I have been in my fair share of breakups. I was recently talking with someone very close to me and she explained her recent breakup. It resonated with me. She told me how she felt as though she were ready for it, but regardless she sat there and cried. She even asked if she could have a moment to just sit and cry before leaving to go to work. The guy said, yes take all the time you need. This causing more tears to roll from her eyes. His kindness was comforting but felt dissociated and wrong because they were no longer a couple now.
She said to him, “I really do care about you and understand this and am going to be OK with it..” But what she asked next hit home, “I just need to know, as you seem really composed, do you care about this at all? Do you, did you care about me?”
That stone cold demeanor I am all too familiar with, because I have done it. When I have broken up with someone, I have put a lot of thought into it and have convinced myself as to why I have to make the hard step to ending the relationship, why I have to step away from the comfort, or hardship. This isn’t something I just came up with the night before but something I have been going over in my head for weeks at a time. So when it comes to the actual day when I say it, it feels disconnected because I am sitting there with multiple aspects of my mind guiding me:
-The need to make sure they understand we just didn’t have that connection to work and to not blame anyone for us not being compatible.
-The want to make sure that this person that I just spent a significant portion of my life with understands I am there for them at that moment in time.
-And finally the organization of the words I am going to use to do it.
It is like being in a defensive mode, ready for anything at any moment and preparing for it. It is almost as if because I have so many things going on in my head, my normal bubbly, excitable self, becomes for a lack of a better word, monotonous and business like. My face gets emotionless, my eyes blank hardly blinking, my body calm and lifeless. I already disconnected from the relationship maybe minutes or hours before I make the words come to my lips, “I think we should breakup”.
It is to prepare for every situation possible, something I have as a defense mechanism in my own body and mind due to the way I was raised and the childhood I had both at home and socially. I constantly tried to gauge those around me who were closed off or accepting of me, being on complete defense at all times, to prepare for what might be said, and if it was said, how I would diffuse it or recoil and hide.
This is not the healthiest way to live and I suppose one of the reasons my relationships haven’t done so well in the past, but it is also why I am in need of someone very sensitive to the fact that I don’t just want to know what is on their mind, but I need to know what is on their mind for the first few months, years etc, just so that I can fully trust them to not throw in a wrench like my family used to or my “friends” did. (I was not the popular kid, let’s just leave it at that) And even more so I can get out of my head, analyzing every breath, sigh, or micro expression, and just be there with them. So I don’t have to have my mind going on so many different scenarios every millisecond that I get to breath and be with them.
So when I heard my friend tell me about what had happened, I told her the truth, people like me, and often men in general have a different reaction to breakups, especially if they are the one instigating it. Men and myself tend to get through the initial breakup with what seems like ease and an emotionless display, meanwhile women usually let the hurt and struggle of the breakup to the front immediately. But ask anyone like me, ask them, “What happens a month or 2 down the road after the breakup?” We cry. We cry or we feel the loss. What takes women seconds to do, us men take a serious mental break before we truly feel it. And trust me we feel it. We don’t skip that part, we just go on a mini brain vacation prior. But when we get our first sensory memory of you and it brings back the comfort or love we had with each other, we let it out. And then we take a slightly longer time to recover. I feel as though women rebound for the first month whereas men are a little more dangerous. We could feel OK right away and even date again right away, but when we get that sting a month or so later, we can self destruct whatever we just built.
So women, yes we feel, but we are in a “stance” during the breakup. We are protecting either ourselves, you, or validating it in a different way. Healthy or not, there is a lot of truth here.
“Fun” fact most breakups happen around holidays, birthdays, and important moments in life when we would want it least, not because it is being insensitive but because these moments make us reflect on what we can invest emotionally and even monetarily in our significant other, which can often reveal a lot about how we actually feel.