Jonathan Buzin wishes one night of his life had never happened, and he shares what he learned to spare others his pain.
Breakup-induced solitude is a horrible thing, especially when it is sudden and unwelcome on your part. Sadness can easily slide into stress and desperation—that place where we rationalize quick and easy ways to feel better about our loss. Heading for that place myself, I remembered an old friend who seemed to have the concept of relationships mastered, a guy who went through a different girl as often as the weather changed. I found his actions morally deplorable, but I was also curious, so one day I asked him how he got over his last woman. He smiled. “The only way to get over one is to get another.” This cold reality of replaceability, he explained, worked for him every single time. So I took myself down a peg on the respectability scale and started rationalizing and compromising with myself on how I could take my old friend’s advice to get past my horrible, suicidal breakup. And against my better judgment, I sought what I thought could be a replacement for love lost in the form of another poor soul.
At our core, we men are a bunch of primal warriors. Even the most peace-loving of our gender don’t take well to emotional arrows or stones piercing our armor of masculinity and having to retreat from life to tend to our wounds. Advice from friends, family, and the occasional clinical psychologist may work to stabilize you from doing something stupid after a breakup, but it won’t get you healed and fully back on your feet. I was still among the walking wounded when I decided, foolishly, that I could handle sex again and maybe even a relationship. So I started dating again. Friends introduced me to friends. I approached random people and struck up conversations, and I took my self to the cleaners to remove any stain of depression or heartbreak—at least on the outside. The introvert in me was having a conniption, but I was getting out and trying something new, which was just what my therapist ordered. Well, one thing led to another, and eventually, things progressed to a night out with friends involving my favorite Japanese liqueur, followed by a hazy morning of “Oh dear god, what the hell have I done?” I had my first ever one-night stand.
I immediately went into panic mode. I rushed to get dressed and out the door while trying not to wake the woman I had been with or give my hangover time to slow me down. As I pieced my outfit together, I starting piecing together what had happened, and I felt overwhelmed—by shame. “This isn’t me! I don’t do this!” These self-justifying, self-cleansing words were the anti-riot bullets my conscience fired at my brain, as I tried to remember the events leading up to … the event. I have never been a player, and I hold my sexual history sacred, taking pride in the fact that each number had meaning as did the person behind it. As I walked down the stairs, my heart dropped as it dawned on me that I had ruined that purity for myself through a meaningless act. To those who see sex as game of conquest, I was a hero. But to those gentlemen who value the person and the relationship, a group in which I had considered myself a member, the situation reeked of selfishness and exploitation. I struggled to process this new aspect of myself, a part of me that not only violated my moral code but also I drunkenly used another human being to my advantage.
My drive home was 45 minutes of pure misery. My self-image was shattered, and I thought of driving my car off the nearest bridge to make a noble exit, sacrificing myself to end the shame. I was light years away from the feeling of excitement mixed with trepidation when I decided to move past my old love and take the quick way out. I had crawled through the worm-hole, and I felt like a worm. Five showers and a bottle and a half of body wash later, I finally calmed down and started to reason with myself. “I can fix this. I can make this right.” I had somehow managed to get the woman’s contact information, and I rationalized that if I called and began dating her, I could effect a cure by converting a one-night disaster into the first night of a new relationship. But this turned out to be a terrible idea. Not even my ex could have chosen a more displeasurable person for me to date. She was the polar opposite of me in almost every way, save for our shared interest in the 1940s. It doesn’t take a relationship expert to tell you it takes more than one thing in common to form a healthy and fulfilling relationship. After a week or so of torture, I couldn’t take it anymore and terminated what could only legitimately be called … an extended one-night stand.
After the initial sigh of relief over ridding myself of a person who was completely wrong for me, I felt even worse. My world imploded, and I sunk further into darkness. My first relationship had ended with rejection, and my second was a sham born out of a drunken mistake. The self-loathing, loneliness, and despair returned with an absolute vengeance that ended in a self-contained pseudo-suicidal bout of depression worse than the one I’d been trying to escape. When you’re in the clutches of heartbreaking depression, desperation is your only friend. You’re desperate to feel another human being want you, desperate to stop digging yourself a shallow grave of melancholy and self-pity, and in my particular case, desperate to show my ex—who had found someone else months before I did and seemed to be keeping everything together—that I could move past her too and find someone even better, just like the John Mayer song I idolized so much. Instead I had done things I promised myself I would never do, compromising my standards for a potential mate and joining the one-night stand club.
Looking back at my post-breakup dating, I can see that I got to know a lot of people who weren’t interesting to me in the least and paled in comparison to my ex, which in turn made me miss her even more subconsciously. My new women had the looks of arm candy, and I was getting congratulations from friends all around, but their personalities didn’t even begin to match mine. I had no idea why I would go on second or even third dates with them, other than hoping they might grow on me and the fact that getting out was better than lying in bed all day looking at pictures of my ex and kicking myself. Men, I’m here to tell you in no uncertain terms that my old friend’s advice was wrong. If you think that finding a replacement companion—one superior in your eyes to your previous love—will solve your problems and make you happy, think again. Slow it down and think things through. Think about what you learned in your last relationship, not only about people but also about yourself. Using another human being to assuage your self-pity is selfish at best and degrading to both parties at worst. I can confirm in hindsight that I would have been better off getting over my ex and recovering from my depression before reentering the world of dating. You can put a new face in front of yourself, and a new body in your bed, but if your ex is still implanted in your mind, you’re likely to make bad choices you will regret, and to feel afterwards that it wasn’t even you making them. So resist the temptation to take the nearest exit from the heartbreak highway and keep on driving … until you’re home again.