My good guy friend from college (seriously, one of the best guys I know) reached out to me this weekend with a mega-bombshell: he was dumped.Considering he’s a writer himself, he suggested a brand spankin’ new series for this blog: GUYS GET DUMPED, TOO.
It’s easy to forget this little fact, when we ladies are crying over ice cream/wine/Tinder and wailing about how awful that last asshole was that broke our heart. But, then you stop and really look back at it and realize that it truly goes both ways.
Hearts are broken left and right in the game of love and, as we’ve come to find out, neither gender is safe from the serious sting of heartbreak.
Since writing was such a therapeutic tool for me when I was dealing with my own broken heart last year, I jumped at his suggestion. On one hand, I think it’s genuinely fascinating to get an in depth look at the range of emotions a guy goes through, as he goes through them. And on the other hand, I just really want to help out a solid friend. If this helps him get through this rough time in any way, we did our job. And if this helps put the male psyche into any sort of perspective for us ladies, then we really went above and beyond.
Note: We’re going to keep this super cool dude anonymous throughout the duration of this series. (However, if any lovely lady is interested in taking him out on a date, clearly that’s a different story and I’ll be more than happy to pass along his info.)
I didn’t plan for Labor Day weekend to be start off with a break up and lead to me sitting in a dark room streaming Californication. I didn’t picture I’d be in a small bedroom with the door shut, my roommate and his future wife sitting on the living room couch. Instead, I find myself shifting around the same 10×10 foot room over and over again, trying to find comfort. The bed is too soft and broken in where she used to sleep. The floor is too hard and still covered with pieces of her long black hair.
The truth is men get broken up with too. And frankly, this won’t be a revelation: It hurts us just as much.
So, after a brief discussion with the author of this blog, I decided it might be useful for her audience to have a glimpse into the range of male emotion post breakup. My goal isn’t to gain sympathy. I’m writing this anonymously because truthfully who I am is irrelevant. My goal is for people, mostly women, to have a window into a world they might not see often. Men are generally seen as guarded, emotionless, or cold. This isn’t necessarily true.
Instead, we hide our emotions to fit into an old world mold and to appear strong or unaffected by the downfall of relationships.
If I’m going to pen this anonymously I should give at least a few vague details to allow you, the reader, to have a sense of who I am and where I’ve been. I am a small town raised, Southern California male, who is staring at the latter years of his 20’s. I am a college graduate and work a full-time job for a government institution. My interests in sports, cars, and rated R comedies would lead you to believe I was a jock in high school. Truth is I have a weak spot for romantic comedies and the idea of undying, never-ending love. I have friends with marriages and kids, some with marriages and no kids, and some with just kids. The majority of my peers are unmarried but well on their way in successful, well- manicured dating relationships. I thought I was too. That is until about twenty-three hours ago.
Twenty-three hours ago I wasn’t in a 10×10 foot bedroom. I was on a couch watching preseason NFL football and texting my girlfriend of almost 2 years. The tone of the conversation wasn’t light-hearted; I’ll be the first to admit it. We were in stuck in the midweek hangover of not seeing each other and being overstressed at work. It consisted of one to two word text messages and no time to meetup for real conversation and physical contact. As the old adage goes, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Shortly after the clock struck double zero in the 4th quarter, my relationship reached the same fate.
An hour later I found myself under the covers typing away and hoping the next time I hit the send button I would save my relationship. As the spoiler in the first sentence gave away, I failed. As a sports fan I can appreciate a good batting average. Batting a thousand in tanking long-term relationships and being dumped? Those aren’t stats I can applaud. Being that I’ve been down this road before and am headed down it a third time, I know what to expect.
My post-breakup cycle consists of a period of struggle, strife, and occasionally overcoming all of it. It strongly resembles the Stages of Grief and Loss so I’ll use that as an outline for I go through and from what other men of this age group generally go through.
Step One: Denial and Isolation.
I’ve already mentioned the hiding under the covers and the desperate text messages which amount to “Give me another chance.” That’s the initial denial.
The real denial is displacing the fact you’ll have to inform everyone around you that it’s over. Your friends, your family, coworkers, the people you used to call “our friends.” They all need to know at some point and burying that fact is flat out denial. The first person I’ve always told is my best friend, a level-headed guy nine months older and 10 years wiser. He’s the optimistic sage to my pessimistic fool. Next is the confession to my mother. It’s more painful and tear-jerking than the series finale of your favorite show. I don’t feel like being around anyone close. I can fake it in front of strangers and make things seem normal to the passing observer. It’s the closest people that ask how your former girlfriend is. Unknowingly, they’ll walk into a confession and become an accomplice in a short-term secret.
So how do you combat this? Isolation. You learn to stay inside where the world can’t see you. Where the TV has no judgment on what you’re wearing or the last time you shaved. The fact is, every place you go to you’ve been there before with her. It’s now become tainted. The ghost of the past relationship follows you everywhere. It’s with you when you pass by the movie theater, when you pull into the In N Out drive thru, and even when you turn on the radio.
I made a valiant attempt to go out with friends last night. The thought process was “It’s better to be miserable around friends than to stay home and be miserable alone.” Instead, it was a never-ending internal dialogue of how things would be if she was still here; the jokes she would crack, the look she would give when someone said something stupid, and the way she demanded to hold my hand while driving. I sat at the dinner table listening to conversations about friends of friends who recently became engaged and thought to myself, “What are the f**king odds.” I constantly checked my phone, thinking that for some reason I’d have a text message from her, or anyone for that matter. At the end of the night I sat in the backseat of my friend’s car staring out the window blankly at the 101. Every set of headlights in opposing traffic was like light going through a projection slide, each flash a moment from our relationship. The radio played a damning mix of love-sick songs culminating in Boyz II Men’s End of the Road. As we got closer to our exit I realized the biggest change in the last 24 hours is there’s no reason to rush home anymore. Nothing is waiting at home except an empty space filed by furniture and memories of what used to be.
As much as I would love to hide until the pain subsides it doesn’t work that way. We all have jobs and bills. Eventually, I’ll need to go to the store for food. It’s these moments which cause a guy to find anything resembling strength and to use it to get out the door. Once I’m out, the poker face takes over and I can fake it for the outside world. The face says everything is fine, the mind is busy recalling memories you thought you had forgotten.
These first two weeks are so important. The pitfalls I try to avoid are very simple:
1. Don’t send anything to your ex which may be used in the court of law.
2. Don’t tell her anything that you can’t take back and if possible, avoid all contact.
3. Under no circumstances begin the habit of cyber stalking; i.e. Facebook creeping, checking Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.
4. Don’t go looking for a rebound. The only thing worse than a failed relationship is a failed relationship and a failed hook-up.
5. Don’t make it all about you when you’re with friends. Truthfully, they don’t want to hear your complaints over and over again.
6. Don’t bash the ex. If you care enough to feel like sh*t then obviously you loved her. Respect the relationship. It’s not polite to disparage the deceased.
Somewhere after all the “We’re not togethers” it starts to become real. Minutes somehow turn into hours, hours become days, and eventually days add up to a week or maybe more. It’s all real. The pain, the old pictures, the started and erased texts, they all exist. Yesterday I made it to the gym twice, I cleaned, I ate, and I went out with friends. Today? Today I’ve continued to binge watch Californication and haven’t quite left the house. At some point I’ll need to pick up eggs and milk. Filling my time with those miniscule tasks will somehow get me through the day and then out of the first stage. It has in the past and will again the future. Because the one thing I try to remember is I’ve felt like this before.
Years ago I cried and moped over a different girl. And I felt like I would never get over her or be able to live with the regret of losing her.
Sometime after that I met somebody, went on a date, and learned to laugh and love again.
Here goes nothing.