How Breakups Change As You Get Older

Breaking up at 28 is different than breaking up at 21.

At 21, I needed to know why. I wanted to know if there was someone else.  I wanted to know what happened. What happened exactly. 

I thought asking questions would make it better. I thought talking to my friends would make it better. I thought ruminating would help me figure it out or understand the sequence of events or solve for x.  

I thought that love was all that mattered; that we must have fallen out of love.

I wanted to know if you had already told people. I wanted to know what you were going to tell people. I was horrified at the thought of others discussing what happened, speculating at what went wrong. I thought everyone cared. I rushed to tell people because I wanted to look “okay” and “strong” and “fine”.

I wanted to know what I could have done differently. I took a breakup as a sign that something was wrong with me. I was at fault. I could have been nicer. I could have been happier. I could have been more understanding. I could have been more carefree. I could have been whatever you wanted, or needed, or desired. I was up for that challenge. I thought that your happiness was more important than mine. 

There was anger, jealousy and resentment. 

I wanted to keep you in focus. I called. I looked for you when I walked down the street. I wanted you to see me, to see what you were missing. I wanted to know what moving on looked like for you.  I wanted to beat you there.

But at 28, breaking up is different.

At 28, I am okay not knowing why. I know there is no one else. I know that no realization or disclosure of a previously missed detail will change what happened.

I know that asking questions of you or myself will not make it better. Talking with my friends will not make it better. Ruminating will not give me clarity or help me understand the sequence of events or help me solve for x.

I know that we didn’t fall out of love; that love has nothing to do with whether a relationship works.

I don’t care what people think, hear or say about what happened. I know that though it is a monumental moment in my life, it is just another moment for everyone else, even those closest to me. I take my time in telling people. I allow myself to be vulnerable: “Yes, I’m sad.” “Yes, it’s sad.”

I know that there are a million things we both could have done differently, but that it doesn’t do us any good to dwell on them. I take a breakup as a sign that something was wrong with our relationship; not with you and not with me. I know that we both could have been happier, nicer, more understanding and more carefree. But we were human. We were just doing the best that we could. I know that we could have been whatever the other wanted, or needed, or desired, but that we would have lost ourselves in that challenge. 

And at 28, I am not up for that challenge. I realize that my happiness is just as important as yours. 

There is a bit of anger, but not at you. There is a bit of resentment, but not at you. My fist shakes at the universe for handing me something with an expiration date. Mostly, there is just undirected sadness.

I keep you as out of focus as possible. I don’t call. I don’t look for you. I know that we must give each other space. I don’t want either of us to see what we are missing, to see what we’ve left behind. I don’t need to know what moving on looks like for you. I don’t need to beat you there.

At 28, this place of heartbreak feels so familiar, like an old scar, tingly to the touch. Yes, I’ve been here before. No, it isn’t less painful. No, it isn’t less sad. But, yes, I do know my way around this place, and I now know how to gently make my way home.

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