Breaking up is hard to do, but there’s always something to be learned from it, says Andy Kane.
Breaking up is hard to do – and I should know, I’ve had some gnarly breakups in my time. I was 18 when my first boyfriend dumped me on his lunch hour, parked outside of Tesco. When he returned to work, I threw a sandwich at the windscreen and drove home, crying like I was headed for the nearest bridge.
The next one happened via text. I suppose he had practical reasons – he lived in Belfast, I had moved to Dublin – but that didn’t make me feel any better at the time. Soon after, I snuck into his house, left his belongings on the bed and dropped my key through the letterbox. I didn’t see him again until five years later, fleetingly at a train station, and while he’d never returned my signed copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, at least I looked pretty hot.
There was the one that resulted in me kicking a wall and my newly ex-boyfriend having to carry me home because I was unable to walk from a combination of sprain and too much alcohol. There was the intercontinental relationship that fell apart after I returned from New York. That was particularly hard because I really loved him and we couldn’t split up in person. But at least it occurred on iChat and involved an ocean of distance afterwards, a step up from the Belfast guy.
Only the Beginning
The fracturing of a relationship is only the beginning. The weeks (or months, or years) afterwards can be complicated, and dissolution can dash future plans and bring previously repressed feelings to the forefront. Often it’s hard to be in the same room together and friends can feel uncomfortable taking sides.
In my mid-20s I moved in with a boy during the short window between getting together and breaking apart. We shared an air mattress for the next six months, during which our favourite activities included reading one another’s emails, sexual one-upmanship and social competition. Fun times.
For me though, what’s most difficult is that the one person who can comfort you, who really understands what’s going on, is the one person you can’t reach out to. Tearing yourself away from someone who could fix it all with a hug is exceedingly painful. I’ve never chased relationships, and I’m very comfortable being single, so then why would I bother at all? There’s one commonality between all of my partners: when we met they really blew me away.
Everyone I’ve fallen for has made it impossible for me not to want to be with them, something about them makes them seem like the best one – and I always want the best one for myself. Unfortunately the best one has not always been the best one for me and some of my worst relationships have happened with my favourite men.
Not All For The Worse
But not all breakups are for the worse. Though some of the early ones were disastrous, they taught me how to identify the kind of men who were wrong for me. Others have been illuminating for a different reason. Often, breaking up with my boyfriend has revealed something better: a friend I forgot I had. Friends who, over time, have gone beyond that and become something more like a brother, a part of my chosen family, as was the case after one of my most laborious breakups.
There were times after that breakup that things were really bad – drunken arguments, desperate text messages, crying in public – the whole shebang. At one party I was so frustrated by him that I drop-kicked him into a table and left with his best friend. We had spent a year treating each other like shit, cheating back and forth and being generally terrible to one another. For the next two years we could barely interact at all, and then he left Ireland for a while. With some time and distance, slowly but surely the wounds began to heal.
Our romantic relationship is now long over, but certain parts of what we created together remain. The love we shared left seeds in the dirt and the shit we had flung became a bed of fertilizer for some beautiful growth. Our individual friend groups were, still are, permanently blended, and ultimately we spent four years as a homosexual Joey and Chandler, living as the best of roommates and friends. This isn’t something entirely unique to one relationship either. Many men I have loved number among my closest pals.
It’s something of a Catch 22 – if I didn’t think you were incredible, I’d have had a really easy time leaving you when the love was gone, but I couldn’t do that, because I’m picky, and if you were anything less than spectacular, then I wouldn’t have been with you to begin with. Over the years, I’ve grown to understand that the end of the romantic portion of a relationship does not necessarily spell the end of the relationship altogether. Love, at it’s best, evolves with the relationship; it doesn’t just disappear.
In many instances my exes have become comparable to family. Sure, some may feel like brothers and some are more like crazy aunts that I’m fond of and happy to see now and again, but no matter the form it takes, a strong friendship can outlast the relationship for which it was neglected – ignoring your conscience allows you to justify everything and often the experience of a romantic relationship can actually deepen and strengthen a friendship.
For that reason, I’d like to publicly thank the men I have loved for all that I have learned from them. For giving me the tools I needed to better myself, for providing adversaries that challenge me and force me to grow, and for staying in my life, in whatever capacity possible, despite the troubled times.
After all, we chose one another for a reason, and I’m glad that, after everything, we still continue to have each other’s backs.
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