My whole f*cking life is a wreck/I'm desperate, get used to it?
June 4, 2008 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Don't be desperate. Okay, how?

So, I got dumped by my first love. It's your typical sordid story; we'd been together 3+ years, were living together, gonna get married, blah blah blah blah. He left me & moved out about 2 months ago (57 days but hey! who's counting?)

I've been a good girl; I've read all the posts tagged "breakup" and listened to lots of kindly advice. I know I'm not over it yet and I know I'll get there eventually, and that time's the major thing that will help. Here are some things I've been doing to try to heal:

* Drinking, probably a bit to excess (I know, I know, but I'm heartbroken and in my early twenties, gimme a break)
* Keeping busy (I've joined a band, taught myself to sew, started a million projects)
* Redecorating/cleaning my house so it's a comfortable place for me to be
* Relying on the amazing kindness and support of my friends
* Trying to enjoy having alone time (I actually went to a show all by myself recently!)
* Going out dancing at every possible opportunity
* Exercising (I've practically worn my poor bike to pieces)
* Masturbating. A lot. (hey hey anonymity)
* Crying when I feel like crying
* Studiously avoiding any movie or television show with the slightest suggestion of conjugal happiness

I've been on a few dates and I've had a few one-night stands. I think I'm probably doing okay, more or less. I haven't called the ex even once and I don't even think about him all that often. But lately (say, the past few weeks) I've been overwhelmed with need for love and attention of the non-Platonic variety. Like, for serious overwhelmed--I'll pass someone (anyone) on the street and all I can think about is falling in love with them, or them falling in love with me, or dragging them into an alley and riding them till my thighs blister. Or I'll go out with someone and then spend days stalking them on Facebook. I troll craigslist missed connections constantly. I'm expending a ridiculous amount of mental energy on this stuff (the longing, the fantasies, the obsessions) and I'm having a really hard time not doing it. I feel like I'm 15 again.

I don't think I'm acting too insanely desperate, but I damn sure am feeling that way. How do I stop thinking about potential romantic/sexual partners All. The. Time.? And how do I get used to only having sex once every few weeks, if that? (I suspect that's a significant part of the problem.) Am I just going to have to wait it out, or is this what being single feels like? I sure don't remember it this way.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

You're longing for companionship, because you just had it, practically the other day.

What do they say about getting over someone? You divide the duration of the relationship by two, and that's how long it'll take to really get over it?

Even if it doesn't take you all 18 months, it'll probably be a while longer before you're really over him, or over that familiar feel of companionship. Hang in there.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 9:54 PM on June 4, 2008

Sometimes that is what being single feels like. Other times it's joyful.
You're doing all the right things. Just continue to give it time.
posted by loiseau at 10:02 PM on June 4, 2008

Oh, and also: if you're having sex every few weeks you're doing better than me. I pity thee not.
posted by loiseau at 10:03 PM on June 4, 2008 [9 favorites]

Try having a reason to be alone, like a hobby. You seem to be doing fine and keeping your head on, but a lot of your time is taken up with social or busy tasks. You want to know how to stop wanting someone in your life, try being alone without doing something like vacuuming or going out. Hobbies are nice, and while you can think of a paint roller as the friend who's always there for you, you seem more like a creative person. I hear knitting is cool these days, but maybe that's jumped the shark. Everybody like a scarf, though.

"Lonely" and "alone" don't have to be the same thing.
posted by rhizome at 10:37 PM on June 4, 2008

I can't answer your questions about sex, but about to stop feeling desperate? Take this time, and reframe it as an opportunity to relearn who you are and what you want. Get a journal. On one page describe your ideal partner. Note what you won't accept (druggie, drifter, extreme sportsperson, whatever). On another page, note the places you might run into someone like that. On the next page, describe yourself. Note what you'd like to change (quit smoking, shave hair), and what you'd like to achieve (write a book in next 12 months, learn how to rollerblade). Next plan how and when you're going to achieve these things. Schedule your life for these changes. Keep re-evaluating who you are and what you want to be. Examine internet lists for ideas.

Oh, back to boyfriend/desperation. Schedule maybe 1 hour a night (or a week) to be miserable. Play chick flicks. Eat chocolates or icecream. Weep on girlfriends. At the end of that hour, make a committment to put off self-immolation until the next scheduled misery-session. Get up, exercise, go out, dance, write in your journal, learn something new.

In short, stop concentrating on what you don't have, and work on what you want to be. After a while, it'll sort itself out.

I'd avoid dating and one-night stands for a bit, say, 3 months from now, until I was back on an even keel. And finish some of those damn projects.
posted by b33j at 10:54 PM on June 4, 2008 [7 favorites]

You're doing fine. Just give it some time. Don't forget to always use condoms.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:32 PM on June 4, 2008

I've been on a few dates and I've had a few one-night stands.

A few of each? That's pretty fast if you've only been broken up for two months (assuming these have happened since he moved out.)

Normally I'm in favor of getting back on the horse and all, but perhaps in this case you need to slow down a little.

The only reason I say that is because you're working though some complicated feelings right now, you need time to think. Bringing other people into the equation may get messy. You may accidentally latch on to the wrong person...
posted by wfrgms at 11:35 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've seen this before, and experienced it, also. This all-enveloping condition, which to you seems completely singular, is common enough to have a name.


You're in pain.

No way out that I know of. The way out is through. Etc and etc.

But you're doing all the right things. Or not. It doesn't matter, really, what you do. Nothing you do makes the days fly like the calendar pages in those old movies. It's time, is what it is; you're going to have to wait it out. Sorry.

T-shirt wisdom: Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted. You're gaining valuable experience. I don't know, exactly, what it's valuable for, but everyone says it's valuable, so it must be true. Or something.

Though the fact is that I do know what it's value is -- you will become more compassionate, you will be the go to gal when someone else in your sphere gets their heart crushed. You know the terrain. You will guide them, when they can't see, you will tell them that it's pain, and they'll endure, and that you'll help them do so. You'll buy them a hat, or an ice-cream sundae, or both, maybe, depending.

I just walked a friend through most of this. He bought a new guitar and started playing again, and learning new songs, he bought comically expensive shoes and started running again, he's leaned deeply into prayer and meditation, and leaned deeply into all his friendships. He's blasted through two long distance flings and is casting his eyes hither and yon, any likely lass in Austin, or anywhere else. He quit his fantasy baseball obsession, he got off the internet and out into the world some, he's got lots going on.

He's still hurting like a bastard on fathers day.

It's sortof amazing to watch someone (even myself, if/when I can detach from it, which mostly I cannot) in the throes of it, it's impressive that a person can do so much, so fast.

Pain is a powerful motivator.

Also. Be careful, sliding into other arms, other beds. Sexuality is powerful. Or can be. Sometimes the door opens wider than you'd thought or planned or expected (especially if you are vulnerable, and you are damn sure vulnerable just now), and now you want Melvin, too, and he doesn't want you maybe, Melvin likes his women with big thick eyebrows, or something, and then you've got more pain, not as deep maybe but it can be very painful, not to mention quite a surprise if it's the first time it's happened to you. Voice of experience. If it does happen, it's not like adding insult to injury, it's like adding injury to injury. Be careful, you.

You're lucky you've got friends to lean into. A blessing.

Last. It seems like it's never, ever going to end. Wrong. It's going to end. Not on your timetable. But it's going to end. I promise. You'll hear the birds sing. You'll tell a dirty joke and laugh till you hurt, you and your friends, howling together, maybe a cold beer in your hand, or not. You'll see the green in the grass, sometimes it's almost blue, in the light of a soft summer sun.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:31 AM on June 5, 2008 [54 favorites]

I promise you, guarantee you, and you could hold me accountable on this..that you will be is very very hard at first but it gets better as someone who felt like that not so long ago I can tell you that time heals everything little by little you will get used to being alone and pretty sooner than later you will enjoy it..keep on talking about it, keep on reading these posts and keep on asking all part of the healing process...most importantly somebody else will show up that you will feel attracted to in the same manner you were with your ex.....but that person doesnt have to be here tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow..but they will be there..... Finally look at yourself from a third person point of view and smile, think to yourself..."one of these days I will look back on this and realize this was all a learning experience".....
posted by The1andonly at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2008

You are doing well. Doesn't seem like it now, but yes, you're doing just fine.

These things take time.

Looking at this from the perspective of someone a few years older, I miss feeling the way you feel!
posted by Ironmouth at 7:23 AM on June 5, 2008

if you're having sex every few weeks you're doing better than me. I pity thee not.


My girlfriend broke up with me a few months ago and I still miss her sometimes. More accurately, I miss the companionship, always having someone to talk to, having guaranteed Saturday night plans, and, oh yeah, the regular sex. I eventually shifted to still being sad but not necessarily thinking about her. And, while I am jealous, a few one night stands seems a bit fast within the first two months. I think ending a three-year relationship warrants a few months of being alone and getting your head straight.

Just give it a little more time and concentrate on the other great things in your life. It's one of the many cruel ironies in life; it's almost impossible to attract someone when you're desperate.
posted by bda1972 at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Everyone else's advice is right on, hang in there.

I'll add: maybe books? For at least one break up, I got through the desire for emotional closeness by reading really good books. Yes, I am a nerd, but not normally a literary nerd. For a few weeks there, I read on the train, I read walking to work, I read at lunch.... True, books aren't sex. But in some, someone is pouring out to you their dreams, their fears, and the most intense moments of their lives. It could distract you from the hotties walking by, and help you think about what you want your life to be now.
posted by salvia at 8:12 AM on June 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

Yeah, you're doing pretty damn well. I don't wanna say quit whining, but pretty much, quit whining. Your needs are being met. But you obviously still have too much time to dwell on what you've lost. Get out of your own head and pursue some (non-romantic) interests. There's more to life.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2008

Make sure you're doing all the correct things re: Cognitive Psychology. In other words, feel what you feel (you can't help that), but try not to filter reality through those feelings: remember that being alone right now doesn't mean you'll be alone for the rest of your life; remember that the rebound guy(s) is not Mr. Right. He's just Mr. Right Now.

Remember that I was agonizingly lonely until I was almost 30. Then I found love, and I've been happy ever since. As horribly as loneliness is, companionship (which you will find eventually) wipes it away. Your loneliness will be wiped away, sooner or later.

Stop drinking to excess. I won't give you a break because you're in your twenties. Drinking to excess has nothing to do with being young. Plenty of 50-year-olds do it. It won't help. It might hurt.

The greatest words of wisdom: "this too shall pass."
posted by grumblebee at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

To be honest, I think feeling this way after a relationship is just pretty normal and unavoidable. You're doing plenty to mitigate it, but some things in life don't have a magic bullet. I agree with grumblebee: it'll pass with time.
posted by Nattie at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2008

You sound exactly like me when I was going through my divorce. This may sound stupid to some people, but I spent a lot of time at the gym listening to my favorite music and working out... it was empowering. I got lots of endorphin rushes. I made a point to visit out-of-town friends I hadn't seen in a while, and invited them to stay with me, too. I felt loved, anything but lonely, and in control.

As for the sex thing? Yeah, I felt the same way. I had crappy sex a couple of times with friends. I despaired. 10 years with one person had done a lot to make me believe I wasn't desirable, or worth loving, when it ended. Honestly? Masturbating is better than crappy sex.

I latched on to a couple of people I shouldn't have. Going out of town and having friends stay over sort of broke me of that.

I also made a point of meditating; forcing myself to find a calm place in my mind helped the anxiety taper off. I also went to a great therapist who helped me re-center.

Within a year I'd fallen in love again, very hard. I think if you take the time to work on yourself and see it as an opportunity, and to reconnect with loved ones and friends, you'll be less boy-crazy and self-destructive. Just my two cents. All that stuff helps the time pass, and time heals all.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2008 [7 favorites]

This is normal. Your feelings of desperation and loneliness and longing for companionship will wane and fade ever so slowly, though there will still be frequent, then only slightly less frequent pangs. There's nothing proactive you can really do about it, though a lot of the advice above will help in terms of avoiding exacerbating it. I don't know how accurate this is, but I personally believe that this desperation/loneliness-under-the-skin is very much part of the human condition in this day and age.

In the meantime, try to keep up as much human interaction as possible. Hanging out with friends, doing things with strangers in classes/bands/projects/etc is an imperfect substitute for the companionship you just lost, but you'd be surprised at how much an imperfect substitute trumps no substitute at all.

You might be feeling kinda empty and worthless at the moment, now that a huge chunk of your self-identity has left the building. But take advantage of this opportunity to redefine yourself; put yourself out there, go a little crazy, experiment with being a different person, doing different things, etc. Because right now you're really not accountable to anyone but yourself, for the most part. When I went through (and am still going through) a similar phase, I found it possible to see the internal emptiness as sort of a blank/clean slate that I could rewrite myself on. It helped for me; perhaps it will for you too.

Looking at the list of things you posted above again, I'd say that you're doing well and it looks like you have some momentum towards eventual recovery and getting-a-lot-better. So keep it up.
posted by nihraguk at 2:32 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dood. Everyone above has said it, I'll say it again - you're normal, it's a normal reaction, give it time. I took a double-take, I thought that I had written this post in a drunken stupor, or something! (meaning it's a familiar scenario)

Listen: You're fine. If you're doing things that you don't like, it's just venting. I don't know of too many people that get out of a relationship and aren't like, "what next?", who try the one-night-stands, making out with random ppl, etc. Sometimes you need that to pump up the old ego, so what. I have counltess friends, myself included, who drink more than usual, eat more than usual, sleep more than usual, etc. And if you're anything like me, you just want that reassurance that you're ok and that everything you're doing is normal, and that other folks have been through it.

You're normal, and we've all done the same thing. well, most of us. I broke up with my ex a year ago and I'm still kind of slowly getting back into being my normal self. I don't know of anything that has fixed a situation like this (from previous experience) other than TIME.

Sounds as if you're doing a lot better than I was, too... You went to a show by yrself? Lordy, I would never have been able to do that at your stage. And it's really awesome that you had the balls to do that. I bet it made you feel good about yourself, see?!

A couple of things that I did that you didn't mention, that may help:

- started a blog. Not like, a "i'm so sad" blog. just to write about lame shit on a daily basis was cathartic

- got a kitteh: I broke up with a live-in, so being alone was rough. This actually helped a lot, as weird and stereotypical as it sounds

- applied (and got in) to grad school: Aside from the obvious academic motivators, The simple social potential of meeting new people more like me gave me something to look forward to.

- Moved to a new neighborhood: this took me a year to do, but I'll tell you what, nothing made me feel better than not being in the same rathole neighborhood that my former SO and I shared.

- Spent time with my single girflriends and talked their ears off about it! I'll bet a million bucks that you weren't as close with former gf's when you were dating. Reconnect, and vent, vent, and then vent some more to them. Girl time is awesome.

Give us an update in a couple of months. I guarantee you won't even give a rat's a55 about Dirtpants McGee.

p.s. I've done the whole one-night-stand, making out with everyone, crap after a break up many times before. I didn't this time. And I felt so much better about myself. Sometimes you need to for your ego, but sometimes it just makes you feel worse about yourself. Monitor that.

p.p.s. Also, don't take on too many projects - I've done that, taking on a bunch of shit just to fill my time. It's easy to do, but it'll be more rewarding if you make long term commitments. Hope the band works out....

p.p.p.s. Good luck :::hugs & high five:::
posted by BlackStrapMolasses at 5:15 PM on June 5, 2008

I also didn't answer your real question, just gave you more of the advice that you'd gotten above:

You won't stop thinking about other potentials. You just won't. For a long time. Living with someone in a serious relationship (as serious as getting married) is a lifestyle. All aspects of your life are effected, and now everything you do is a reminder.

Date if it feels right, make out with random people if it feels ok. There's no very simple answer to stop thinking about other potentials. I finally started being ok with being single like, a month ago. That was one full year, after a four year relationship, if that gives you any kind of time frame. And I was in a few long term relationships in the past, and knew what getting over something was like. The main thing that I kept telling myself was, "hey, remember how freaking nutz about xxxx I was? and now the thought of dating him grosses me out? well, it helped, a leeeetle....

I also think that the point of my really long post above was that you just have to make some changes, which you are doing. At some point, one of them will hit some spot in you, where you won't care anymore. You can't force it at all, it'll just happen. TRUST ME, it'll happen. Look forward to knowing that you honestly won't care soon...(easier said than done, right???)
posted by BlackStrapMolasses at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

You sound like you've been doing well so far. (A lot better than I was at first, anyway, after my most recent break-up...)

It's great you've been keeping busy and trying to have alone time. You could try to take up hobbies/activites out of your comfort zone... I know that's helped me a lot. I took up dance classes and DJ-ing lessons, being a complete noob at both... and they've helped me to see myself in new ways, with new possibilities. I guess learning completely new skills can give you a self-confidence boost. Activities like joining a band are especially helpful too, because they place you in a new social environment. Volunteer work also helps... to put it simply, you see other people who are in some sort of pain or need as well, and sometimes you feel more empowered when you see how you can make a positive difference in other people's lives.

Also nthing what other mefites have said: try to be careful about the people you hook up with / date during this time; sometimes it's very tempting to get into another relationship or semi-relationship or semi-semi-maybe-uh-I-don't-know-relationship(??) but you also risk becoming more emotionally confused and messy.

I'm not sure (it's hard to make assumptions based on what little you've typed) but you sound like you've been trying to distract and numb yourself to the pain... and to some extent (and probably especially at first) that's good, but at some point (when you feel more ready to, I guess) it's also good to mentally/emotionally confront the ex-relationship / breakup in your head - to reflect on it, figure out what went wrong and what went right, stuff like that.

A safer way of venting and projecting those fantasies/obsessions/longings would be to (as some others have already said) read, write (or just create... e.g. like writing music with your band that vent your longings) and masturbate (which you've got covered already, yay). I took to reading books with plots that ended the way I wanted them to end, that had characters that behaved the way I wish I/my ex had behaved or characters that just filled in the romantic-longing-void I had... it helped quite a bit. Another friend sort of 'rebounded' 'safely' by obsessing over a female singer; he collected all her albums and posters and did all the fanboy stuff for a period of time. And I actually shut myself up (for the most part) in my house for some time because I was afraid of the potentially crazy stuff I might do if I went out of the house - which has its downsides, but I think it worked for the period of time it was meant to work. My friends also helped to keep me accountable when I was tempted to 'act out' or vent in messy/unhealthy ways... sometimes just sharing this sort of stuff with your friends helps a lot.

You're doing well. Good luck on keeping it up and recovering healthily. :)
posted by aielen at 10:16 PM on June 5, 2008

Just keep telling yourself that getting into another full-on relationship while you're in this state of mind would be a really really bad idea. Trying to tell yourself might not be enough, more positive action like sticking a reminder on the fridge or writing it in your diary so you'll see it next week. Or blog about it all on blogspot
Reiterating things is a great way of keeping them in your head. The more you tell yourself the harder it will be to forget it. You had some dates and one night stands so obviously when you're ready it wont be like it'll be that to hard to get back into it.
posted by browolf at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2008

You know what helped me the time I went through a soul-crushing break-up? The I-Ching. Note that I am not in any way a religious or spiritual person-- it's just that, with that particular oracle, no matter what hexagram you throw, the corresponding advice will be something along the lines of "Chill the hell out, why don't you." That sentiment is very useful to one going through post-breakup emotional chaos. And the fact that the I-Ching says "Chill the hell out, why don't you," in sixty-four grave-and-stentorian-yet-completely-different ways makes it just about the best friend a heartbroken girl ever had.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:03 PM on June 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm going through something similar but I will admit, I am not handling it as well as you. Toughest part is the alone time. Hopefully I will try to be as strong as you and see a show alone.
posted by dieseljay at 10:34 PM on November 15, 2008

Don't force it. There is no timeline for getting over someone. You need to be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up for the way you are feeling. Your relationship ended, THAT SUCKS! And you have to right to feel the way you do for as long as you need!
posted by Ekidnagrrl17 at 12:40 PM on February 23, 2009

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