Some people who leave a relationship, and leave us with our hearts in our hands, are hurting and bleeding just like us. If I’d learned that sooner, I’d have healed faster.
When going through a breakup, many of us lack at least two things: perception and empathy. A breakup is a terrible sundering of worlds and if you want to hate your ex and think that they’re moving on to bigger and better things while leaving you in the wastelands, then you can justify it, at least for a while.
It was easy to just close off my senses and the part of my brain that cared about people. I could wallow in self-pity, hate everyone, everything, and every place if I was having a really bad day. I was a man, damn it! We’re a proud bunch and we don’t take lightly to our hearts and pride being shattered after we let someone special in. When I really wanted to just lie in bed and do some self-pitying or some crazy, desperate move that only seems to work in movies to get the love of my life back, I instead got resentful, angry, and malevolent.
Meanwhile, in the real world, outside of the radius of my own personal struggle and self-flagellation party, someone else’s world was falling apart just as much as mine was. No, it wasn’t Kevin Federline after he realized no one cared anymore–it was her. I spent so long focusing on myself, on my pain, on my hatred, that I couldn’t see the one person I loved with all of my heart and soul drowning across from me. I plucked out my eyes and blinded myself with hatred and/or self-pity.
A breakup is a selfish act, just like grieving and accepting is a selfish act. It’s done for our benefit. Not theirs. Sometimes, grieving and huddling against my own body until the storm was over was the right thing to do. But I wasn’t always the only one suffering.
It is easier for people to carry their own body chalk in their pocket and come off as the victim. After all, they’re the one left standing alone with an annihilated heart. God knows I was there writing chalk around my own emotional corpse, trying to get some coroners over to pay attention to me. But her, the heartbreaker, felt just as much hurt after everything was said and done.
We as heartbroken men sometimes forget that there were good times in the relationship that not only we remember (at the most inconvenient times), but that our exes remember as they are trying to move on as well. For me, my surroundings betrayed me. A restaurant or a park became an emotional minefield for me. It actually hit me that some of those places were on her drive to work every morning. She had to look at them every day and then go put a smile on her face as she walked into work with a fragmented soul barely holding itself together. Our own home, our city, hell, even her car became emotionally condemned places for what’s going to seem like forever.
She might have walked out of the relationship thinking the grass will be greener on the other side only to get there and realize those fields of green were fertilized quite heavily with bullshit. She couldn’t come running back to me after that, where her pride is dashed on the rocks and her hope for the future is hanging on a cliff that she pushed herself on to. There was the reality of our arguments and words that couldn’t be unsaid.
With all the changes that went on in my life (the Marine Corps recently sent me across the country to a new unit and it was stressing me out to the max) and with all the instability that left with her, maybe she couldn’t take it anymore. However, maybe instead of feeling relief and loss of burden with her leaving the emotional timebomb that was me behind, she felt horrible.
I have a feeling that she still loved me, but couldn’t come back to that life. Then it probably turned into me destroying her by being a horrible mess and her destroying me by walking out when she said she would be there through thick and thin.
Instead of just contributing to the heartache on both sides, I figured out that I needed to take the lead and put myself in her shoes. Doing so had its perks. I was able to guess why she left me and was able to better myself from that. That, itself, took loads off of the recovery time. If things were different and I could have gone back sooner to when she was hurting, she would have been able to see that I wasn’t quickly killing myself and that I didn’t hate her. That probably would have taken a great weight off of her. Maybe things wouldn’t be as bad for both of us now. The healing process for both of us might have been easier and quicker.
Some exes are heartless and evil and want nothing more than to see you burn in your own fire. This isn’t for them. But some people who leave a relationship, and leave us with our hearts in our hands, are still human beings and are hurting and bleeding just like us. I saw my old love as the heartless one. Now, I see her for what she was: scared, broken hearted, and destroyed. Just like me.
It was so easy to put that barrier between us so I could make myself the focus and be the victim. Yes, sometimes our exes bring it on themselves by leaving, sometimes we do it to ourselves and they are just reacting to us. A lot of times it can be both. It may be hard to tell the difference between the heartless and the heartbroken ones after the break up, and unfortunately there’s no easy way to tell when so many of us hide our feelings.
We not only as men, but as human beings, can sometimes destroy what we don’t understand. I think, though, that a good man should try to understand whenever possible. If we can see into the hearts of the ones who’ve hurt us, we gain empathy and insight. After something as hard as being left destroyed, we need all the advantages we can get.
Photo: Thomas R. Stegelmann/Flickr