Three years ago, I came home from work to find a canary-colored breakup letter on my counter top from my boyfriend with the dreaded “I love you but I’m not in love with you” statement. Despite having similar friends, I hadn’t seen or heard from him ever since. Until just recently when we practically bumped into each other as if it had been planned all along.
Mark and I met where a lot of couples meet—the workplace. He was the cute, funny guy who made me laugh after I was going through a terrible broken engagement. I knew the country boy who always wore boots and took care of horses was a great guy, but I had no interest in pursuing a work relationship.
As luck would have it, he took a promotion a couple months later at another company and we started dating the same evening of his last day at work.
After a year of meeting families, friends and taking vacations, we decided to move in together with the goal of making a life together. Two years go by and Mark is ready to start building a house on property we had been clearing off for 6-months.
“I want to build us a life together. This is where our driveway will come in. Here is where you can have a garden and we’ll keep the animals over there. Our bedroom will go here and your office can be in this part of the house.”
After weeks of meeting with a couple vendors, we decided on the “first of a few” homes we would share together over our lifetime.
A week later, Mark started acting in a strange behavior you only notice after your heart has been broken and it’s searching for answers.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
The company we both used to work for was having financial problems and an entire department was laid off. As I left work for the day, my cousin -whom I also used to work with – had called to talk about it. As we chatted the entire way home and I pulled into my driveway, I kept the car running and sat in my driveway for at least 45-minutes talking to her about work and Mark’s weird behavior. In the 7+ years I’ve lived in my house, that remains the only day I sat in my driveway talking on the phone.
As I hung up with her, I got out of my car, opened the front door and saw the canary-colored piece of paper.
I knew immediately.
Without reading a line, I knew he had left me.
I rushed past the counter to the bedroom to see an empty closet. Everything he had in the house was gone. Even the fucking blanket his mother gave *us* for Christmas. You know the really fuzzy, super-soft blanket that’s perfect for couch naps? Yeah, the jerk took that blanket.
I went back to the counter to read my-already known fate. I barely got passed the “I love you but I’m not in love with you” portion when I picked my phone up and started calling.
He wouldn’t answer. But that didn’t stop me from blowing up his phone with texts and calls as if it were Normandy Beach in 1944.
I never did speak with him and to say I was devastated would be to put it lightly.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. And for weeks I would wake up in the middle of a night, immediately reach for him and after feeling the cold emptiness on his side of the bed, I would be forced to pace through my house to calm myself down from a nightmare I couldn’t escape.
It felt like a death.
But not just from one person. It was also the loss of connection to his sister and parents, who were as good as my kin. An entire network of relationships was ripped from me all at once and I had to mourn a future that was no longer a possibility.
Every day for more than two years, I thought about Mark. I resisted anyone who tried to get too close by picking out an annoying habit where it would bother me enough to call things off.
I tried like hell to move on. I worked like crazy to advance my career, went on vacations and had frequent one-night stands with guys I knew I’d never see again. Some of these men have been the most beautiful men I’ve ever laid eyes on with careers to match.
But in my mind, I always came back to my feelings about Mark. I knew if I didn’t feel remotely the same towards someone new as I did with Mark, it was a waste of my time.
This is where my issue was. I was letting my ex control my future with other men because he redefined what it meant for me to fall in love.
In the middle of my fun-and-unpredictable single life, I found out Mark got engaged.
And when I did, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I sat in my office, drank whiskey from a bottle and cried with my head in my hands thinking of all the times I could have reached out to rekindle us that my stubborn pride simply wouldn’t allow immediately following the breakup.
It was this night I finally decided it was time to let him go.
So I did. And just a month later, I started dating Charles.
Charles and I had been Twitter friends for a couple years and hung out occasionally when out of the blue, I had a dream about him. He had always been a flirt around me but the dream—nothing sexual, just smiling and laughing together—struck me enough to text him the next day. A week later, he was taking a red-eye flight to be with me on Valentine’s Day where we eventually had our first kiss in the middle of the airport.
After two years, that’s the feeling I had been searching for.
Charles and I connected on nearly every aspect of life. Including how our exes torched our hearts and left us in the dust around the same time.
We were long distance. 3,000 miles separated us and required at least a 4-hour flight to see each other. We didn’t care. We texted daily, FaceTimed every couple days and would see each other once a month before eventually dropping those three little words that have so much impact, “I love you.”
I feel as if Charles and I connected long distance because we had spent so long pushing people aside and it forced us to connect through communication. In a weird way, someone so far away couldn’t hurt you as much as the last person so we trusted each other so much that eventually turned into conversations about building a life together.
We were perfect, happy and madly in love.
We were perfect until he saw his ex 8-months into our relationship and decided he wanted to give them another shot.
I was devastated. Again.
“How could this possibly happen to me? The first person I plan a future with after Mark is doing this to me again.”
I went through the same motions of not eating and sleeping. Only this time, it lasted a few days, not weeks.
I found myself bouncing back a little more quickly.
It wasn’t because of a lack of love for Charles. It was because I had been through this before. I knew how to handle a breakup and put myself in the best situation to not allow my emotions to get the best of me. While I was angry, a lot, I channeled that energy at the gym and ended up dropping nearly 20lbs.
I was looking better, continuing to advance my career and slowly but surely, starting to enjoy life as a single girl again.
A few months after Charles and I broke up, I decided I was going to have a long-overdue night out. So I called a couple girlfriends, curled my hair, made sure my makeup was on point and threw on some leather pants with a nice pair of boots.
It was one of those great evenings where you’re dancing the night away and flirting your ass off in between taking shots you didn’t have to purchase. As the bar-hopping was winding down, we decided to go next door…
And that’s when I saw him.
After three years of avoiding each other like the plague, I opened the heavy wooden door to the other side of the bar and standing less than four feet away from me was Mark, sans fiancé.
“Ohhhhh FUCK” was the first thing to come out of my mouth as both of our eyes locked and doubled in size like a deer in headlights. After a few seconds of what felt like an eternity, he laughed, I laughed and we went in for a hug that felt like years of frustration leaving my body.
I couldn’t contain the smile that was surely a mile wide as I listened to him stumble over his words and struggle to form a complete sentence. In the background, I could hear his best friend laughing and saying “This is my favorite day, ever.”
We exchanged casual “how are you’s” and “how’s work” but the sexual attraction was immediate. The tension was so much that while I was in the middle of dancing with his best friend and laughing about the situation we found ourselves in, Mark was forced to sit down. He began to explain to my girlfriend, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe she’s here. This is crazy.”
The night ended with us going our separate ways but seeing him for the first time in three years couldn’t have gone more perfect.
Seeing my ex was a point of reflection for me.
Charles helped me move on from Mark. But in an ironic twist of fate, it was seeing Mark that helped free me from them both.
You learn so much about yourself after a breakup. With every book that closes, at some point you’ll take a look back and attempt to figure out where you could have gotten better. You decide what you want and what you don’t want out of sharing a life with another person.
Either through a breakup, divorce or death, all relationships will end.
You probably won’t be able to control it but there’s one thing you can control—how you react to it. And even if it takes years to move on from a lost love, allow yourself to enjoy life as much as you can.
Easier said than done, I know.
But if you allow yourself these moments of reflection, you’re allowing yourself to let that shit go.
Because the closure and future loves will come, but only if you’ve been working on bettering yourself in the middle of the firestorm.