Note: This email has been revised to protect the identify of the person who submitted it.
A few weeks ago I found your podcast on Soundcloud, and binged on a few of your episodes. I’m not much of a traveler or artist, but I related to your recordings about your singleness and past relationships. A few months ago, my long-time boyfriend and I split up. He wouldn’t tell me why he wanted to break up, he just kind of vanished from my life. One day, we were happy, then he was gone. Literally gone, he moved out of the state a few weeks after we split. I still have no answers.
I feel like my world is imploding. I feel I’ve lost the love of my life. I don’t know how to recover. I don’t want to be single. As adventurous as you are, it seems like you don’t like being single (or maybe I’ve misunderstood you) and you have not gotten a lot out of it. The idea of being in a constant state of solitude and shitty first dates only adds more to my anxiety about losing him, the more anxious I get, the crazier and lonely I feel. I guess what I’m asking really is if being single is really that bad, and maybe a little hope on this working out after all.
“It seems like you don’t like being single (or maybe I’ve misunderstood you) and you have not gotten a lot out of it.”
Looking back at the past three years, sure, there have been lot of cliche, cringeworthy single moments. Terrible first dates, girls nights designed to forget about being single, guys that don’t text back, etc. Perhaps it’s those instances, that I’ve shared freely, have led you to think I resent or have not gotten anything from singleness.
What I haven’t always been as good at expressing (but trying to get better at) is that I’ve gotten a lot of value out of quieter, yet gratifying single moments. Those moments don’t draw as much attention or reflection, so they’re easier to miss or gloss over.
After previously giving all of my attention to more disruptive, dramatic times, I’ve realized that not being reflective on moments of strength, confidence, and independence has been a great disservice to myself. Looking back on this time with a more objective point of view has really, truly shed light on how far I’ve come.
I may not always love being single, but my long-term singleness has changed me and my quality of life for the better. Drastically. Just wanted to clear that up.
Now this, the: “He wouldn’t tell me why he wanted to break up, he just vanished from my life.”
I’m tempted to say fuck that guy, but I’d like to dig a little deeper into his obvious emotional constipation and cowardice.
I’ve talked on the blog before about how I’m divorced. I’ve talked about how that experience propelled me into another relationship that for a long time, one I thought had all the makings of real love. We had so much in common, we were passionate. We did almost everything together.
But that relationship, at the great risk of really hurting the ex involved (who I have a platonic, yet polite relationship with) was frankly, a disaster. It was the equivalent of gold coins that turned out to be chocolate candy. I can’t tell you how many times that guy willingly walked away from me, knowing I was hurt, knowing I wanted him to comfort me.
I don’t say that to disparage him, I say it from a very honest, vulnerable place. For some people, love has to be a red hot, mind-blowing, 24-7 electric explosion of love lightning bolts or it just isn’t enough to stimulate them. It’s all about the high, the drama. Confusing conflict for passion.
He was all about that high, and so was I. The embers of post-honeymoon phase love just didn’t work for us. That resulted in multiple breakups, what I see or at least perceive now to be him trying to manifest more passion (actually just conflict) between us.
Again, I don’t mean that disparagingly.
It’s possible your ex left in such a dramatic, cold way because he needs that kind of stimulation. That’s not your fault.
I’d encourage you to take a closer look at the difference between lust and love. When I look back at it now, even though we didn’t have a lot in common, my ex-husband probably loved and cared for me in a very real way that I never gave him credit for.
I never found myself wondering if he could be interested in someone else. I never waited around for him to text or make plans with me. When I was sick, he was there for me. When I woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn’t go back to sleep, he was there to make me feel safe.
I don’t regret that our marriage ended. We weren’t meant to be together. In the end, I couldn’t give him the same kind of assurance. But I’ll never forget the peace of that kind of love. The knowing that he was a man who loved me for what I was, and not for my potential.
That’s the kind of love that keeps people together for decades. It’s quieter. I don’t know what your relationship with your ex looked like, but I can tell you, if it ended in him pulling a David Blaine, it probably wasn’t very good.
Listen, I don’t want to discredit your feelings. I don’t. I get it, I know you don’t want to hear that you don’t have control over this situation. It’s just reality – people fall out of love with each other, or need time to figure out what they really want and yeah, it sucks. It hurts.
I’d encourage you to fully feel that, of course…but also consider that there’s a greater role for you in life besides just finding a soul mate.
Life is more about love. It’s not a fairy tale, but it sure is a fucking adventure.
I’m not going to promise that it won’t be discouraging, but I can tell you that when you can take the worst parts of being single – the anxiety, longing and restlessness, and do something productive with them, great things can happen. You can put those feelings to work.
For starters, look at the hole that is your loneliness and fill it up. Whenever I’ve felt that way personally, I’ve picked up another hobby or side gig that intimidated or scared me. That way, that heartbreak GIVES me something – and over time, it’s given me a long-term gig at a bar, a road trip up and down the northeast, and a amateur acting career.
Losing “the love of your life” can be the best thing that ever happened to you.
In response to you wanting “a little hope on this working out after all”, I’ll give you this advice: Stop romanticizing this heartbreak. What your ex did to you was selfish and shitty. Try to see it objectively.
I’ve gotten glimpses of what true love is, and while it isn’t always a rollercoaster of emotions, it’s real. You’ll never have to hope or wait in the way you’re describing. The best couples I know are the ones who deeply respect and enjoy each other’s company, the ones that rally for each other over and over again.
Don’t live in the past, with this ghost of who you thought your ex was. Challenge yourself to be content, to stop looking at conflict and seeing passion. It’s much sunnier on this side.