My now ex-partner and I met in 2017 when I was living as a student in his home country. At the time I was four months away from my returning flight to Indonesia. Being a responsible, nation-funded scholar, I only started dating properly when my term time had finished. He was just one of a few men I was seeing but the only one I promised to never forget. Just before catching my flight back home, he made a pledge to come and visit me within the next few months. I wasn’t very hopeful until he actually did show up in my new place four months later.
Our story continued. We had seen each other in three different countries since then. We shared many exotic meals (when we spent time in my part of the world) and bland cuisines (when we spent time in his part of the world). We constantly switched roles of being a host and a guest. We went to see an opera, black metal gigs, and quirky indie shows in those countries. It was wonderful. We even talked about a future together; how we wanted to live in a small house filled with cool artworks and weird music. We talked of ways for me to move back to his country and as a back-up plan, he earned himself an English teaching license so he could move here if things didn’t work out.
However, we were never committed to each other. We kept dating other people sporadically and we played by only one rule; DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell). We stayed in touch and did what other LDR couples do, but with less intensity, as we were both busy with work and other stuff too. This worked well until two weeks ago.
We originally planned for our next holiday to happen two months from now. Since this plan came up, and since we talked about how “different” this holiday would be (instead of two weeks, we planned to spend time together for two months; instead of spending the whole time on our own, we planned to also hang out with my family and friends; instead of staying in one country, we planned to go to three), I pretty much stopped dating other people. I began to commit to what I genuinely thought was our goal; creating a future plan together. But it wasn’t. And he had met “someone else”.
When he told me about it two weeks ago, I crumbled into pieces. In his words, he brought it up to “discuss with me”. Being a goal-oriented person who likes strategic planning a bit too much, I felt threatened and insecure when my goals were suddenly at risk of not being achieved due to some external factors. But then I realized the big difference between us; while I look at things in a very myopic-ways that turn out to be wholly inaccurate, he look far into the abyss.
At that point I was so sure that it was the end of our story but it took me a whole week – a few sleepless nights, many online and offline deep talks with my friends, many meditations that ended up as ugly cry sessions, and a drunken night with a beautiful stranger – before I finally stop battling the reality and decided to let him go and end the relationship altogether.
After that, a whole new phase began and I never felt that awkward since my puberty. I wish somebody had told me how odd getting out of a long-term relationship in your late-twenties feels! What do people do with 1097 photos of/with/from their exes? Do they just delete them? What about the polaroids, gifts, concert tickets, books, and all that? Most important, what do people do with the future they had envisioned with one particular person?
I don’t know how to start restructuring my life when it feels like there’s a hole needs to be filled. How do I remove a figure from all the wonderful memories of places and things that I still want to hold dear?
Yes, I’ve been very dramatic about this whole breakup thingy. I tweeted a lot. I demanded so much of my friends’ time and energy. I called and texted random people. Funnily enough, my outspoken attitude towards heartbreak got other people to share their similar stories. Many people DM-ed me to not only asked how I was and wished me well, but also to reach out with their own stories. One really struck a chord with me. A dear friend told me that when she was experiencing a similar thing a year ago, she started to develop a longstanding pain and scar not from the heartbreak itself but from the way people treated her during those dark times.
“People told me to stop being dramatic,” she said, and I could only imagine how destructive that is. I personally think that repressing feelings – as opposed to encouraging emotional expression – is harmful, as it could lead to an unhealthy numbness.
As Brene Brown put it on her TED talk (2010), “You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.”
During this stage, I am reminded of how amazing people around me are. They let me be my most dramatic self without belittling or diminishing my feelings. Heaven knows the bigger, more painful struggles they had been through in their lives. So this piece is also a sincere thank you note, for people around me who helped me dig my way out of this mess. You all know I’ll get over this heartbreak – I just need to be dramatic about it first.