Dating and Relationship Advice

In the summer of 2014, I was going through my first breakup. It sucked. I knew logically that my experience was not a unique one, but I felt extraordinarily sad. It was my first love, sexual experience, and relationship. And it hadn’t been my decision.

The summer break from school offered little else to distract me from my wounded ego and heart. During most of my allotted breaks at the ice cream shop — one of my two low wage jobs with which I passed the summer — I often stepped into the walk-in freezer in which we stored the buckets of untouched flavors so that no one could hear me crying.

It didn’t help any that my ex and I had many friends in common. In fact, my best friend and roommate dated my ex’s roommate, so it seemed impossible to permanently avoid seeing each other. Not that I wanted to. In the first few months following our official uncoupling, I missed him. Extracting someone you love from your life never feels good. In fact, it feels downright unnatural. I wanted to talk to him, and I wanted him to miss me. At the time, I didn’t understand that there was no way for both of these things to happen.

Conscious Uncoupling

That same summer, I read the phrase “conscious uncoupling” — amicably and gradually breaking up — for the first time on a magazine cover in the grocery line. This approach entered public consciousness after Gwyneth Paltrow used it to describe her divorce. I remember thinking: why aren’t we doing that? An easing divide seemed less painful than an abrupt one. Once I got used to spending less and less time with my ex, I figured I would be able to quit him completely without having to endure the rawness of the “ripping the band-aid off” approach.

I didn’t tell my ex about the approach I had in mind. We spoke often in the first few weeks following our breakup. None of our conversations made me feel any better. It began to feel as though our breakup was taking up more time than our relationship had.

Ripping the Band-Aid Off

Our breakup transition wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t working for either of us. I eventually realized that my desire to maintain contact with my ex indubitably stemmed from my desire to get back with him, and that wasn’t going to happen. I had to try a different approach and hope that eventually I could rekindle my own happiness. I had to block him.

It wasn’t easy. It felt a little like cutting off a drug supply. But I had to go cold turkey, or else I would always be left wanting. After a few days of no contact, my indignation started to catch up with me. Who was he to break up with me, anyhow? Then the shame set in; I had pined for much too long over someone who had already decided he was okay with hurting me and watching me get hurt.

Now, when I see friends of mine now struggling with a breakup, drawing it out by trying to stay friends immediately after, I advise they block their ex. I tell them the person needs a chance to miss them, to feel their loss. This advice is rarely heeded right away. Everyone has to learn for themselves: a clean break is the only way to find clarity.