I've been single for nearly 8 months now, and even though it's been a rough ride to get to where I stand today, I think I can now look at myself in the mirror every morning and tell from the arc of my eyebrows, the look in my eyes, the upturned corners of my lips, and from the way my shoulders pull themselves back that I'm a lot more okay today than I was the day/week/month/year before. Being in a 7-year relationship during your most formative years does have its effects. It sort of felt like being married at 14. Sure, you can give me crap about how true and lasting love should always feel like new love, with all its fleeting, blush-worthy, going-the-extra-mile moments. But the truth is, a long-term relationship is comprised mostly of days that aren't as sparkly as Valentine's Day, his/her birthday, the anniversary, or Christmas.
For example: When I have to get dressed for an ordinary day, I look through my closet for something comfortable, easy to pair pants and shoes with, and something that doesn't beg for attention. I can't always reach in there for my sparkly dress and hooker heels. I can't fix my hair so it falls perfectly everyday too. But I do still try to leave the house looking as presentable as possible. My supposed minimal effort, of course, comes with a side of hope that it's enough for the world outside my house, and maybe if I'm feeling off, that siding comes with a side of IDGAF and an expectation that most people don't pay attention to detail anyway. If it turns out to be a great day, then that's, well, great. But, if it doesn't and I come home with a tack stuck to my shoe, I'll just be thankful I survived.
That's pretty much how a long term relationship is. I'm gonna leave it up to you to analyze the analogy for yourself. I think you're old/smart enough to do that on your own. But just for clarity's sake, whether it's day 657 or day 1586 in your long-term relationship, if there's no real occasion, it's just not practical nor possible to always be giving each other gifts and flowers, going on splurge dates, having tantric wedding-night sex, and to always be verging on worshipping the ground he/she walks on or the underwear he/she's worn. In a "ripened" relationship, you and your partner will start to to walk on the same plane, or comfortable plateau. There's no more incessant need to impress and no more over-thinking your words and actions. When you end up fighting, you weren't really looking forward to it, but if you're gonna compare spilling red sauce on an ordinary shirt against spilling some on an expensive dress, in a way, you kind of just take it sans flipping out coz it's an ordinary day in an otherwise extraordinary relationship.
But, of course, like most things, some relationships end. Either you didn't have enough sparkly dresses, or your day-to-day choice of clothing just didn't cut it. When you're back to being single and/or dating, you have enough time to rinse the broken pieces of your heart under cold water, put it back together again, and when you're ready, give it to the highest bidder who thinks a crack here and there only makes your heart more of a rare find. 'Til then, we (or at least I) have 3 phases:
- Ambivalence. More common in the first few months after a breakup. You want him/her back, but at the same time you're furious, insulted, and just downright indignant that you actually don't want anything to do with your ex. But then again, you miss being someone's special someone that you can't help but want to cave into the convenience of getting back together again with that person you know so much and who knows you better than you know yourself. You go around telling people you're fine, when it actually physically hurts sometimes. You go out more, try to distract yourself. Maybe you'll get a bit drunker than usual one night or a few nights and grapple with intimacy withdrawal symptoms. You will feel bad if you give into that need by letting that girl in the tiny skirt blow you in your car, or by letting that good-looking bad boy across the bar buy you a drink and shove his tongue down your throat. Whether its down the road of late nights, promiscuity and alcoholism, or the less fun route: wallowing in tears, self-pity and weight-gain - you will spiral down one way or the other. I had a taste of both. Believe me, neither spiral will get you anywhere. Which is why, friends and family are there to help you climb out. You won't be a pretty sight once you do, but you can take all the time you need to dust yourself off for the next phase.
- Distance. What can you say? The first phase was hard on you. You're probably even still ashamed of all the bad decisions you made under the influence of the deadly combination of alcohol and loneliness. You also might have yourself convinced there's just no one good enough out there. You're dating left and right, sure, but you keep everyone at a safe distance. You don't reveal too much about yourself, and you keep your "getting to know you" questions superficial. You don't feel comfortable with anything with even a hint of romanticism. You're probably getting your healthy dose of wild, meaningless sex from a good friend, but with dates, you're a little skittish about even the most civil forms of physical contact. You build your castle walls, put rabid crocs (Damn right, they're rabid.) in your moat, and have paranoid midgets man your catapults. Distancing, hiding and burning a few bridges here and there are what it's all about for you right now. Can't blame you. Only an idiot who just burnt his finger on a kettle would touch it again five seconds later. This is the perfect time to meet new people, focus on family and friends, and give the glue you used to put the pieces of your heart back together ample time to dry. Let the glue dry first. You don't wanna end up in a spiral again.
- Butterflies. Whether or not someone managed to slip past the previous phase's defenses, you're already thinking about those awesome firsts. Doesn't matter if you've already found someone, or you're still in search of someone who'd make those butterflies in your stomach have another orgy. You're already daydreaming. A first date with someone you've always thought was the bees knees and whom you've been dying to ask out for the longest time. That breath-taking rush of holding hands for the first time and you're panicking over either pulling away or risking going into cardiac arrest by going with it. Introducing him/her to your friends and watching them all get along, like you just knew they would. And, oh my god, THE FIRST KISS. Hell, you can make out with a hundred strangers in the previous phases, but the first kiss with someone who didn't fade away like the rest, is something you'd always wish you could put in a tiny, secret box so you could look at it and feel it any time you wanted. You don't even care how long it'll last. My first kiss EVER lasted about half a second, but like all first kisses with someone who matters, the kiss lingers on your lips for a few days after in the form of a smile that annoyingly ambushes you while you're in public. (I have to admit, I miss having a real first kiss. It's been more than 7 years, for crying out loud! Somebody get here and pull my heart strings violently already!) The only hard part about this phase is patience. Fantasizing can get anyone excited about anything, but you should never force it. That perfect date and perfect kiss good night will come only to those who wait… while looking cute and happy. What? You're gonna wait forever if you're glum, ugly and fat.
To be honest, I can't tell if I'm in the second stage or in the third. Somewhere in transition, I guess. I can't tear my walls down yet. My paranoid, midget catapult men won't have anywhere to go! So, there. Call it a pathetic excuse for a reflection on being recently single, but trust me, there is wisdom in what I've poured out. Hope I made at least some sense.