Summer 2018. It had been four months since Dennis had broken up with me. In a desperate attempt to self protect and heal I had basically become a nun. With the exception of my Dad, brother and a handful of male colleagues and friends I’d had pretty much zero contact with men. Men couldn’t hurt you if you didn’t speak to any.
Being a self-confessed ‘serial-relationship…ist’, my usual instinct would have been to find my next potential boyfriend ASAP, thereby leaving little time to dwell on the previous relationship and all the agonising emotions that come with actually having to deal with a breakup. The quicker you can find a surrogate boyfriend to transfer all your love/insecurities/neediness on to, the easier it is to get over the fact the last one hasn’t worked out, again. A bit like quickly shoving a plaster on an open wound instead of letting the air get to it; a healthier, yet more painful and drawn out remedy.
But not this time. I resolved for the first time in my adult life to let that wound breathe and learn how to live without needing a man in my life. I was determined to prove to myself (and others) that I could be content on my own and that my happiness wasn’t reliant on having a boyfriend. Instead, I created a protective bubble of routine around myself. I wanted to ‘better myself as a person’ and actually get over the breakup, even if that meant feeling everything.
My plan for self-improvement included reading books (and not just those written by JK Rowling), listening to current affairs and feminist podcasts, actually using my gym membership (kinda) and walking an hour to work and back each day. The latter was seen as a mutual benefit to both the general public and me. It was becoming increasingly more awkward for everyone on a daily occurrence to witness a woman in her late twenties silently crying to herself on a bus, followed by a train, followed by the tube. Then to top it off with a short walk from the station before wiping off 45 minutes worth of snot and tears from her face in order to walk into office pretending that everything was perfectly OK. Nope, walking an hour to work was far more enjoyable and private and I’m sure TFL and its commuters were just as grateful for that decision too.
Anyway, I digress. It had been four months since Dennis had broken my heart and ran (literally ran) out of my flat, thus ending our two-year relationship. We’d had minimal contact and the few text messages that were exchanged were mostly trying to resolve monetary commitments that included a festival and a group holiday to Ibiza. I will explore the depths of my relationship with Dennis and its breakdown in future posts, but for now I’ll just give you an overview of the situation at that point.
Now, I realise that there are always two sides to the story, a breakup is never mutual no matter what anyone says, and each person will always believe they were the most injured party in it all. But in this case – I was the injured party. While I was crying, reading, walking and becoming a born-again virgin, Dennis was going to festivals, buying a flat, and posting excessively happy photos and stories of drunken nights out. And let’s not forget his daily gym routine and meal plans so he was in tip top condition for the aforementioned group holiday to Ibiza, which I had to pull out of, obviously. In hindsight (and what was probably bloody obvious to everyone else at the time), I can now see that Dennis was clearly over-compensating on social media for whatever was actually going on in his head.
So there it was, I did the complete opposite to my ex-boyfriend. I deactivated my Instagram for almost two months, not wanting the distraction or torment. I bought a kindle, I cried, I pulled on my trainers day after day, I cried, I had a therapy session, I cried some more. Gradually, each day got a little better, my head got a little clearer and the hypothetical pedestal I’d undeservingly put Dennis upon started to crumble… and I made a promise to myself. Never again would I let my happiness be determined by a man. I was going to make my own happy.