Breaking up is hard to do

by Matt Doran

This column is for anyone who has ever had their heart ripped out of their body, not just by tribal leader Mola Ram in an elaborate ritual, but by the person they love. If you don’t fall into this category, you are A. a pedophile; B. a priest; C. A and B; D. a vacuous beach bunny whose only real relationship is with a tanning-lotion bottle.

We have all suffered in life. I have known some awful feelings in my day. I’ve had mono. I’ve had a heatstroke. I’ve lived in Baltimore. I’ve been rejected by countless publications. I’ve lost two state rowing championships on technicalities. I’ve had to go to summer school my senior year of high school. My mother has been treated for cancer (and recently myself — gotta love melanoma). But nothing, positively nothing, feels worse than being told your significant other no longer loves you.

It is the most crushing blow a person can take. Tell me I’m a bad writer (OK, that’s a lie). Tell me I dance worse than a blind paraplegic. Tell me I smell like Bigfoot’s member. Tell me my mother was a hamster and my father smelled of elderberries. Just don’t tell me, out of the blue, that you no longer love me.

This is the person who, up until that very moment, said I was the most important thing in her life, that I made every day brighter, that I made the stars shine at night, who put up with my bad days and came back for seconds. I’m not talking about some half-assed relationship where we were sort of together, maybe had a comare, saw each other when it suited us. I’m talking about first thing you think about when you wake up, last thing you think about before falling asleep, head-over-heels, fate, destiny, Simba and Nala, Edward and Bella love. That shiz was fo’ reals.

And then it’s done. Our friends comfort us, tell us it’s going to be OK, there are plenty of fish in the sea. This girl cut open my chest, took a dinosaur dump on my heart and sewed me back up, and you’re telling me to get back out there and enjoy being single again? This just in: Being single sucks! Hard. I don’t want anyone else; I want her. But I have my pride, so there will be no desperate pleas.

So, how do we brokenhearted cope and attempt to move on? Party like Caligula? Buy stock in Ben & Jerry’s? The last time this happened I cranked the gangster rap mix on my iPod and ran ‘til my toes bled — literally. Me and Biggie grew quite close, and as he so wisely pointed out, “Things done changed.” It worked out well for my VO2 Max, but my heart was still tormented.

This time I tried a different approach. I raced my Volvo home and immediately set to work on my Costco-sized bottle of Pearl Vodka. I sat hunched in a corner in my undies sobbing and taking long draws of that clear nectar. I woke up hours later on the floor with a mysterious sizeable cut on my nose. I spent the next few days not eating much other than airplane nuts I found in my suitcase while rummaging around for things of hers to burn.

This behavior is surely similar if not identical to what many of you fellow broken hearts have gone through. And while it may feel good at the time, we all know it’s a myopic catharsis. That audacious beast is still out there, carrying on as if the last months didn’t mean anything, probably dating somebody new and better looking and smarter and funnier. And we wish that person has herpes and gets audited.


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If we take the time to give thought to what we did to cause our lover’s feelings to wane, we may see where we went wrong. Maybe we begin to see a clearer picture of ourselves, one where we recognize our flaws and either vow to change them or accept and embrace them. Or maybe we realize we didn’t do anything wrong at all, that we weren’t right for each other, that this was inevitable, that had this person not done it now we may have down the road.


I know what I did wrong. I let my anger and temper get the better of me. I thought it was just my New York edge, a slightly barbed personality alien to Californians but nonetheless charming. It wasn’t. It was a pattern of hostility that led to our ruin. I have nobody to blame but myself. I now have to wrestle with the issue of whether this negativity is who I am and having to find someone who appreciates it or at least tolerates it or figure out how to let go of that inclination to irritation and achieve a more peaceful demeanor, to be more mellow and “Californian.” Maybe I should join a collective.


A few weeks out I do realize she and I weren’t right for each other and that she did the mature thing by not allowing the relationship to continue. I wish her nothing but the best, and I hope she finds happiness, someone who treats her the way she deserves to be treated, with the kindness and affection I was unable to provide.


I am not the obnoxious prick I was only weeks ago. I’ve made improvements with my temperament, and I know what to watch out for in my next relationship. My heart is fully healed, and my soul is on the path to serenity. But I am still a New Yorker, which means I am better than you and will berate you at the slightest provocation.


So what is the point of this column? What am I trying to say to the broken Aztec hearts? Don’t be bitter. Don’t wish your exes ill. Don’t pray they come down with the clap (because it’s State and they probably already have it). Remember fondly the good times in your relationship and reflect on the bad ones. Learn from your mistakes, because no relationship is perfect. Be the person you want to be and find someone who wants that person too.

And if my words haven’t provided any solace, just remember: B— ain’t s—.


-Matt Doran is a creative writing graduate student and hopeless. Email him at to commiserate.