They say that in order to best overcome a breakup, you must be single for as long as half the duration of the relationship.
By that math, I should be single for almost two years in order to fully recover. By that math, some people would have to spend decades single.
I think “they” are wrong, and not for the first time.
I’ve just hit the five month mark, and while I’m still certain that I want to stay single for a long, long time, I’ve started to realize that all hope is not lost. That I’m not broken, that my capacity for human emotion hasn’t been entirely annihilated, that there will be a time in the future when I’m open to loving again.
Depending on the devastation we endure, it can often feel like romantic life is dead. Strings of anticlimactic first dates provide funny anecdotes but little else.
Thoughts of sharing anything beyond a side of fries is entirely daunting. The relief of not being in a bad relationship outweighs any possible desire to begin another one.
While chatting with a friend recently who I hadn’t seen in a few months, we caught up on the breakup she had gone through since we last saw each other. In between fits of laughter, we came upon countless feelings that we were both experiencing in our newfound singledom.
“I don’t cry anymore!” we yelled in joy. In fact, just last week, I realized that I hadn’t cried since July. In a state of panic and concern for my tear ducts, I forced myself to watch a sad holiday movie in order to induce tears.
What was so comforting to me was that here was another young woman who felt so much better and freer outside the binds of a relationship. We were similarly celebratory about our freedom to do as we please, to not report our activities to another person, to not feel judged, measured, watched or waited on. To not have to talk every last thing to death.
To just exist, to move through life depending on nothing and no one but yourself. Learning to stand on your own two feet again, and finding it a hell of a lot easier than you ever thought it would be.
We talked dating apps and the New York City dating scene -- the hot mess that it is -- and compared notes on disaster dates that seem to be a crucial part of the healing process.
Laughing, taking things less seriously, and exploring romance that is light, temporary and effectively disposable as opposed to the permanent, serious and heavy romance that wraps itself tightly around a long-term relationship.
Once the conversation had covered all bases of celebratory freedom, she asked me if I ever felt lonely. She said that she felt it mostly at night when the gap that he used to fill was suddenly more visible.
No one to talk to and unload the details of your day, or to help sort through the mess of thoughts in your brain. No one to cuddle, to sleep next to, to wake up with.
I paused to think over my past five months of lone nights, and did a quick scan to detect moments of loneliness. All I could see was me sleeping soundly, with enough legroom to sleep like a starfish, and I suddenly realized something.
Throughout my relationship I slept badly, often waking up five and six times each night. For years, I thought it was a physical thing, some kind of internal tick that wouldn’t let me shut off for more than a few hours.
Looking back on my last few months of life, I noticed that I don’t have that problem anymore -- at all. I sleep straight through, seven or eight hours every night. I don’t wake up until my alarm goes off.
So I turned back to her, and said no. And that was the truth.
I never feel lonely. I don’t miss him, or anything about that relationship which was evidently robbing me of sleep. I realized that I am happier alone, which is something I never thought I would say or believe.
We’ve all been there in those initial post-breakup weeks where you think you’ll probably be miserable forever, repulse every man who crosses your path for the rest of your life, never find a love so great, and eventually die alone surrounded by cats and ice cream.
But what comes after -- the realization that maybe that love wasn’t so great, and that’s why it ended -- is so much more important, and pivotal in the recovery process.
After this beautiful realization, I suddenly felt myself feeling more open to whatever the future might present to me. Recognizing that you are strong enough to be alone, to be happy alone, can suddenly make the idea of letting someone in again much less terrifying.
Recognizing that you can overcome a split, or a loss, and come out the other side of it feeling better than ever suddenly makes you remember the good parts of love.
So while this single gal’s New York City life will continue to be single, I can now pat myself on the back and say that I am happy about it. That it is a conscious choice and decision that I make every day not just because a relationship fell apart, but because my relationship with myself is more important to me right now.
They say that in order to love someone else, or to be loved by someone else, you have to truly love yourself. I agree with “they” this time around, but I would add that you have to be happy alone in order to be happy with someone else too.
Feeling the overwhelming relief of happiness after such a tough time can be revelatory, as you see that these minor hurdles in life can be overcome, and hope is always on the horizon.