Nothing makes my skin crawl quite as acutely as hearing someone confidently claim they “won” their breakup. Not because I’m in any way superior or immune to the impulse myself, but primarily because of how self-defeating the admission is. Personally, I’d keep that message on ice.
By staking our current success on the past, by making it the focal point of our progress going forwards, we only succeed in demonstrating that the breakup continues to be the engine that drives us forward. Which, coincidentally, really doesn’t really sound much like “winning” to me.
The Illusion Of Winning
Winning implies that some kind of competition is/was taking place. But against whom? And to what end?
Surely making the most of a breakup means finding stability and peace independently of our past, not in spite of it. It means coming to terms with our feelings, allowing them to be processed, not shutting them out and refusing to be molded by them. It seems to me that categorizing our post-break world as a mad scramble to come out on top is — in effect — precisely the reverse of all this.
It is to glorify numbness, it is to refuse the chance to grow into something stronger, and also a surefire way to delay the inevitable fallout once we realize that this competition only has one participant. To me, this competitive aspect is an illusion, and a subconscious way to unite with an ex under a common perceived purpose. It is to refuse to let go.
A Defense Mechanism
My overarching point is that we should view our attempts to prop ourselves up at our ex’s expense (yes, even if they objectively deserve it) as a defense mechanism that betrays our underlying hope of staying within a ghostly relationship bubble, rather than a way of truly separating from it. Even if our conscious goal is moving forwards and finding a new purpose, we continue to subconsciously define our present fulfillment on the past.
So, how do we break from this mindset?
The short answer is that we can’t, at least not completely. There are subconscious variables we simply cannot influence, and to a certain extent the only thing we can do is shine a light on the workings of our own insecurity.
While we can’t control and direct the inner workings of grief, we can befriend them. Rather than shying away from our mourning, in this case by acting is if life’s never been better, we may as well accept that the underlying fragility we feel is a healthy sign that we are still capable of love. That, in of itself is a victory worth celebrating.
Vulnerability Is Not Weakness
I respect those who plow forward without catering to self-victimization, but just to be clear, allowing grief to take its toll is absolutely not a festival of self-harm. It is not to define our lives in fear.
Vulnerability is a form of courage when not wielded with the intent to manipulate. It is an inextricable part of what it means to be human. More than this, it is a tool that allows us to adapt, recover and eventually evolve into something greater (even though going through a bout of grief may feel like the opposite in the moment). To deny grief is to hinder our capacity to strengthen our roots.
N.B: Does this mean that making a public show of reveling in singledom is self-defeating and dishonest? No (although it may make you cringe self-consciously at a later date, take it from me!). By “winning the breakup” I’m only concerned with internal discourse. The war for your peace of mind.
Winning A Breakup
I realized half way though this article that it was all a little more morose than I had originally intended it to be (although I do, as a rule, avoid offering feel-good silver-linings that may backfire horribly).
Regardless, my opinion is that being honest about how we truly feel, and having the courage to digest the currently indigestible, means that in the end our victory is unconditional, no matter what transpires. Because we now depend on nobody but ourselves for validation.
By transforming our insecurity into a fragile wall of false comfort however, we can only ever truly win if variables outside of our control all align in a way that is favorable to us. Such as our ex’s begging for us back or meeting someone so amazing that they wipe our insecurities away with a single smile (not that it can’t happen of course, but you can’t count on it).
Let’s be honest here, what are the odds of all that happening and satisfying our undying optimism? And more importantly, what happens if in any of these cases the reverse occurs? That’s right, we’re sent hurtling backwards towards the beginning of the grieving process.