Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.
Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Carena Liptak.
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You don’t know me, but I’m writing to ask for your help. My boyfriend of 18 months broke up this past week. He told me he needed time for himself and to focus on getting his life in order. Well, come to find out he has been cheating on me. My heart is breaking. I feel like I can hardly breathe. I feel wobbly. A once strong, confident, determined woman has been chopped at the knees. Can you help me feel better? I’m not feeling strong enough to live myself right now. I feel sad, alone and confused. Help. Please.
Betrayal of any kind feels awful, and coming from a romantic partner, it’s even worse. You start envisioning your ex without you, and the only picture that comes to mind is of him reclining on a heart-shaped bed surrounded by an adoring squad of half-naked cheerleaders, who hand-feed him chocolates and make it rain hundred dollar bills as they all cuddle up on the bed to flip through your Facebook profile pictures and make fun of you together. You start double backing on every happy memory you have with this partner, wondering whether he ever truly cared about you or whether he was faking it the whole time.
Thought about it? Okay, now stop thinking about it. Listen, Confused, one of the most important relationships you have has just been completely undermined by one person’s deceit–of course you feel like the upholstery of your world has been yanked out from underneath you. I think it’s terrible and unforgivable that that happened to you.
And yet you’re going to move on from this. The short reason why is because you have to. You can put your head in a bottle for a month, if that’s what you want to do. You can stay in your house and watch Casablanca 42 times and eat nothing but Velveeta Shells & Cheese and listen to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me by The Cure on repeat until your neighbors call the police. However, life, as they say, will go on. There should be some comfort in that. Even if you make absolutely no active effort to move past this painful juncture in your life, your breakup will slowly recede into the past. One day you’ll wake up and realize that all the skin cells you now own have gradually shedded themselves away, and you’ll have a new set of regenerated skin cells, skin cells who’ve never touched this guy and don’t even know who he is. And then that will be sad. But it will be sad in a brand new and probably marginally less excruciating way!
That isn’t to say that you can’t help yourself by taking up healthy hobbies. In time, you may find it useful to try yoga, write a screenplay, or otherwise engage in one of those life-affirming activities that right now seem so uninteresting. Once you can get up and go do it, I think you may find that it helps you feel happier . My point is that you don’t need to do anything. One way or another, the time will pass and you will change. Do not doubt this.
In your letter, you say that your breakup has made you weak and unsure of yourself. But, Confused, you are so strong. You have given yourself fully to another person, made yourself vulnerable enough to let him wreck you. That takes immense courage. When we fall in love, it’s so tempting to create a backup plan or escape route–either physically, in the sense of another person we keep waiting in the wings, or emotionally, with barriers and games and really elaborate texting protocol–and you chose not to do this. You chose to fall without a safety net. That’s more than your partner was strong enough to do.
You get to look back on this time and be proud that you loved somebody right.
Carena Liptak is a writer and a matchmaker. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, Noisey, Wondering Sound, and other publications. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.
Featured image by Barbara Potter.