It seemed like a normal night with my boyfriend of two years, Ben. He had come over after work to hang out, have dinner, watch TV — typical lazy weeknight stuff — when out of nowhere, he said:
"So, I've been thinking... Maybe we should break up?"
I was 26 at the time, and for a girl from the South, 26 years old is no joke. Those were what I thought of as my prime mating years (which I would later realize is not true at all), and most of my friends back home were already married. I had worked hard to date only people who seemed worth possibly marrying. I wouldn't say I'd been in a huge rush, but I certainly wasn't looking to waste any time.
Ben was what Carrie Bradshaw would call "good on paper." He was nice, good looking with deep dimples and dark eyes, thoughtful, funny, and we shared similar values – pretty much your standard checklist for relationship material. We rarely fought, we talked about our future, named our unborn children, and I brought him to my brother's wedding. In my mind everything was going quite swimmingly — I thought our relationship was perfect.
So I was crushed by that one sentence: "Maybe we should break up?"
Breaking up hadn't even crossed my mind; how could my radar be so far-off? My heart fell out of my chest. I didn't know what to say. I started rambling about how we hadn't even had a fight or tried to work it out — what were we breaking up over? I was so stunned, I didn't even cry. One small sentiment did cross my mind, though: Deep down inside, I knew if he doesn't want to be with me, then he's clearly not the one for me . I held it together and told him he'd better be sure because I refused to go back and forth between broken up and together; at 26 I felt like I was "too old for that shit." After a weirdly short conversation, I asked him to leave.
It all happened so fast, it was like he had been hit by a truck. The feeling of loss set in. I curled up in a ball and sobbed. I cried for the loss of him, the loss of my dream of our life together, and I cried as to how I could be so blind as to not see it coming.
I hoped to immediately stop thinking about him, but I had spent so much time thinking about him that switching from that to nothing, cold turkey, was more of a challenge than I realized it would be. I decided to give myself two weeks to wallow — and only two weeks.
And did I wallow: I cried nonstop, called in sick and didn't get out of bed, mindlessly watched season after season of "The Golden Girls", lost weight from feeling too sick to eat then immediately gained it back by eating more ice cream than I ever knew a human could consume in one week.
And then my two weeks were up. So what then? I hadn't felt particularly better, but I put on a tight dress and went to a bar with a girlfriend. I felt like shit. I tried to talk to guys, but it was awkward and annoying. (I told one guy I had been in New York for a decade, and he responded, "Oh, so for 20 years." My heart sank. In that moment all men were idiots and I didn't want to deal with them again.)
I came home and cried some more. But while crying I started repeating a mantra in my head: He isn't wasting one more minute of my life. I would repeat that until my sorrow turned to anger; anger is easier to deal with than sadness. I signed up for JDate and OkCupid, I forced myself to date, and the more I did it, the less painful it was. Soon I had new guys to think about — new romantic-interest placeholders, even if I wasn't completely smitten with any of them. It was better than thinking about that "time-wasting dickhead."
It turned out my ex hadn't completely wasted my time after all. By seeing my "perfect" relationship crumble so suddenly, I realized it wasn't perfect — and I had been looking for a set of qualities in a partner that didn't necessarily equal a happy relationship.
Because of that, when I met my now-husband, I had readjusted my approach to be less about checking things off a list and more about instincts. His dating profile was almost completely blank except for saying he was an "architect by day, rockstar by night." If this had been three years earlier I wouldn't have even considered going out with someone who hadn't filled out his profile, in fear of wasting my time. But I knew now that my checklist meant nothing — and that the perfect profiles I had sought out before didn't necessarily end in success stories...and he was cute, so I decided to take a chance. He ended up being like no one I had ever dated before and checked off boxes I didn't even know existed: cool, artistic, smart, romantic, fun, and it felt like I could really be myself around him. I felt passionate about him in a way I had never felt about my previous "perfect-checklist" boyfriends.
When you're dumped, it's easy to yearn for the person who dumped you — to want to try to fix it, to make things better. But the truth is, if they don't want to be with you, they're probably not the one for you. And in the grand scheme of your life, you will most likely eventually thank them for dumping you, because if they didn't, you may not have ever found your one true love — the person who I guarantee will definitely will not dump you.