What I Learned About Heartbreak After Experiencing My First Breakup At 26

I’ve always been the girl who wanted to experience a relationship that was like “that can’t eat, can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kind of stuff” (shout-out to the Mary-Kate & Ashley classic “It Takes Two”, but also, my city’s baseball team did win the whole thing, 108 years in the making).

Well, I got it. Until it wasn’t that fairytale ending every romantic comedy knows all too well.

I had just turned 25 and moved to the big city life a few months prior. All of my friends were on dating apps, but like many girls, I was skeptical at the idea of meeting a guy online. The thought of finding a guy who actually wanted a relationship was like finding a golden ticket in a Wonka bar – scattered and only ending up in the hands of the right people.

I eventually caved and downloaded JSwipe – the modern version of meeting a Nice Jewish Boy. I chatted up guys and gone on a few first dates, but nothing was really substantial.

Then came a guy who really enjoyed brunch, was a huge sports fan and loved dogs – the perfect trifecta in my book. Our conversation was normal, like I was talking to an old friend. I didn’t think much of it, but something about him really stood out from all of the other guys – I could be myself around him. I had so many “pinch me” moments. I couldn’t believe that this was a real, World Series-kind of thing. I felt so lucky to be with a guy who not only genuinely cared about me, but also shared a keen interest in getting to know my family and was happy to be an important presence in my life. I thought this was the best thing that ever happened to me.

And yet, the longest (and first) actual relationship of my life came to an abrupt end when he broke my heart after 10 months of dating.  No warnings, no red flags, no eerie signs of avoidance, nada. He just said I was great and he really enjoyed our time together.

Every one of my friends and family he had met had the exact same reaction I did. I just didn’t understand why.

And maybe, there wasn’t a reason. Sometimes people just have a change of heart.

I’m now 26, and I’m experiencing heartbreak for the very first time. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to puzzle back the pieces and here are a few things I’ve learned about myself:


 

1. Healing Takes Time

When the first love you experience is over, it feels like death. Except it feels worse because instead of a person dying, it’s a relationship. Besides navigating the college guy circuit for four months and just letting the guy know it “wasn’t working out”,  it’s my first real, final breakup.

I knew it wasn’t going to go away overnight, or weeks later. When you’re trying to pick up the pieces of what was a solid foundation and didn’t have any warning or sign of despair, you’re left confused and hurt. I think knowing firsthand what it feels like, that there’s no set “time” for you to be over someone, is crucial to building out the rest of your life. Thoughts could still linger and little things will still be a reminder of our time together, but eventually, it will fade into a distant memory.

And yet, in recent weeks, it feels like there are bigger things that matter that the death of a first love. You’ll always remember it, but I’m leaning on the strength of the other relationships I have – those with my family and closest friends.

 

2. Avoiding Contact Is The Hardest Thing To Do, But The Easiest Way Out

He’d often be the first person I’d talk to when I woke up, throughout the day at work and the last person I’d talk to before bed. But the last words he spoke to me stung like they were literally coming out of left field. I thought I was dreaming, that he just needed to take a break and then we’d be okay after a week. I wanted to reach out and find out his motives and thought he was going to do the same. But after a month of nothing, that thought turned into a realization it just wasn’t going to happen. For someone who concealed his feelings for two weeks leading up to the break up, he sure has a good way of hiding his true colors. In a sense, not having any communication has actually made things easier to move on. The less I start to care, the more I can focus on other, more important things.

 

3. Make Time For Yourself

I realized that while it felt great to let everything out, I wanted to feel even better about myself. While I had regular plans with my friends, I suddenly had a lot of free time I wasn’t used to. Taking the time to really take care of myself, whether that was through pampering, keeping busy with work and adding spin classes to my workouts, has kept the focus on me and my priorities, and less time letting my mind wander.

 

4. Find Your Inner Carly Simon

There’s a reason why T.Swift (and Adele and Kelly Clarkson) are so successful – they’ve turned their heartbreak into something incredibly relatable through an outlet that is essentially free therapy. While it’s evident Taylor has had her fair share of heartaches, unlike 15-year-old Taylor, I’m not going about the “Picture To Burn” route because this isn’t a high school breakup and I’m much better than that. But there is someone else who has been my spirit animal throughout this: ’70s superstar Carly Simon.

The song “You’re So Vain” is the best way to explain how I’m feeling. Of course, the scene that comes to mind with that song is in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” when Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaghey’s characters Andie and Ben are drunk and singing off key about Andie’s motives for leading Ben on and vice versa. While the end of the movie is typical romantic comedy fashion, the message is clear. Kate Hudson is going to play me in a movie about my life and I’m going to win a Grammy. I can dream, can’t I?

 

5. I’m Still Learning 

Through this healing process, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I’m way more mature than I was when I first began the relationship.

I’m in that phase where everyone I went to high school with is getting engaged/married/pregnant, and I’m newly single and have to begin again. It’s a weird stage to be in since I really felt our relationship was strong enough to last longer than it did.

For the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to love someone, and for someone to say those three words right back to me. He kept saying that someone else would do better, but I didn’t want to hear them because I believed that *he* was it at that moment.

I know this because I’m still learning – there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to handle heartbreak, but the more I think about the positives in my life and the incredible support system I have, I now put that into perspective when I wake up to start the day.

There are still going to be rough days that are out of my control. If I can get taken aback by a relationship suddenly ending without my knowledge, I can handle just about anything.

Hannah Gettleman

Hannah Gettleman is a bubbly twenty-something living in Chicago. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Journalism. Don't tell her that print is dying--she's already made the switch to public relations. As a Midwest girl, winter happens approximately 80% of the year, so she knows a thing or two about a good pair of snow boots. She lives for summer weather (even though she can never tan), Boy Meets World reruns, and an unhealthy addiction to dark chocolate and online shopping. She's a die-hard Chicago sports fan, even though she's well aware the Cubs always end up in last place every year.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.