I was recently dumped. Cold, hard, entirely out of the blue dumped. Over the phone. (Guys can be such dicks sometimes.) Obviously, it doesn’t feel wonderful to have a person you’re in a relationship with call you to tell you ad nauseam how not in love with you they are, especially when you never claimed to love them either. The whole thing felt unfair and weirdly accusatory, like it was my fault that he hadn’t fallen in love with me in the measly three months that we’d been dating. I hadn’t realized I was on The Bachelor.
Deep down, I knew the breakup was a good thing. I would be OK. This was absolutely my now-ex-boyfriend’s loss. Still, my pride was wounded, and I experienced occasional flare-ups of rage. (I ran a ten mile obstacle course race of HELL through the burning Las Vegas desert for YOU!!) But the worst feeling was the belief that I had “wasted my time.” The guy I was dating didn’t turn out to be the guy I’d hoped he’d be, so the whole relationship felt like a big fat detour in the game of life.
Thankfully, I was wrong. Relationships always teach you something – even ones that end via a cold long-distance phone call on a Thursday afternoon while you stand outside your apartment, shocked and heartsick and embarrassed to be crying over a boy in front of your tough-as-nails neighbor with the COUGR4U license plate. Yes, even this particular “waste of time” taught me a few things, and it just so happens that all of them can be beautifully summed up through a ‘90s or early 2000’s music reference. So that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s called healing, people.
I Want it That Way/BSB
I’ve realized that I keep going into relationships with a checklist of things I want in a guy, most of which are incredibly shallow and snobby. In addition to being athletic and intelligent and funny and well-read, I want him to have grown up in this type of place and gone to this type of school, have this type of job and this type of family. Throw in a weird thing for guys in the military, and you’ve got my complete checklist of bullshit qualities that have very little to do with how a guy is actually going to treat me. I was so distracted by the fact that my ex had all of the superficial qualities I thought I wanted, I didn’t realize that he wasn’t a good boyfriend for me at all. (That’s the last time I get suckered in by a Navy uniform…I hope.)
All That She Wants/Ace of Base
Or rather, all that he wants. Right after I got dumped, I attended a random female leadership conference. There were a number of very powerful women speakers panels, and one thing they all mentioned was the fact that choosing a good spouse had been critical to their success. I didn’t pay much attention at first, because I’d already read Lean In. But one presenter was onto me: “Many of you may think that you’re choosing someone who ‘believes’ in you, who tells you how smart and successful and impressive you are. But still you find yourself always being the one to compromise, again and again. Don’t be the person who is constantly compromising in her own home.”
Whoa. I realized that in my relationship, even though my (weenie) boyfriend was always saying how great I was, I was the one who was constantly making compromises, going out of my way or waiting around to see what he wanted to do. Shocking, but that does not a great relationship make.
Losing My Religion/REM
I’m not a religious person, so I’d never thought about religion being important in my relationships before. That was dumb. Religion is incredibly important, and sometimes a difference in religious background just can’t be overcome. Like, for instance, when you’re a gentile and the Jewish dude you’re dating takes a two week trip to Israel with his mother. There’s probably no way the relationship’s surviving that one…
Let’s Talk About Sex/Salt ‘N’ Pepa
The sex was actually good. I’ll throw him that ONE bone.
The Writing’s on the Wall/Destiny’s Child
I’m pretty sure that the biggest reason I was so angry about being dumped was that I’d seen the breakup coming and hadn’t broken up with him first. I actually sort of tried to a couple weeks earlier, but I made the classic – classic! – mistake of drinking an entire bottle of rosé at my friend’s house beforehand (while waiting for him, per usual), so that by the time he showed up I was too much of an emotional wreck to effectively execute the breakup that I knew had to happen. Instead, I just cried a bunch while airing my grievances, until he apologized and said we should keep dating because, “I was the best girlfriend he’d ever had.” Thanks for breaking up with me TWO WEEKS LATER, asshole!! Granted, I’d handled the whole thing with the maturity of a fifteen year old hopped up on estrogen, but still.
I could see the writing on the wall, even if I didn’t want to admit it. For instance, his inability to communicate effectively should have tipped me off that something wasn’t right. When I brought up the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy days of radio silence, he responded that I, “wouldn’t have done well when he was in Afghanistan.” Yeah…but we’re in America now? So WTF, dude. Instead of seeing this as a very clear sign that he wasn’t committed to our relationship, I just convinced myself that he was a “bad communicator.” That was stupid; he wasn’t a bad communicator, he was a guy who didn’t really want to be dating me!
I Don’t Want to Wait/Paula Cole
To a certain degree, the reason I fell into a relationship with my ex so quickly was that I was sick of waiting for someone. I’d been single for a long time, and I was ready to call someone my boyfriend. Surprise, surprise, the well-known cliché is true: liking the idea of someone is different than liking an actual person for who they are. Lesson to myself: relax and wait for a person who is really, truly into you. Don’t force it because you’ve been at the singles table at a wedding one (or five) too many times.
And finally…My Heart Will Go On/Celine Dion
Because, yeah. It will.
By Charlotte O’Connell