I went through a breakup right before returning to school. After a long-term relationship, I was hurting and it was very difficult to adapt to not having someone by my side. We are on good terms and we have gone our separate ways. But I’m not writing this to talk about my breakup or my ex-boyfriend. I’m writing to talk about the post-breakup culture that makes an already difficult time impossible.
When you tell someone that you just experienced a breakup, they’ll tell you that they’re sorry and that “there are other fish in the sea.” Better yet, “it’s good to not be tied down at your age.”
Yes, I am only 20 years old and there are plenty of people in this world—but that’s not what people with a broken heart want to hear. Why do we react this way after breakups? This isn’t how we should be approaching breakups and relationships.
After my breakup, I started to reflect on the relationship. I could easily have chosen to just forget everything and move on quickly—like society says we should. But I spent some of the most important years in my life so far with this other person. We were happy together and I am thankful for what we had. Why can’t I cherish that? I’ve been told too many times that I should just go to a party and try to meet someone else. We’re made to believe that being broken for a while isn’t okay, and that you must immediately build yourself up again.
We also push people toward negative feelings and badmouthing their ex or saying “I knew I never liked them.” A post on NextAvenue, geared toward adults looking to find ways to comfort their grown-up children, discusses this topic in detail.
The article talks about more positive ways to discuss a person’s ex than just badmouthing them. I agree that trash-talking shouldn’t be encouraged by friends or family. The article also says not to assume that the person will agree with the badmouthing. The couple may get back together or the person may still have a positive opinion of their ex, even if the relationship didn’t work out. I don’t see my ex as a bad person and I don’t want others to either.
Why can’t someone see their ex as a good person and move on? Instead, we get sucked into a culture of negativity and often start shaming a person whom we once loved. A study by the American Psychological Association found that to help people cope with breakups, we should “encourage those who have experienced a romantic relationship’s end to purposefully focus on the positive aspects of their experience while simultaneously minimizing negative emotions.”
Why is our culture so concerned with post-breakup “glows,” revenge bodies and rebounds? I understand that we want to build others up after a difficult time, but why do we create this sort of “revenge culture” and push others to move on when they simply aren’t ready? Instead, we should try to teach people to cherish the time they had with that person and then move on when they’re ready. We should be teaching people to build themselves up independently, not with someone else. We should be teaching people to respond to breakups in their own way and not pressure them into relationships or actions meant just to spite their previous significant other.
I’m sure there are people who are ready to date again the day after a breakup, and I’m sure there are others who take months or more. Moving on after a relationship should be decided by the individual, not by the pressures of society and our peers. We can’t continue to put everyone in a box. We can’t tell someone to move on when they just aren’t ready.
I know that I have moved on, but I also know that I am not ready to be with someone else. I’ve realized that I don’t have to find someone to replace my ex. No one will be able to replace what we had. I don’t need to have someone else in my life right away just because my long-term relationship didn’t work out. I can be happy on my own and with myself.
Let’s try to teach people to not let a breakup define them or their actions. The culture surrounding breakups isn’t healthy. It’s time to teach people to focus on the positives, from before and after the breakup. Teach people that it is okay to be alone and that it is okay to find yourself without the help of someone else. It’ll make the world, especially the post-breakup world, a much better place.
Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ebeuger.