After falling in love, months, years, decades merge together to create your unique relationship narrative.
Not every narrative finishes with a happy ending.
As the end draws near, fits of nostalgia can blind you to the obvious. You and your other have arrived. And if you are honest with yourself, you felt it coming.
Somewhere along the line, discontent seeped into the cracks of your relationship and grew into a mighty chasm between you and your beloved. Discontent was then followed by justification and justification followed by questioning.
Eventually the inevitable manifests. The relationship ends and the break-up begins.
In the first 24 hours after the break-up has been initiated, time has a way of bending in on itself like some quantum physics experiment. So, in an attempt to prove your normalcy, to expose your humanity and to provide you with some solace let’s take a journey through the beginning of the end.
Sight Unseen: Hours 1-4
Your hopes were dashed followed up by uncontrollable urges to explore every other possible option. Your thoughts become saturated with various “what if” mental inspections. The inspections subside with fleeting yet often overwhelming feelings of confusion, anger, fear, dread and despair.
You had no clue it was coming.
One of two things is occurring, if not both. First, you can’t stop repeating, “What the f**k?!” Second, your whole body is either in fight or flight mode. If you came home with all your shit in the yard… this is going to be rough. If you found out that your other has moved on via a Facebook post… this is going to be rough. If you were planning on forever… this is going to be rough. Keep breathing through all your violent and/or depressive tendencies.
Although there will be many questions, you are not supposed to have any answers just yet.
Searching: Hours 4-8
Get off Facebook. You have spent the last few hours gazing at your newly-minted ex’s updated “relationship status.” You have looked through what pictures were available of the new “bitch” or “asshole” who has now usurped your title of boyfriend or girlfriend. Take a few breaths and step away from the computer and the alcohol. Wipe the tears from your eyes.
If Facebook didn’t offer any evidence, chances are you are searching for it. You may be asking yourself, “How did this happen?” This will lead to the desire to “talk it out.” Don’t. There are still sixteen hours to go. Conserve your strength.
Planning: Hours 8-12
At this point, your internal dialogue may sound like, “Okay, okay, okay…what?!”
Chances are you have meticulously combed through your past. Any answers arrived upon are still severely clouded by your raging emotions. Since the present moment continues to suck, your attention will naturally drift towards the future illustrated by the question, “What’s next?”
Ironically, your mind will reach into the past to try to predict the future. So, if you find yourself wrestling to gain ground, feel stable, and reevaluate—stop. Instead, let yourself feel your feelings. In fact, if you haven’t already, employ all the self-help tactics you know: Call a friend, go for a walk, dance it out, read, eat good food, and let it ride.
Escape: Hours 12-16
Granted, every hour that has passed you may have been drifting in and out of some version of escape ranging from drinking, to lashing out, to sleeping extraordinarily long. Further, you are rapidly moving into the rebound zone.
The rebound zone is a place where sex is employed as escape. But nine times out of 10, using sex this way is hard to bounce back from.
So, while your instincts will guide you to anesthetizing your pain through distraction, the best thing to do is slow down. Take a break from questioning. Get real with yourself.
This isn’t a race; it is a marathon.Photo: Katie Tegtmeyer
Young and restless: Hours 16-20
Your body and mind are exhausted from circulating wild emotions. Rest would be the best thing. Yet instead of rest, there is only restlessness. Everything feels raw, fresh and young. Everything is stripped down to the basics; then a miracle manifests.
All the hurt coalesces into blame. Although skewed, it is a moment of resolution, clarity and ego strength. You certainly had your part in the ultimate demise of your relationship, but maybe, just maybe, it isn’t entirely your fault.
Maybe your spouse, your lover, your other really is an asshole who never grew up. Maybe long-term wasn’t really the terms of your engagement with one another. Maybe your ex can go f**k himself or herself!
Is this for real? Hours 20-24
The first day of a new you is coming to a close. Hopefully you were able to sleep and eat somewhere between doubling as a shoe in a dryer. The initial shock will start to diminish. Then grieving will begin. The first step in grief is denial. So, it will take several more hours before you are able to answer the question, “Is this real?” with a definitive “Yes.”
The fact is you will move forward. This is certain. The pace at which you move forward will build momentum with each passing hour. Keep taking deep breaths. And take it—all of it—one day at a time.
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Ed: B. Bemel