asked me. He assured me our love was strong enough to bridge the distance between us, that after a year we’d be married as planned. We could use that year to find ways for me to join him in Europe. His assurance gave me the strength to let him go.
The Long Distance
The first few months were a struggle. The seven-hour time difference meant Ethan had to stay up much later so we could talk on Skype when I came home. Or he’d have to wake up extra early so we could catch up before I’d go to bed. Sometimes we would be too tired to have a normal conversation. Sometimes he’d wake up too late and would have to hurry so he wouldn’t be late for work. We tried to make it up through emails, text messages, and private messages on Facebook.
Soon enough, the Skype calls became sporadic. So did the messaging and the emails. I learned that he had made a lot of new friends at his new workplace, and these new friends took him to places and introduced him to more new people. Ethan became so busy not just with work but also with his social life that he seemed to have forgotten that he had a fiancée waiting and pining for him.
The Bad News
Ethan had planned to come home for Christmas that year. We were supposed to be married the following spring. One day he called me up and told me he would be staying in Europe for Christmas because one of his new friends invited him to stay over at their family chateau for the holidays. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse, he said. Besides, spring and our wedding would come soon, and after that he’d be completely mine. By then, I’ve become used to his excuses, and simply said yes.
January came and went. We had a brief romantic Skype call on Valentine’s Day. But after that, the calls and the messages became even shorter and irregular. And then, there were weeks when there was nothing at all.
Finally, I got fed up with what I felt was neglect on his part. Daily communication was all I asked in return for agreeing to him working abroad. Couldn’t he even fulfill his part of the bargain? So I sent him an angry email giving him a piece of my mind.
His response to the email was something I hadn’t expected. He told me he couldn’t go through with our wedding anymore, that he didn’t deserve me, that I deserved someone much better than him. It was over.
The World Falling Apart
My heart died in me the moment I finished reading his email. My first reaction was to try and call him on the phone. When he wouldn’t respond, I bombed his phone with voice mail. While waiting for the call that never came, I spent three days holed up in my room, lying in my bed in agony, crying until my eyes dried out. I cried not just for the pain of heartbreak, but also for the betrayal of trust and the death of my dreamed-for ever-after. The world as I knew it had fallen apart.
In the following weeks, I discovered that the stages of grief were real. I went through all of it, often cycling through the stages in one day. I’d send him emails alternately begging him to come back and blaming him for the pain I was going through. I raged at him for unfriending me on all his social media accounts and removing me from his Skype contacts. I was angry at myself for not working hard enough to save our relationship.
Essentially, I became a robot during those weeks – fully functioning but dead inside. I went through the routine of my life: eating, drinking, going to work, going to bed. But I wasn’t feeling anything. I stopped doing the things I liked doing. That period saw me avoiding my family and friends. I refused phone calls and won’t respond to messages. I stopped taking care of myself and put myself in near-total isolation.
Soon, I began to suffer from insomnia. Just to get some shuteye, I drank. Wine, if I could afford it; beer if I couldn’t. But drinking alone became too depressing, so I started floating from one bar to another. Then I picked up what I now consider my most self-destructive habit from that period of my life: sleeping with strange men.
I wanted to remove all traces of Ethan from my life, and I did it by letting the touch of other men erase his touch off my body. Random, anonymous sex with men I met at bars or online. These encounters became so much that I sometimes met with two different men a week. I practiced safe sex most of the time, but there were moments when I just didn’t care.
Heartbreak Lesson, The Turnaround
Sex with strangers had its appeal. It was always hot and steamy, and there were no commitments involved. In the first couple of months after the breakup with Ethan, I believed that kind of energetic yet non-committal sex was all I needed.
But all things must come to an end. Soon enough, even I lost the taste for the randomness of it all. I began to long for the stability of a real relationship, even though it was something I wouldn’t admit to myself.
That is, until I met Andrew. Like all the men I slept with during that crazy time, I met Andrew at a bar. But unlike those men, Andrew chose to have a conversation with me, not just flirt with me. I found out that we had lots in common, from the movies we liked to the politicians we hated. That conversation lasted until the wee hours of the morning, over coffee at a 24-hour diner.
When I invited Andrew over to my place, to my surprise he refused. He said he wanted me, but he couldn’t sleep with a girl with pain in her eyes. He gave me his contact details and told me to keep in touch.
Andrew’s words felt like a dash of cold water in my face. I came instantly awake; more than that, I came back alive. His words made me reevaluate the life I had been living ever since Ethan broke up with me. And frankly, I was disappointed at what I had made of myself that entire time. In that time, I became a semi-alcoholic burnout alienated from everything and everyone she loved. Was I really that stupid to believe that Ethan was my entire world, that when he left me nothing else was worth living for?
That realization woke me up from the haze I was living through. The first thing I did was to get myself checked for STDs; thankfully, I came out clean from that craziness. Then, I called up my parents and my friends. My parents were worried but happy that I sounded close to normal again. My friends welcomed me back into their fold with open arms, for which I am grateful.
I moved out of the apartment I had shared with Ethan to a new place that’s entirely my own. I decorated it just the way I wanted it, without Ethan overruling me. Also, I started working out to burn the alcohol out of my system. To make sure that I would stay sober, I began attending AA meetings. I picked up where I left off my hobbies and started new ones.
Soon enough, Ethan and the heartbreak he caused me stopped being the center of my life. I finally overcame and moved on. Andrew and I became good friends through this healing process. A year later, when we were both ready and sure, Andrew and I became lovers. Today, we are married and expecting our second baby together.
The lesson of my story is this: We all dream of happy ever-after, even the most cynical of us. Most of the time, though, we lose ourselves in the pursuit of this ever-after that we forget that we must love ourselves as much as we do the person we fell in love with. As long as you love yourself first, you will be able to survive even the most devastating of heartbreaks that life can throw on you.