On Writing About My Ex
Since publishing my short book of poems about my recent breakup, I've found myself struggling to walk a fine line between what I can publicly discuss, and what I should keep to myself.
For those who haven't read the book, here is a brief summary: I was in a very serious relationship. We were unofficially engaged, planning our wedding for next summer. He had a ring, and the weekend I thought he was going to finally propose for real, he ended up breaking up with me.
There are certain social codes we have surrounding breakups, and in my journey of wanting to normalize grieving lost relationships, I've had to wrestle with what social codes can be broken.
Can I be open about the fact I'm still not over my ex?
Can I admit that I think part of me is still in denial?
What boundaries am I supposed to have between my personal life, respecting my ex's space and privacy, and my desire to be open about what I'm going through?
There is no set of guidelines on how to do this, because the vast majority of media surrounding breakups is not doing what I'm trying to do. I don't want to tell girls the solution to their heartbreak is to never date again or that they need to just date more guys in order to move on. I don't want to trash-talk my ex in an attempt to make myself feel better.
That's why it was so important to me that My Love Letters Don't Sound the Same Anymore didn't villainize my ex. I didn't want to create a reputation for him--let alone a false one. (It is for this reason that I told him I was writing the book well before I published it and allowed him to read and approve of certain poems before moving forward with the project.) I simply wanted to share my experience of an unfortunate circumstance and allow a space for others to grieve their own breakups. So far, it seems that goal was fairly successful, but time will tell.
But, I feel as though in my desire to be honest about how I'm dealing with my breakup I risk becoming annoying, to be labeled as the girl "who can't get over her ex."
But, then again, maybe that's the whole point. I started this journey because I didn't see people talking about breakups in a way that I could relate to; in a way that was healthy or honest. For me to write what I do, to stand out from the crowd, maybe I should get a few labels attached to my name.
So in the name of honesty, here's the truth: While I see the good that has come from the breakup, and the good that has happened in spite of it, I'm actually having a harder time now with it than when it first happened. This last week has been particularly lonely and difficult, but I rarely tell people about it when they ask how I'm doing because the societal expectation is that I should be over it by now. I should be thinking about moving on, not still trying to wrap my mind around the fact the relationship is over.
I mean, even my therapist told me to get on a dating app.
And I tried, I really did.
But like it or not, I'm not at a point where I can "move on" yet.
At first, I felt a bit pathetic about it. Why couldn't I just move on like other people do? But then, I remembered, my goal isn't to "move on." It's to heal. I don't want to start a relationship out of loneliness, I want to start it out of an abundance of love, a desire to share in life with someone.
It's been said that a breakup can be as painful as a death. A breakup is the death of the future you imagined for yourself and the death of (likely) one of the closest relationships in your life. You have to adjust who you talk to about your day, what your goals for the future are. You have to reshape your entire way of thinking.
My ex and I currently aren't speaking to each other. While it was easier than I expected at first, it's harder than I expected now. Because it's really made me realize not only that our dating relationship is over, but that I've also lost one of my closest friends. Granted, I know that isn't necessarily what's happening. But I also know that there is a likelihood that our friendship won't last under the circumstances. I think what I'm grieving now isn't so much the loss of a boyfriend as it is my best friend. And this grief is almost harder to get through than the first.
The first, is to no longer want me as his wife. The second, is to no longer want me in his life.
And that breaks my heart all over again.