23/Male/Heartbroken

We were the couple that would playfully argue about who loved each other more. “I loved you first, therefore I love you more”, she used to say. It was never with any intention of winning. It was just a cute way for us to pass the time; a playful game to see who would give up first. I can tell you that, eventually, I did win.

She gave up first.

We had a history. We met way back in high school through mutual friends. We talked a decent amount, and we hung out here and there but it didn’t lead to anything serious at the time. I was older, and preparing to go to college, while she was younger and still had years left of high school to see out. I didn’t think it would work at the time, but she did. I would ghost on her frequently, often times not returning texts or canceling plans. I’ll be the first to admit I could have handled that situation better, and I was not particularly understanding or as nice as I could have been to her. She could have given up on me. She probably should have. She didn’t.

Knowing what I know now it’s time I wish I could have back.

It wasn’t until years later, about halfway through my junior year of college, that we reconnected in a substantial way. After making plans and abruptly canceling them (again) we finally started spending time together. I was like any other 21-year-old guy; just happy to have a consistent lay. Even though I could feel something more significant blooming between us I couldn’t really see what was happening; what was very clearly staring me in the face. I figured it was just sexual desire or something like that as I was still very much that asshole that strung her along for years.

Finally, about a month after we reconnected, I realized what was happening; I like this girl. I might even love her. We started dating, and I wouldn’t reveal that to her for another five months.

I regret not telling her every single day, because I don’t get to say it anymore.

We separated in May. We were together for two years. The break-up wasn’t some aggressive, rage-induced screaming match over a scandalous night of infidelity, or any other reason that people would typically associate with a break-up. I think I would have preferred that because that would have given credence to a clear, identifiable reason. Don’t get me wrong – there was still plenty of sobbing from both of us. We just had a conversation in which she calmly explained to me that she had lost faith in us. She didn’t have confidence in our relationship, and it wasn’t something she could handle anymore. I can certainly accept and acknowledge those feelings. That does not mean I understand them. It felt like the, “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”, of breakups. It left me confused, and made me feel pain I never thought was possible. I always thought of myself as a tough and resolute person. I could tough out anything and anyone. With a couple of sentences and a good-bye hug this girl had brought me to my knees, beaten and broken, and left me there.

It would be unfair of me to solely blame her for us not being together anymore. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons for that, and I don’t doubt my own culpability. God knows I could have been a better partner, and I have my regrets. There are things that I said and did that I wish I never had, and vise-versa.  But what I am having the hardest time with is the fact that she wasn’t willing to keep going. As stated I don’t fully understand why we split, but before it happened I did feel a shift in our relationship. Something didn’t feel right, and I believe it was this shift that caused her to pull the plug. It felt like a big, ominous shadow looming over us. However, it wasn’t always like that, and I truly believed that it wouldn’t persist. I expressed that to her more than once. You have your up’s and your down’s in a relationship, and if you love someone you work through them as best you can. I was ready to fight for her and our relationship because I loved her more than anything in the world. I still do. Walking away was just something I wasn’t willing to do. I think I’m more afraid of what that says about me than it does her.

I am still very much in love with her, which is unfortunate to say the least. It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to shake, and I’m not sure it will ever really go away. I genuinely thought I was going to marry this girl. It was even something her and I discussed a few times. Our naivety, in hindsight, is not lost on me. It is this continued love that has been my biggest obstacle. When you love someone more than you love yourself it’s a difficult feeling to shake. I often wonder if she still feels the same way.

We talked and saw each other sporadically for about two months after we broke up, and I expressed the way I felt a few times. She did not, and that is okay. She told me that we needed space from each other, and it’s been over a month since we have spoken. Given the time and lack of communication it’s hard not to wonder what she’s doing – or who she’s doing it with.

I would imagine this period of disconnect speaks for itself in one way or another.

When I originally approached the wonderful creators of this blog about this guest post it was with the intention of helping others. This has been my second “big” break-up, and while this one has hit particularly hard I thought that I might be able to provide some insight and advice to those who might be going through similar situations. “I’m fine. I am doing much better. I should write about it”, I told myself. I thought that I could share what I was doing to in my efforts to recover with the wonderful people who visit this blog. Your early 20’s is undoubtedly a difficult time, and failed relationships can muddle the already confusing brew of emotional (and physical, in some cases) stress one may be sipping on.

However, while I wrote this article I realized that I am not doing better. It’s been almost three months and I have made absolutely no progress in moving on. Every second of every single day is dominated by thoughts of her. Not all of them are sad, but even the happy thoughts sting a little. I spend a lot of time in my bed. I watch Netflix until 2 A.M. every night because I don’t sleep anymore, and when I do sleep my dreams are dominated by nightmares. I listen to a lot of the same songs her and I used to enjoy on my 40-minute commute to work every morning. Sometimes I cry, but I try not to. I avoid my mother because every conversation we have seems to lead back to my ex, which makes living at home more difficult than it should be.

My 3-year-old sister loved spending time with my her. I thought that by now she would have forgotten about her. A few nights ago, while at the dinner table, my sister gleefully asked me where she was. I replied with a half-smile and a simple, “I don’t know”. I went to my room and didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night.

It’s easy to think you are doing better. You want to believe that you can simply pick up the pieces, and mosey right along whistling Dixie. Your true feelings always show, and it’s important to recognize when you’re just not okay. I also think that it is okay to not be okay. Everyone moves at their own pace. Sometimes you even need a little help. That is why I recently decided to go and see a therapist. I’ve never put much faith in therapy or it’s benefits, but at this point I think that any healing I’ve attempted to do on my own has failed. It couldn’t possibly hurt to try, and perhaps it could be helpful.

I realize that his guest post may seem a bit sad and depressing. Some of you may even think I’m just a whiner, and that I need to get over it and move on already. You’re probably not wrong. After thinking about it, though, the thing that I want people to take away from this post the most is that at our age it is important to appreciate the things that are in front of you now. The hustle and bustle of your 20’s can cause you to lose sight over things that are truly important, even those that you love, and before you know it those things are gone. That can be anything from relationships to friends or even your parents, god forbidding.

Appreciate who and what you have whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tell her how thankful you are when she wakes up early to drive you to work because your car is in the shop. Answer her calls even if you’re busy, or at least text her back and let her know you’ll call as soon as possible. Offer to drive over to her place for once. Ask her how her family is doing. Tell her how beautiful she is with or without makeup. Ask her to play your video games or watch sports with you. Hold her as tight as you possibly can when you lay down together. Brush her hair when she asks you to. Give her a kiss and tell her you love her just because you can. Listen to her when she is feeling down and hug. Being appreciative isn’t always about expressly stating so. Often, it’s just about putting that little extra bit of effort and showing you care.

I still go out and see my friends. I drink socially. I play soccer every weekend. I go to the gym a few times a week. I do try to spend some time with my family. I think it’s important after experiencing heartbreak, even if you’re feeling utterly defeated and hopeless, that you try to continue to be yourself even if you feel like half of you is missing. Don’t let it paralyze you. Some people, like myself, just need a little help is all. It is my hope that in a few months’ time I can follow up this post and share how I’ve gotten to that place because then I might be able to help someone.

Until then it is my sincere belief that eventually – hopefully – the dust will begin settle and I will be okay.

 

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An Insight into Dating Someone with Anxiety

For people who haven’t experienced anxiety, it can be difficult to understand. For people who have anxiety, it can be even more difficult to understand and explain. The best way to explain my anxiety is this: imagine you’re driving a car 100 mph downhill when you realize that the brakes don’t work. Your initial reaction is to, obviously, freak the fuck out. There’s a million things running through your head, you’re hysterical, and all the while the cars just gaining more and more speed, the anxiety is getting worse and worse. You’re so panicked that you can’t even think about the end; eventually this car is going to stop gaining speed and run out of gas, eventually you will calm down. I envy those who can just jump to this realization, but for me this isn’t the case. One incident, one thought is enough to cut the brakes and send me straight into an anxiety attack. I cry hysterically, cough until I throw up and usually end up sobbing myself to sleep just to make it stop. The worst part of this is trying to make others understand something that I barely understand myself. I don’t exactly know what you should do if your significant other is experiencing anxiety, but I can tell you exactly what not to do.

If someone ever confides in you about their anxiety, I beg you not to dismiss it. Part of what makes anxiety so powerful is how little it’s talked about. No one talks about having anxiety, therefore a lot of people, myself included, are scared to reach out and ask for help or support. Your partner is supposed to be your secret keeper, your non-judgmental rock. If someone has chosen you to confide in about their anxiety, it’s for a reason. When you dismiss a person with anxiety, you break their trust and drastically decrease the chance that they’ll attempt to tell another person.

Dismissal can come in many different forms, but it all stems from a general decision to not even try and understand. When someone tells you that they’re suffering from anxiety, it doesn’t mean they want you to start studying for the MCAT, become a psychiatrist and cure them of their anxiety. You don’t have to understand why it’s happening, you don’t have to understand the symptoms that come along with it, all you have to do is be supportive. It’s not about understanding anxiety, it’s about trying to understand it. Make an attempt to understand what your partner is going through by listening, no matter how long that takes. When I’m shaking, out of breath and crying uncontrollably it’s hard to make audible words, but just the sound of someone breathing on the other end of the phone makes the end come that much sooner. Be patient, don’t try to rush the symptoms away, especially if you’re the cause.

Anxiety isn’t tangible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. How you would react to your partner being in extreme physical pain is how you should react to your partner suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is like physical pain but doubled, it affects mental health and usually shows physical symptoms as well. This isn’t something your partner can just “get over,” it’s not spilled milk.

Different people experience different types of anxiety for different reasons. Try and help your partner to understand what the cause is and possible ways to help. For myself, a lot of my anxiety comes from my relationships. I allow my significant other to hold a lot of power over me. It’s not rational, but that’s anxiety. I 100% believe that anxiety is something couples can work though, but the key word in that sentence is “work”. Overcoming anxiety isn’t something that happens overnight, sometimes it’s just managing one symptom at a time. If you suffer from anxiety and find yourself in a relationship with a person who won’t even try to understand this beast, I urge you to end the relationship as soon as possible. You deserve someone who wants to see you through dark times, rather than insisting you just flip on the lights already. If you don’t suffer from anxiety and find yourself in a relationship with a person who does, I encourage you to support them through it. Whatever form support may be, find it and use it. Don’t lose someone that you love because you’re too lazy to put the work in.

Post Grad Dating

If you thought finding a boyfriend in college was hard, you’re obviously still in college because trying to find a boyfriend once you’ve graduated is near impossible.
In college you’re constantly being exposed to new people, even if none of them fit your criteria for prince charming, at least you’ve got options. Once you’ve graduated, a lot of these outlets for meeting people disappear; so how’s a gal supposed to find a boyfriend now? The options don’t seem too promising: you can start dating one of your friends, hope to be introduced to a friend of a friend, meet someone randomly at a bar, or resort to apps like Tinder and Bumble. Neither of these options guarantees you’ll end up with a winner either.

Most of my guy friends would probably make great boyfriends, but that doesn’t mean I want them to be my boyfriend. We’ve gone through a lot together and that isn’t necessarily a great foundation for a new romance. I don’t need my boyfriend and potential husband knowing all of the dumb things I’ve done over the years.

Another con of dating one of your friends is upsetting the balance of your friend group. What happens when you fight or god forbid break up? You have to be prepared to be exiled from that friend group; worst case scenario or best case scenario, you share the friend group and alternate weekends out like the child of divorced parents. I won’t even suggest you both stay in the friend group because that’s just awkward and torturous for all parties involved. Some people are just better off as friends.

Possibly the most promising of the post grad options for meeting a man is through a friend of a friend, but this also leaves the most up to chance. Friends of friends can be a great resource for post grad dating. In my eyes it would be ideal to date a friend’s friend. You don’t have to worry about your date being a serial killer and they’re far enough removed from your life to not know too many dirty details.

The only kink in this plan is that it depends explicitly on your friends having other friends that you’d want to date. First, you need the friend with suitable friends, then you need them to make the introduction, then you need the guy not to be a weirdo. It’s a delicate situation, especially if it turns out that you don’t like the person all that much, you risk offending your friend.

Before going away to college was the norm, people pretty much depended on meeting their spouses randomly. My parents met at a bar, my dad and his buddies went to my grandparent’s house the next day for a barbecue and the rest was history. I can’t even put into words how strange I would find it if someone I met at a bar wanted to come to my parents house the very next day. It’s not hard to start talking to someone you don’t know at a bar, but it can be risky. You never know who you’re talking to; is this guy going to be the answer to your prayers or is he going to unwantedly follow you around for the rest of the night. Even less likely that you’ll find a potential suitor at a bar, imagine meeting a stranger at a coffee shop. I can’t help but think about how utterly strange that would be not to mention unlikely.

Thankfully apps like Tinder and Bumble let you be proactive in post grad dating so you don’t have to hold your breath for coffee shop guy. However, finding someone you’d even consider boyfriend material on these apps is like finding a diamond in the rough. You’ve got to be persistent, you’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to use up a lot of data every month. So you swipe for what seems like eternity, send out a few messages and then wait. Getting an answer is only half of the battle though because from there you have to materialize a conversation out of thin air. If the connection is there you can take the relationship off of Bumble and eventually into real life. Just be prepared to tell everyone you encounter for the rest of your life a fake story about how you met, perhaps at a coffee shop?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since graduation, it’s that I don’t want to settle for anything, especially not for a love interest. Sure my contestant pool took a devastating loss after graduation, but that just means I’ll be more likely to recognize and commit to a good thing when its right in front of me. In college it was hard to keep someone’s interest, now it’s hard to even find someone worth interesting. Post grad dating is basically a waiting game. Wait for one of your friends to express interest, wait to get introduced to somebody, wait to meet someone randomly, wait for him to message you back on Bumble. As much as I want this waiting game to be over, at least the few prospects I have now are keeping me entertained.

Good luck out there ladies.