That's not something I learned from watching romantic comedies starring Jennifer Aniston or Sex and the City. It's a cold hard fact of life. It's not just about how long you were together ("Time makes lovers feel like they've got something real," Boy George once sang, but that's just romantic naivete), it's intensity of feeling, too. The more you care about someone, the harder it is not to.
That goes double for the ones who break your heart by cheating or stealing, or the ones who break up with you before you can dump them.
A friend of mine recently broke up with his boyfriend of two years after discovering that the BF had spent the majority of their time together getting it on with boys on the side while promising that my friend was the one and only. (However you feel about monogamy and whether humans are monogamous by nature, if you and your partner promise sexual fidelity to each other, then to each other you should be true.)
As my friend told me all about his ex's sexcapades (which I'd warned him about months earlier -- I've been around long enough to know a cheater when I hear about one), I kept thinking how great he looked. He was actually kind of glowing. If I didn't know better, or that he'd just finished a month-long detox, I might have thought he was pregnant. There was no evidence of crying. He obviously hadn't been skimping on the workouts. If looking good is the best revenge, then my friend certainly had gotten his.
But as I listened to him -- really listened -- I could see through both the glowing skin, the lack of tears, and the "I will survive" monologues. My friend was hurting. I loved that he was bravely carrying on, going out with friends, planning his future and not lying down and taking the mental beating that his ex had doled out.
At the same time, I was worried for him. I told him that it's great that he's doing okay, and he shouldn't let what his ex did to him run him into the ground and completely define his life, but it's just as important not to rush the process of grieving. Another friend of mine split up with her husband more than two years ago. Although she's since moved on romantically with a really great guy, she still has moments when she stumbles down into the depths over her failed marriage.
"You must be so sick of hearing me go on and on about this, she says." (Honestly, I'm not.) "I don't know why I still let it get to me so much." (Honestly, I do.) "There's no statute of limitations on crying over the end of a relationship or marriage," I once told her, urging her not to fight her feelings, or give in to them by curling up in a ball and going completely under, but rather to just learn to accept them and live with them. It's her party, she should cry if she wants to. (Personally, I prefer to go for a run, but to each his or her own.)
My two friends represent two sides of getting over love. One seems to be rushing through the stages of grief, skipping a few of them entirely. The other one keeps slipping back into them. Getting over a guy is like coming out of the closet. We all have to do it on our own schedule. I think it's probably more dangerous mentally to rush grief than it is to wallow in it because not properly dealing with your emotions practically guarantees that they will manifest later on in some inappropriate time, place and fashion.
I'm still working through my own feelings about the recent end of an affair. Some days I feel like I'm getting over it. Some days it's harder to see the silver lining. (And if last night's dreams are any indication, it's not over until it's over.) But every day, I get out of bed, I write, I work out, I take care of myself. I'd be lying if I said that it didn't take a bit more effort than usual, but it must be paying off. I hear I'm looking great, which I don't think of as being the best revenge (thankfully, in my case, there's nothing to avenge), but I hope those compliments keep coming.
As I think of my friend with the cheating ex, I kind of wish he'd allowed himself to be more vulnerable with me, to express sadness as well as anger over what happened. But I'm glad he wasn't letting himself go. Just because we feel like crap doesn't mean we have to look like it, too. It might not help you get over a guy in 10 days, but in my experience, the better you look, the better you feel. And even if it's not the best revenge, you'll be more likely to find someone who can help you temporarily -- and perhaps, eventually, permanently -- ease the pain.
No revenge necessary -- and isn't that the best revenge?
Five great songs about life after love (and no, "I Will Survive," which I've always despised, isn't one of them):
Patty Loveless "A Thousand Times a Day" Denial never sounded so lovely.
Shania Twain "Nah!" I've always wanted to sing this to a guy.
Phyllis Hyman "When You Get Right Down to It" I always love it when I get to sing this to myself.
Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige "I Used to Love Him" Two divas in tip-top musical and emotional shape.
"Believe" Cher Because it's all about life after love -- when still in love and when falling out of it.