I recently wrote about something that I referred to as The Brutal Heartbreak. I assume everyone goes through something similar at some point— a relationship from which you emerge changed, and are made to view any relationship that comes after differently. I'm talking about the sort of heartbreak that leaves you crushed for weeks or months, until the morning comes when you finally pull yourself out of your metaphorical (or sometimes literal) bed and say, “Alright thats enough. Let’s get started.” That’s the morning on which you acknowledge your new self. Because while you are the physically same person you were before, you’re probably not the same person mentally.
I’m not saying that everyone feels this exact way after the B.H., though I do feel everyone goes through a somewhat hazy stage. You feel an array of different emotions, which can range from personal blame, to hate, to disdain, to straight up disbelief that it even happened, and more.
Anyone who could occupy my thoughts long enough for me to forget my broken heart was a-okay in my book. But there was still the inevitable moment that happened each time after saying goodbye to my date — that moment, getting ready for bed, lying down in the dark, going over and over those last few moments before the end of my big relationship.
While there are numerous books, articles, and stories that talk about getting over someone and moving on (and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with that process), what usually isn’t discussed is what happens afterward. After the heartache dissipates. When you can finally laugh at something and mean it. When you feel ready to put yourself out amongst the world again. And then there's that pivotal moment when you actually fall in love again. When you realize that there is more than one person you could be happy with, contrary to what you may have thought previously.
This is the love after the love.
Personally, I thought I was in love with any man that gave me the time of day after The Brutal Heartbreak. Anyone who could occupy my thoughts long enough for me to forget my broken heart was a-okay in my book. But there was still the inevitable moment that happened each time after saying goodbye to my date — that moment, getting ready for bed, lying down in the dark, going over and over those last few moments before the end of my big relationship. Wondering if the outcome would've changed had I went about things differently.
While I learned that these kinds of thoughts are normal and expected, mentally torturing yourself is not conducive to personal sanity. The “coulda, shoulda, woulda” thoughts only make the situation harder, thus making the recovery time much longer. This is why, after a heartbreak of any size, I strongly encourage changing something about your routine. Whether it's picking up a new hobby, getting a haircut, or what I did...leave. Leave the place you know. Leave the place you live. Change the actual scenery around you. While none of this is easy, it does get easier.
After my Brutal Heartbreak in 2011, I moved to New York City. It was one of the best times in my life. But like anything, the fun started to fade. After a night of overpriced cocktails and complaining about how I had yet to meet anyone I connected with, a friend suggested that I try online dating. I thought the entire concept was ridiculous. I liked the idea of meeting someone randomly, like at a coffee shop or a book store; but let's face it, life isn't a Nicholas Sparks novel. Life in NYC moves quickly and at the time, I was broke and OkCupid was free. So, I signed up.
I was hesitant because of the previous dates I had been on, but there was something about the sincerity of his message and our conversation that even before I saw him in person, I started to feel the feeling.
My profile was silly, mentioning that I was a California girl who loved folk music and Mel Brooks movies. I went on maybe six dates with perfectly nice guys, but none of them gave me the feeling. I was about to delete the profile and give up forever when I got an interesting message.
I received it shortly after midnight in late November and I remember him mentioning how nervous he was to even be on the website itself, let alone message me. He told me that I seemed "very sweet," and later asked if I was interested in seeing Eames: The Architect and The Painter with him at IFC that week. My first reaction wanted to be, "WELL DUH." But I instead answered with a calm and collected, "Sure." I was hesitant because of the previous dates I had been on, but there was something about the sincerity of his message and our conversation that even before I saw him in person, I started to feel the feeling.
Kyle and I met in Union Square and decided to skip the movie. I remember noticing how impeccably dressed he was. We took a long walk around the east village, stopping at Stuyvesant Park where we smoked cigarettes and he told me tales of growing up in New Jersey, attending art school in Philadelphia, living in Paris on someone's couch for six weeks (swoon) and how even though he was an art director in NYC, all he really wanted to be was a farmer. We happened upon an underground cocktail bar where we drank gin and tonics and talked until 2 a.m. Afterwards, he walked me to the train, kissed my cheek, and said he'd see me soon.
Unbeknownst to me, Thursday, December 1st, 2011 was the beginning of what would be my love after the love.
Over the past three and a half years, I’ve learned to be secure with myself, both through healing from the past and finding new love.
What has developed over the past three and half years is the most important relationship of my life. Not just because of the immense amount of love and respect I have developed for Kyle, but for so many other reasons. We don't get caught up in unnecessary jealousies. We each want the other to have a life outside of our own. It's encouraging. It's fun. In so many words, it's mature.
When it comes down to it, we're really just friends who simply want to hang out with each other. We make each other laugh until tears are rolling down our cheeks and our bellies hurt. He's taught me how to communicate more successfully. I've taught him how to cook. He's shown me the tops of mountains. I've shown him the Southern California desert. From Tastee Subs in central Jersey, to Bakers in the Inland Empire, it's been a constant win-win.
Of course, it's far from perfect, we've made each other cry out of frustration on several occasions. But we’ve always worked through it. Another important thing to note about my love after the love is that I have never once depended on him or this relationship to "survive." Over the past three and a half years, I’ve learned to be secure with myself, both through healing from the past and finding new love. I know that if this big love ended, too, I’d be okay. I know I can make it through.