When you wish things were different: the truth about breakup regret

As the days after my breakup turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years, slowly, the veil of pain began to lift, exposing and unraveling an intricate web of self-spun stories that had me looking at my breakup in an entirely new light.

But hindsight is a double-edged sword. Because when you can see so clearly where and why it all went wrong, you can't help but wish that you could go back and do things differently. And when you're gifted with a fresh perspective on love and life and yourself, you can't help but wish that you could propel forwards and fix things.

So when my ex's profile came up on a dating app like an itch begging to be scratched, I caved. With one exquisite scrape of a nail, I broke the skin, and my 10-month stretch of no contact.

I'd be lying if I said that there wasn’t some sort of sick and twisted pleasure to be found in watching the blood of a thousand long-buried memories pour from my freshly re-opened wound. But if there’s one thing that seeing my ex again showed me, it’s that things aren’t - and never will be - different.

Seeing him was like putting on an old pair of jeans. A pair worn and well-loved jeans that I'd shoved into the far corner of a cupboard, out of sight and gathering dust. A pair of jeans that I'd tried but failed multiple times to replace with a newer and sexier and more flattering version. A pair of jeans that left me wondering if they still fit after all this time.

And when I slid them up over my thighs, they felt just as comfortable, just as familiar, just as snug as I remembered. But even though the creases had been ironed out, the holes were still there, an unmistakable and unavoidable reminder of our love-hate history.

Sure, it felt good to try them on again, to see how they looked on me again, to feel them against my skin again. But just because something feels good doesn't mean that it's good for us. Just because something's comfortable for us doesn't mean that it's right for us. And just because something fit us once doesn't mean that it still does.

Do I regret my decision to see my ex again? No. Because what I found at the axis of our wandering paths was more valuable than I could have imagined. I found a treasure-trove of breakup wisdom - and I knew that I had to share it with you.

There's no reset button for relationships.

When we experience loss, rejection, or failure, the present can feel like a prison. So we strap ourselves into the time-machine of our minds and memories, convinced that if we can transport ourselves back to a point when we were happy, we can find an escape.

We hold on to the idea that things can change, will change, have to change. So we carry on. With our shaky, desperate hands, we pick up the fragments, sharp and dangerous, and attempt to put them back together. But they don’t look the same. The cracks are ugly, and no matter how hard we squint, there they are - a constant and unyielding memento of what cannot be undone.

Our hands are splintered and bleeding. But we won’t give up. We fight, blame, curse, cry, hate, and break, over and over and over until we are nothing but an empty shell, a soulless and spiritless bag of bones, lifeless, and numb. Trapped in an endless cycle of waiting. Waiting for something to happen, for something to change, for something to come and wash away our resentment and rage and regret.

Part of me prayed that my ex would attempt to convince me to salvage the wreckage of our love, to bandage up the bruises of our past, and to slot the puzzle pieces of our hearts back together. But the other part of me knew, intuitively and instinctively, that it wasn't the situation or the timing that was wrong. It was us.

The truth is, breakups happen for a reason. And if we try to turn back time, we'll probably find that there's too much hurt, too much history, too much said and done and not said and not done. My ex and I might have learnt some new steps during our time apart, but our dance was just as deadly as before. And that's all I really need to know.

Attachment and love are not the same thing. 

When I saw my ex again for the first time in almost a year, what I felt was heart-achingly, head-spinningly, earth-shatteringly bewildering. What I felt was love.

But I'm not talking about the kind of love that compels two halves to become a whole or two souls to merge into one. I’m not talking about the kind of love that makes you want to wake up next to someone every day for the rest of your life or to stake your claim with a flimsy band of gold. And I'm not talking about the kind of love that assigns self-serving conditions, expectations, or agendas.

I'm talking about the kind of love that can only be experienced when your wellbeing is no longer entwined with theirs. When your happiness is no longer dependent on their actions. When your sense of self is no longer reliant on their feelings towards you. And when your eyes are finally freed from the tunnel-visioned, warped-lens of infatuation.

I'm talking about the kind of love where you can see someone for who they truly are, instead of who you wanted them to be.

I didn't know that it was possible to love my ex more now that we're apart than I did when we were together. But I do. Now that we’ve gone our separate ways, I'm finally able to love all of him, not just the parts that I liked. I'm finally able to love the laid-bare, stripped-down, bona-fide version of him, not just the version that I worshipped from the foot of his glistening pedestal.

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop loving him, but maybe that’s not the point. Maybe loving him from afar is a lesson in real love. The purest kind of love. Love without attachment.

Not everything is black and white.

As humans, we crave certainty. And in our constant scramble for security, we attempt to prop ourselves up with the scaffolding of stories, labelling and pigeonholing every experience. This is good, that's bad. She's right, you're wrong. I'm a victim, he's a villain.

But what I've learnt is that not everything is black and white. Not everything can be wrapped up with the ribbon of resolution. Some things in life are just grey. Big, fat expanses of grey where there's no right or wrong or good or bad.

And when we grasp for answers or fixate on the what-ifs and if-onlys, we leave no room for things to be as they are. We leave no room for things to be complicated, messy, or raw. We leave no room for things to be real.

My ex was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. He was my biggest mistake and my greatest teacher. He ruined my life and he transformed it. He broke my heart and he healed it. He took everything that I wanted and gave me everything that I needed.

Not many things in life are certain, but one thing I do know for certain is that I'm tired. Tired of wishing and wanting and waiting. Tired of clinging and seeking and avoiding. Tired of analysing and speculating and obsessing. Tired of judging and blaming and critiquing.

I've come to accept that sometimes there's nothing we can do to fix or change or control things, and the best thing we can do is to let things fall apart. Let our hearts fall apart. Let our lives fall apart. Let our dreams fall apart.

And when the pieces hit the ground, we should leave them there. We should leave them, and watch as the seeds of our pain begin to grow roots, begin to sprout, and begin to flourish.

We are where we are, and maybe this is exactly where we need to be.

Wishing you so much peace x

1 comment :

  1. I absolutely love your posts. I'd love an update on how you are doing, healing, and/or moving on. Everyone can relate to your experiences and it's so comforting knowing that I'm not alone.
    xo, Jamie