December 12, 2015

Does a Broken Heart Equal a Broken Woman?

Why is there so much pressure to "get over it" when a relationship ends?


The Abridged Break-Up Cheat Sheet for the Emotionally Responsible.


Sensitive men are adorable. I'm talking about men with big hearts, who are hopeless romantics and do crazy, bold things like show up places with flowers, surprise women at their workplaces and, yes, even men with broken hearts. Show me a hottie at a bar with doe eyes and a shy smile casually mentioning how his girlfriend left him and he's just here to try and forget for a while, and I'll show you a line of women who can't wait to promise him that they'd never treat him that way. Love on a man - even unrequited love - is something people eat up.

But on a woman? A big heart means a naive girl that life hasn't schooled and turned into a cynical (though some may claim it's "realistic") woman yet. A hopeless romantic who shows up with gifts and at workplaces? She probably also boils bunnies. And a woman with a broken heart...is just broken. If she goes out to forget and lets it slip that she's only recently single, she'll be marked as sad and unstable or an easy target for the night. One way or another, there won't be any hearts in the eyes of her onlookers. Only pity. 

But why?

There's an aspect of gender inequality that I particularly dislike, and here it is. Women are defined by the relationships they have with men, and the relationships men have with women define the women they have them with. Whereas men...are just themselves. Whether they're single, married, recently dumped or recently divorced because they were recently discovered cheating with their second cousins - men are never defined by the company they keep. Even in the most scandalous cases, the buzz wears off, and they go back to being themselves. That's why Tiger Woods is the most successful golfer in the world whereas Kim Kardashian is Kanye's wife who, before him, had a sex tape. 

People tend to think that women are their relationships. Maybe that's why when a woman gets out of a relationship there is so much pressure to immediately get over it. To put that bandage dress on, blast Beyonce's Irreplaceable from the car speakers and do it up with the girlfriends Sex and the City style. 

Here's the thing - no one is happy all the time. The people who claim to be are lying because they're uncomfortable with vulnerability, and the people who aren't lying are doing one or more substances on a regular basis to cope with any feeling that is not happiness. For the rest of us, life has ups and downs. And that is perfectly normal. Healthy. Necessary. And just as it necessarily has to happen - you necessarily have to let it happen. 

Personally, I'm going through quite the breakup. And here I am, on a Friday night, tucked into bed early allowing Netflix to keep me company. Not that I feel the need to defend it, but I'm going to go ahead and explain my decision. 

Who knows, my reasons may prove helpful to others in their time of Netflickish need. 

Avoidance isn't healthy.

You repeat those mantras all you want. "I don't care." "Whatever." "I'm better than this." Yeah. We all know them well. Well enough to know that if you're saying them, yes you do care, it's not whatever, and that you should stop thinking that experiencing a normal human emotion is indicative of something negative about you that you have to rebel against by proclaiming how much better than it you are! 

Just because a relationship ends doesn't mean it was toxic and you have to swear it off like a restaurant you got food poisoning from. And even if you do decide to say the mantras and go out on the town, all the stuff you avoided the night before will be waiting for you the next morning. And it'll still hurt just as much because you haven't dealt with any of it, if not more because you have a headache.

Besides, studies show - yeah, I just said "studies show" - that people who take time to process their breakups afterward feel better, sooner, than people who bury the emotions. 

If you're "trying," you're trying too hard...

If I am any emotion other than happy in a public place with a bar in it, you know what I do? I order another drink. Usually a stronger one. And I usually don't get home until the sun is up. 

The next day I have an awful moment where I login to my bank account and pray at the same time. Usually I realize that I got food from five different places before finally going home, that most of it is uneaten in the fridge, and that due to not filling my stomach with something other than booze I am going to spend the day with a hangover and quite a few dollars shorter than I would have preferred.

Basically, unlike my nights out "trying" to have a good time, or "trying" not to think about it, I never regret a night in with Netflix and my thoughts. 

The past few days at work, for example, I've gotten numerous compliments about how beautiful my eyes are. Probably because I've been getting plenty of early and un-intoxicated beauty rest. 

When you're going through something, not all company is good company.

When I'm not 100% myself, I know who my aces are. They are truly impartial listeners. They care that I'm hurting, listen, respond thoughtfully, and then a funny thing happens. All of a sudden we aren't talking about that thing I'm going through anymore, things move on in a perfectly natural way and I'm really, truly not thinking about it. 

If my aces aren't around, and I'm in a mood where I feel like eating chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I avoid the other cards in the deck for a while. Here's why...

It doesn't mean that they're bad friends, but some friends just make a breakup worse. 

Some friends are going through something themselves but don't know how to be friends without projecting their own emotions and experiences onto others. If your pain is at a 5, they'll boost it up to an 11, and then you spend the evening grieving both of your losses. 

Some friends are too uncomfortable with vulnerability to acknowledge that there is anything that you should ever feel upset about. They will pressure you not to feel your unnecessary feelings and just get over it. These are usually the people you end up buying too many shots with to bury those perfectly normal feelings. 

Some friends confuse looking forward to your future with bashing your past. Not all relationships end because someone is an asshole or behaved like a dipshit. Villainizing an ex may work for some, but talking trash about the person you're learning to adjust to life without isn't everyone's way of handling lost love. In fact, in my experience villainizing an ex is a great way to end up putting a doomed relationship on repeat. If you ignore the good qualities about someone and only focus on the bad, when the smoke clears you may be tempted to take the person back, believing that you weren't fair to them. Whereas acknowledging the whole person, the good and the bad, allows you to move forward knowing you made the right decision. Even when the dust has settled. 

Some friends confuse your being down about the breakup with being down about yourself. Honestly, platitudes about what an amazing person I am are not necessary just because I'm single now. No one said I wasn't amazing, and all you're doing by reassuring me of my self-worth as a response to my going through a breakup is perpetuating a double standard by assuming that my worth was ever called into question. 

If a relationship ends and you feel nothing, you either weren't that invested or have some seriously strong defense mechanisms which are probably doing you more harm in the long term than good. 

Feeling just makes you human, and there's nothing wrong with that. Does it suck sometimes? Of course it does. 

But buck up. That's what chocolate cake is for.


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