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How to Break a Heart (or Two)

Step one: Find someone who fascinates you thoroughly and profoundly. (This is my standard for being exclusive.)
Step two: Disregard incompatibilities, both knowingly and blindly.
Step three: Happily fall in love anyway.
Step four: Enjoy life together, though it is going nowhere.
Step five: Deny that, deep down, hope does grow.
Step six: Buckle up as the road bumps get rockier.
Step seven: Ignore (mostly) when that quiet part deep down waves sadly as you grow apart.
Step eight: Blink away the denial to see what has to be done.
Step nine: Figure out how to tell someone you love that it is over.
Step ten: Fight to breathe as both hearts shatter.

I don’t know what happens after step ten. This is unknown territory. Maybe accept that you know it is your fault, willingly falling in love with an expiration date. Learn to live with your own masochism.

By the time I reached steps seven and eight, my stomach had grown into a knot that made me want to become physically ill most days. There is a vice circling my heart. Little things like a stranger complimenting my dress or a friend doing something normal like giving me a hug or thoughtful gift sends me into a spiral of emotions and tears. It’s baffling, since no one knows of my impending breakup. And I’m not one to cry often, especially in public.

It’s an unsettling experience, to simultaneously know that your actions are both the best and worst thing you could do. I am about to completely shake my life off of a crucial foundation; about to throw myself into a wrenching tornado, knowing it will eventually be healthier for both of us.

But looking into the eyes of someone I have and still do truly love, with these words on the tip of my tongue, sends a knife into my gut. I am afraid.

I’m scared of how much it will hurt us both. I fear for how he will react, how he will throw himself into drinking dangerously, how he may get hurt physically in addition to emotionally. That he won’t find someone good enough to be with after this, that all of the beautiful ways he’s grown the past few years we’ve shared will shatter to the ground with his heart and never grow back. I’m scared I’ll break him; he’s so precious to me, I cannot bear to think about it.

I keep thinking about the positives for myself, how I do sort of miss dating and look forward to the joy of exploring new people. The newness. The beauty of people. The unique validation of a stranger’s compliments on a first date. Feeling wanted and desirable. The freedom from the pain I have felt as our relationship slowly died. The knowledge that the little mistakes made at the beginning of dating won’t matter so much, since the newcomer likely won’t last. It’s a liberation from shared consequences, and a comforting return to taking care of just myself.

But I don’t think about the cold, empty nights coming my way. The crying into my dog’s coat as it overcomes me. Knowing she will also be sad alongside me, missing him, too. Going through the home we have shared for the past years and continuing to find his things. His smell. Echoes of his voice. Unfriending his siblings on Facebook. Obsessively keeping an eye out for him on the street; DC is too small of a town. Wondering if he rebounds/dates someone we know. Avoiding the Dupont neighborhood as a general rule. Watching some of my friends drop off as they pick sides. Celebrating July 4th without it jointly being his birthday.

I try not to think about not seeing him every day. But the closer the final breakup conversation came the more it popped into my mind.

We became a couple in a whirlwind of infatuation and realizing we had become each other’s best friend. We stopped being good for each other, so we have to now redeem ourselves as friends by breaking up. And then say goodbye to my best friend as we move on with getting over each other.

And now I have had the joy of experiencing what I’ve heard about for years: the tainted emotion of listening to holiday music while brokenhearted. Hilariously painful. Happy New Year, everyone.

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