Collateral damage


Break-upBreakups are awful, especially if you don’t see them coming. Tears. Aching hearts. A wrenching sense of loss. It’s awful.

It’s a very real grieving process, adjusting to a new world order while still haunted by the old one.

What makes it so hard is that it all just stops. Sometimes it’s like everything’s exactly the same, but every so often reality deals a sucker punch. The happiest times keep bubbling to the surface. Night time is the worst – like some unknown force keeps pressing play on a YouTube playlist of everything you ever did together, looping ad infinitum in your mind’s eye just as you’re nodding off to sleep.

At first it’s hard to grapple with. How can so much have changed when it was all exactly as it always had been just the other day, only last week, this month, last month? Then come the recriminations. Bitterness and resentment kick in. After a time, the sense of loss and helplessness turns to anger. Eventually, the combined forces of loss and anger become an almost perverse source of strength. ‘I will survive’, ‘because you loved me’, ‘my heart will go on’, ‘it must have been love’ and other phrases that all sound like titles of classic ballads and empowering disco favourites come to the fore. Then one day you wake up and realise you’re actually OK.

That’s how it was for me recently. I was a melting pot of emotions: gutted, surprised, shocked, sad, lost. What to say? What to do? Where to go from here?

Of course it’s entirely my own fault. I was always going to feel like that. I can’t help myself. See, I have this absurd tendency to become really good friends with couples. As far back as high school it’s been like that and it’s always come back to bite me in the arse eventually, just like it’s recently done once again.

Me playing the role of “third leg single friend” – that’s the one constant throughout many of my closest friendships. In the moment they’re always wonderful. When it’s actually happening it’s brilliant. Everything chugs along nicely for years until the day that dreaded three word announcement is inevitably made. Break up, split up, whatever – just variations on a theme, but the outcome is the same: “all out, all change”, as they say on the railways.

Well fuck that then. Stupid couples. Stupid couples and their stupid need to nest and their stupid inability to choose the right other half and just stay together. Fuck them! And fuck this! It’s so unfair and so fucking inconsiderate! Don’t they give any thought to how hard it will be for their friends? Can’t they just try to work through it for our sake? How hard can it be for them to work things out? Paint over the cracks and just get on with it – as options go, how bad could that really be? I was always told I’d make a good psychologist – bring me in as a mediator, or a relationship counsellor, or anything that would help me avoid having to navigate that awful minefield of emptiness, sadness and loss again.

So I get it – they obviously had their issues. It might’ve been one-sided, or it might’ve been as obvious as the leaves on the trees to anyone with even the most significant vision disorder. One or both obviously concluded that getting out was the only option, I understand that… but where does it leave me? Right now I feel as though I’ve been involuntarily removed from a significant part of my own social life. Where was my invite to the negotiation process? I didn’t even get a look-in. I wasn’t consulted. I didn’t have any say at all. It was just ripped away from me, like some narky kid stormed in, grabbed his bat and ball and went home coz he didn’t want to play anymore.

Typically self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-interested couples. Selfish! That’s what it is, plain and simple. So typical and so fucking selfish.

One moment please: inhale – exhale – inhale – exhale… deep breath and relax. Sorry about all the swearys. It’s a bit much really, isn’t it? I’m clearly a little overwrought about all of this. Maybe I just need to get over myself a bit. It would be good to do something useful, something a bit proactive. I’ve been on the brink of setting up a support group in the past. ‘VORBSA’, I was going to call it: Victims of Relationship Breakups Support Association. Didn’t have much of a ring to it, though. It sounds more like something you’d use to medicate a sexually transmitted infection than a support network for needy grieving single friends of ex-couples.

Still if there’s any consolation to be had, I suppose it’s nice to be occasionally reminded that the ranty old man does actually has a heart. I just wish it didn’t feel slightly broken right now.

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