“You’ll be fine, seriously. You will be fine.” So we say to each other in the aftermath of a relationship. Why don’t we treat the start of relationships like the end of a relationship? Recently our house has been like heartbreak hotel: multiple newly-single friends in and out the front door. We handle them with caution, with grace, with care. Are you ok? How are you feeling? We try to skip the cliche platitudes and offer real advice. You’ll be stronger now, you’ll learn so much about yourself. Think of all you can do now you’re alone.
Breakups are hard. You can offer coffee and movie nights and emergency takeaways, but you can’t know if it helps. Sometimes the dumpee needs conversation and analysis. Other times they need space. A lot of the time they just need somebody else, some small tonic against the loneliness.
Change is hard, and uncertainty is harder, and the transition in or out of a relationship requires a huge amount of both change and uncertainty. Those factors are only made harder where other people are concerned. Can we ever really get inside the mind of somebody else? Or are we just observers, making notes, living in fear that one day they’ll buck the trend and be something else? “It just doesn’t seem like them at all.” “I thought I knew who they were.” “It’s like they’re a completely different person.” We hear these kinds of statements all the time when there’s a breakup. It’s the cynic in me to think, well, of course. The only constant in anyone’s life will be themselves. What else is there that can’t change?
I am particularly awful with breakups. Hand me a single friend in need of some sage advice and there’s nothing I can’t lecture them on. But hand me a recently dumped friend and my words run dry. I cannot comfort or wallow. It’s hard to offer shallow sympathy when you don’t understand. Being single was one of that’s if my life so far. Who wouldn’t be jumping for joy to return to that? What are you crying about, I ponder, as I make a fourth cup of tea for the slumped figure on the couch.
Slowly, I am learning from my friends that breakups can be horrible. They can make you doubt yourself, your friends, your choices. Make you question your happiness. But when the logistics are sorted, the plans altered, and the possessions traded back in a battered cardboard box, what are you left with? The terse conversations end and the relationship statuses get switched. But what next? What is the reality of being dumped?
It is this, the best part of being single: being solely responsible for your own happiness. The best part is yet to come, because the best part is you. Being alone, in the company of the best (and only) person that you truly, really know. THAT is what comes next. And if you can retain that nugget of knowledge whilst entering and exiting all the relationships you encounter, you really will be fine.