The Stories We Tell Ourselves

How the hope of a future turns so quickly into a battlefield after a break up occurs never ceases to amaze and confound me.

The depression has lifted and I have been broken up for officially as long as the relationship lasted. Whoever has come up with break up math -- it takes half the time you were in the relationship to get over it, or whatever other formula there is floating out there, needs to come up with a new formula. It still hurts.

I guess it doesn't help I found his profile on one of those dating sites. No, I was not stalking him. I was on the site, trying to re-activate an old membership. See, I'm moving on, getting ready to date. And then, there it was, his picture. His goofy, stupid picture of him in a Homer Simpson t-shirt. His silly smile, his slightly blading head. The cute but not quite cute allure that I fell for to start with. It was all at once so niave (oh, baby, are you sure you want to be wearing a Homer Simpson t-shirt on a dating site picture. I like it because I know and love you... but the rest of the world won't be so kind.), and all at once a punch in the gut. He's over me. He's out there. He's not pining for me, mourning the loss of me. He's moving on. Somehow, when I move on, it feels like victory. When he does the same, it feels like loss. How the hope of a future turns so quickly into a battlefield after a break up occurs never ceases to amaze and confound me.

And then, I did something I knew I would regret. I read his profile.

He sounded happy. Upbeat. He did a pretty good job of painting an accurate picture of who he was. It surprised me. And then, I saw it. The answer to the question - how did your last relationship end and what did you learn from it. "I broke up with my girlfriend," it said, "The relationship lasted too long because we were both avoiding conflict. Being able to deal with conflict moves the relationship deeper."

If seeing his profile picture was a punch in the gut, reading that little paragraph was like being stabbed in the heart. I wanted to scream, "I was not the one who was conflict avoidant! I DID NOT KNOW YOU HAD CONFLICT WITH ME BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T TELL ME!" And then after the spark of anger came the hurt - he thought the relationship lasted too long. Too long. Which meant he wanted out long before he broke up with me. That hurt because I'd been so stunned by the breakup. It caught me completely by surprise. We really hadn't been dating all that long - it'd just been about seven months. How long ago had he wanted out?

Hindsight, I've been told, is 20/20, as are the stories you choose to tell of the past. I know, because I weave my tales of relationships past and paint them in a light that I can wrap my head around. WE (as opposed to him alone) were conflict avoidant. I guess that's his ability to grasp what happened, on his part at least. Whether or not I like it, that's what I have to live with. He has to live with the fact that when I tell people why he broke up with me using his own words, they all cringe and go, "Oh, he sounds mean."

But he wasn't mean. And I wasn't conflict avoidant. He was conflict avoidant. And I was afriad. At least that's what I tell myself. Is this the tale I weave?

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. He's moved on. And my heart still feels remarkably broken. See, the dangerous part of dating isn't going to meet some stranger you've only interacted with online, or risking the awkwardness of a blind date that stutters. The dangerous part of dating is the risk of letting your heart be exposed to someone who has the power to break it. There's no way around it. Heart break is awful. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

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