Datehazard’s Blog

On dating, singleness and adjusting to being 30ish.

The Topography of a breakup (III) March 4, 2009

Filed under: breakups,Exes — datehazard @ 9:02 am
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So, my examination of the emotional processes involved in a breakup continues (part 1; and part 2 here).

This time, my case study is myself.

My ex just called this morning to wish me a happy birthday. It was premature; my birthday isn’t until later this week. But we managed to have a conversation anyway, and he told me he’d started seeing someone and things were getting a little serious. Honestly, I wasn’t that surprised. His patterns are familiar to me, and I thought he’d rush into someone’s open arms after the last conversation we had, when he once again declared his undying love and said he’d like to give us another shot. At that time, I’d replied that the only way that was going to happen was if he embarked on some major work on himself. I wanted him to demonstrate to me that he would do what it takes to really show me how he could take the initiative on a regular basis. When we were together, I’d put all of the work into the relationship, from making all of the meals to arranging all of our outings, and despite my repeated complaints, then surly silence, then depression, he never lifted a finger. Instead, he’d started to ignore me, and then started to belittle me. Even while he actually admitted to me that he agreed with my assessment of the relationship. And so eventually I decided I’d had enough. Between struggling to focus on my work and plan the next steps in my career, I had very little time, energy or patience to devote to acting like this guy’s mom.

And so we come to stage 3 and 4 in the breakup. Stage 3 is where you still miss your ex, but you start to think a little more clearly about what happened. The good times are still there in your head; the bad times don’t seem so bad. You still want to get back together with them, and decide to call.

Oh no!

You’re reminded all over again of what the bad times were, and realise, “right… this is why we broke up.” It’s a good thing, but it makes you sad. Nevertheless, the thought of them dating someone else is really horrible, even as you do want them to be happy. You hope that you find someone else before them, and maybe even go on some dating sprees, like a crazed sniper, trying to make a connection with as many people as possible. A few more bouts of sadness and/or depression ensue when your targets don’t really pan out. You blame your ex and revert a little bit to stage 1 or 2.

Stage 4 is what happens when you don’t even notice. It’s when you realise that you genuinely want the other person to be happy. When it doesn’t matter whether you’re seeing someone else, or what’s happening in your life. When your ex calls, and you’re actually encouraging them, genuinely, to pursue their own happiness. When you remind them that looking into the past is just so much of an invitation to self-pity. When you tell them that horrible cliché that life is for the living. And actually mean it.

And that’s what happened this morning.

I think Stage 5 is when you actually see them again, and realise, after some rapid and pretty superficial back-and-forth between Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4, that you actually do mean stage 4. And that you might even want to enjoy their company again, from time to time.

As the friend they always were.

 

I did it. I called The Charmer. March 3, 2009

Filed under: breakups,Comedy,Dating,Desire,Drama,Singleness — datehazard @ 12:25 pm
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Before you accuse me of foolishness (“Why would you call someone who never replied to you?? Can’t you take a hint?”), let me tell you why I did it.

I was speaking to my dear friend The Philosopher yesterday, by instant messenger. She’s on a research trip in another country, but we’ve probably spoken more now when she’s been away than when we lived in the same city. It’s just one of those things.

In any case. The phone call to the Charmer.

I called because The Philosopher asked me probing questions about why I wasn’t calling him, and why I was ascribing all of these negative assumptions to The Charmer’s behaviour. She made me think about whether I was being over-deterministic and possibly mis-characterizing his behaviour. She reminded me that he did express interest in me, after all.

I hated that needling sense that there may be some truth to what she was saying. I hated that sense of anxiety that the conversation was provoking in me, the way it was making me feel that I still hadn’t quite fully moved on; that I was basically stuck somewhere between Step 1 and Step 2, where I was blaming him without reservation, using him not to examine my own position, and thus also not acting at all. Damn that friend.

So, after much thinking, worrying and wondering to myself about whether it was a good idea to call The Charmer or not, I decided to do it.

I was amazed at how anxious I was when picking up the phone. My hands were cold; my mouth was dry, my bowels were turning over. I noticed my hands shaking with anxiety, my heart racing uncontrollably. It was disturbing to me that I would be so strongly affected. I was brought all the way back to a series of events over the past summer where I had to lie submerged in the water, upside-down, still seated in my capsized kayak, patiently and breathlessly awaiting rescue from another kayakker. The experience terrified me to no end initially; I am not the strongest swimmer, and had almost drowned as a child. But I learned over the summer to control my thoughts, and to visualize my visceral terror as having its own process, but not dominating, my active mind. My one standby of controlling my breath was useless to me in this situation: I could only parcel out my depleting store of oxygen, watching bubbles float from my lungs and break the surface; all the while controlling the steady awareness that I was slowly, deliberately suffocating.

And so I had to turn inward to stores of strength I never knew I had.

This is why I take risks: one never knows one’s boundaries until one pushes at them. And maybe even breaks them. And in the latter case, those are the moments that reveal whether repair or recovery are possible: another invaluable learning experience.

So I concentrated on my breath, dialed the phone, waited for the connection, let the call ring, let it go eventually to voice mail, hear The Charmer’s recorded voice, and leave a calm message. All the while panicking, adrenaline rushing through my veins.

Once again, I don’t think he’ll call back. That’s just not his style. But I’m really glad I called.