Saturday, August 4, 2012

After a Breakup: The Story (Part 1)

You never forget your first love. So they say. I will never forget my first big breakup.

Saying goodbye to Matt wasn’t like ending a high school romance or getting over a guy I’d dated a few times. He was the first of the big ones in the Breakup Big Leagues.

I met Matt in our church singles group. I’d been out of college for a few years and was involved in the leadership team so he knew who I was, but I didn’t know him well. One evening in late fall he called and asked me out. I knew enough to know that he was polite, friendly and seemed like a nice guy, so I said yes.

Over the course of the afternoon I discovered that Matt was interesting and easy to talk to, but I was unsure how I felt about him. I wasn’t initially attracted to him, but I liked his heart and wanted to get to know him better. He was mature in his faith. He was kind. He listened attentively and (gasp!) he asked me questions about me. Over the next few months Matt and I dated, and I grew more in like with him.

One January night at a singles retreat in northern Wisconsin we took a walk on a frozen lake and were holding hands under a clear, star-filled sky. He brought up the “L” word. It was more theoretical than personal when he said, “What do you think about love?” Love?  It wasn’t really on my radar with him—at least not yet. My cynical and jaded reply was “Love, love . . . who really knows what love is?” Yeah. That must have been a mood killer for him.

But he kept pursuing me.

Matt and I spent a lot of time together over the next six months, but I never told him how I really felt about him.

The following spring we went to a retreat together. After dinner we took a walk down a wooded path to enjoy the restful early evening calm. I felt good about how things had been progressing with us, and as we walked I told him that I was committed to moving forward with him. He seemed overjoyed, and we strolled back to the retreat center content and happy.

The next day he ended our relationship.

After all of his intense pursuit, he was suddenly stopping. What? Why? I was stunned. Matt told me that as long as I didn’t seem fully committed to him, as long as I was uncertain, then he didn’t have to make a decision about us. But once I decided I was “all in,” he had to back out because he wasn’t ready to make a commitment. 

It turned out that during all the months we were dating he still was pining over the woman who’d dumped him before dating me! He still believed that she was “The One” for him and he couldn’t be with me if there was still some chance he could have her.

Interestingly, this other woman was already dating someone else—and he knew that. But Matt still backed out and would not commit to me because of her.

 After I got home from that trip I tried to make sense of it all, but I couldn’t. Like a tornado on the Kansas prairie emotions swirled wildly around in my head: I was bewildered, confused, hurt, mad, and sad. I forgot to eat at times, and lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t sleep well and cried often. Basically, I was an emotional mess.

Since it was my first big breakup, I didn’t really know what to do to make the pain go away. I didn’t have a frame of reference for it or emotional resources to process the pain in healthy ways. We’d spent so much time together and had a strong emotional connection that after he left I felt like a part of me was missing.

How could loving make you feel so good and someone leaving make you feel so lousy?

Whether you are an angry man or a sad woman because of your breakup, it’s important to know your story. That means being clear about what happened—in your head. You may not always get the clarity you need from the other person. Be honest with yourself…and then move forward and find healing.  

Read the next blog post in this series--and most of the other posts in A New Day Cafe blog--to find hope and practical help.

Your better days will come!

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