One Year Later

I wrote my most popular post “Guide to Breaking Up” exactly one year ago.  I was weeks into a bad breakup and used wordpress as a cheap therapist. I’ll give a quick update on what’s happened in my life over this past year, then summarize the key insights.

Update:  I nearly lost it when I heard the ex started dating someone. It got even worse when I ran into him and the new girl (holding hands, dancing, together) at a party. That was rock bottom but things eventually got better. We both moved to our new school (MBA, remember) and that’s when things got complicated. He pursued me hard core, told me I was the one, bla bla bla. I knew getting back together would be a bad idea; that I’d most likely blow an entire semester and suffer a much bigger opportunity cost than him.  But, I got back together with him anyway and literally had a panic attack the second I made the decision.  It was rocky, he was the one pushing things forward, and then about 10 weeks in I realized I was pretty happy and put forth all of my effort. Of course, that’s exactly when he started withdrawing again. It was unbearable. I couldn’t handle it. we broke up and this time the cards turned. I made out with someone in New Years, in front of him.  I rebuffed him when he tried to pursue me again, tempting me with the promise of a summer engagement.  I went on dates, started dating someone, and got into a serious relationship with his polar opposite. I stopped talking to him, finally.  These are the key insights that got me to this status quo.

Guys want what they can’t have.  He probably missed me and possibly confused that with loving me. Who knows, I’m not a mind reader. It’s funny. What is literally the hottest guy in my class hit on me one day—we struck up a conversation, he reminded me that we had met during admit weekend and had a great time, made jokes, made plans to meet up later—well it turns out that the ex had been on the same pre-term trip before school. They were friends and hottie was totally threatening him.  Word got out that we had dated and hottie backed out in the blink of an eye. Expected.  The ex pushed harder. Also expected.

Guys are liberal with promises. He promised he had changed, that he loved me, that he’d never do anything bad to me again. He promised he’d get therapy to learn how to communicate better, be less insecure, and not shut me out so much.  Prmised me the world.  Promised it would be different this time.

Pain is forgettable. That’s why I threw all of my good logic out the window and got back together with him.  I forgot all of the anxiety he caused me whenever he’d inexplicably stop talking to me, be dismissive towards me, make me feel like getting into the same school was an awful sin.  I forgot how much it hurt that he dated someone just weeks after we broke up. Instead, I focused on his pretty promises and finally caved in.

Instincts matter.I suffered from a genuine panic attack just hours after we got back together. My good friend called me up and asked me a simple question: Is this what you want?  I panicked. I fast-forwarded to the most likely outcome of another break up. I valued the lost opportunity of being unattached to anyone as I met all o fmy new class mates.  I sized up all of the healing from the summer that I was about to throw into the garbage.  Getting back together felt terribly wrong, yet I did it anyway.

30 Year Olds Don’t Change.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the relationship started getting sour just a few weeks later. I’m sure it didnt’ help that my doubt was palpable. It also didn’t help that we were thrown into a new environment, with new stress, and a worsening job market. Regardless, the same symptoms popped up: Inexplicable cold shoulder, unresponsiveness, etc. I literally begged him to “jiggle the rope,” just let me know that he’s present in the relationship even if things are tough and he needs “alone” time. He said no.

Therapy helps. I promised myself I would get therapy during my graduate education—I figured I was investing $80k anyway so I might as well maximize the whole self-improvement process.  Ironically, I can’t put a price tag to having an anchor throughout the whole process.  She helped remind me how panicked I was when I got back together with him, how tormented I felt when he got cold again, and how thoroughly I thought out the options before breaking up.  This reminder helped me stay strong during the months that followed

Retribution.  I can’t tell you how angry I was about being in the same crappy break-up situation all over again.  We happened to be at the same new years party and I gave myself a 10% chance of kissing him (that’s how we started dating 2 years earlier) and 90% chance of staying clear of him.  Well, he flirted with some girl so I decided to flirt back with the guy that was hitting on me too…and then this flirty guy and I kissed…and the ex fell apart.

Revenge is Sweet. Remember how awful I felt when I saw him with that girl the previous summer? Well, he was pretty banged up. He lost control and literally begged to get back together.

Promises can be Manipulative.   “You’re the one. You are supposed to be my partner in life, my wife, the mother of my kids.  If we get back together then we’ll be engaged this summer, married next summer.” I want to get married. I want it so bad but it felt like he was baiting me with my biggest vulnerability.  I saw through the words and felt tremendous anger towards him.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.  He kept on trying to talk me into getting back together and then he heard I was dating someone. He called to confirm the rumor and we have not talked since then (February 2009).

Ping Pong Theory.  There is a period of happiness when you date someone. Then, incompatibilities will start to show and you eventually break up.  These differences are what you note in that lits of qualities every man and woman keeps in the back of their minds: things I like/don’t like about the people I date.  The list informs your taste in the future. In my case, I tend to select guys that “bypass” the problems that led to the previous breakup.  My ex was insecure, so I look for a very secure man.  etc.etc.etc.

Closer. Maybe it’s rebound, maybe it’s not.  All I know is that I am now dating someone that meshes better with me than anyone I have ever dated before. It’s effortless. We can talk about anything (serious or not) for hours.  He’s the sharpest, most sincere, and most direct man I’ve ever dated. The physical chemistry is insane. Communication (i.e .resolving conflict, diffusing arguments, etc) is a simple game for us…I don’t know if he’s the one, but I know that being with him is one of the single most healthiest decisions I have ever made because now I know that a healthy, mutual and caring relationship is possible for me.  I am still not over the ex (it was a long, serious and damaging relationship…I think the most damning part of it is that I actually thought I was going to marry him. Letting my mind go there is what made this breakup so tough.)  BUT, I’m also confident about where I am right now, what I know, and the direction that I am moving in.

move on