The Duality of Love & Loss

A man and a woman standing close to one another in a doorway Photo: Alanna Bagladi

Breakups are supposedly a double-edged sword, but people always want to force you to choose one side over the other. For their sake and happiness they’d much rather you chose the “I am a strong, liberated, capable woman” track over “I feel sad, lonely, and unsure.” But here’s the truth: sometimes you are both. Sometimes I am both. Sometimes we are all both.

I fell in love with my best friend. Like many best friends’ love affairs, it was a long time coming. Our friendship matured naturally into romance and affection. The level of trust was unparalleled. After a short three months we had finally fallen into that clichéd silent rhythm where our hearts beat in tandem. Long distance only made the beat echo louder.

Two months ago we split. It wasn’t my choice; I’d thought we would grow old together. So did he. But priorities changed and others’ opinions redirected his focus to going abroad again. After six hard weeks of a process I like to call “Interactive Coping & Simultaneous Denial” I finally came to terms with what this meant:

  • Realization: It meant I didn’t have anyone I needed to remain loyal to except myself.

    • Emotions: It was isolating. It was liberating.

  • Realization: It meant I could come home and prioritize whatever I wanted.

    • Emotions: It was overwhelming. It was engaging.

  • Realization: It meant I wasn’t in a relationship with anyone.

    • Emotions: It was lonely. I was alone.

I had a dual-reaction to every truth. I am all of these because I am angry for how he hurt me, I am confused at why our relationship shifted so suddenly, I am happy to be independent, I am terrified of what will happen to our friendship, and I am excited that I can pursue whatever I want in life.

My life is full; full of activities, friends, and interactions; full of memories and love. My life is without a doubt more than just a breakup. But this breakup was also a part of me. Thus, it deserves validation. Too often we shove hurt away instead of giving it the time and fresh air it needs to heal.

However, the general consensus, typically from women no less, is that I need to get over this. That I need to move on. I need to date! I need to get out there! I need to see what real men look like! However, I would like to point out that just because my ex hurt me in the end does not disqualify his manhood. It does not erase the love we shared. It does not automatically signal that I am ready to give my heart, or anything else for that matter, to someone new. But perhaps they are right that it is time to move forward, if not “move on.”

To be frank, I don’t want to “move on” because I’m still dismantling our old dreams of our life together: partnered filmmaking, adventurous travel, and holding my best friend’s hand as our hair turned grey. But I also don’t want to “move on” because I don’t want to put down roots at my first job. I want to work abroad next, and then maybe news after that. The opportunities really are endless. One of the positive parts of significant life changes is that they force you to reimagine your future as a variety of lives you want to live. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get to live all of them.

That’s what I’m focusing on now. Because here’s the truth: I’m not ready to date. I’ve never had to date. I’ve never really wanted to date. I know that I will probably have to eventually. Maybe bit by bit I’ll fall in love with someone who will one day be my best friend. Perhaps in a few years my ex and I will run into each other and the timing will be better. The unsettling fact I have had to come to terms with though is that I simply don’t know. So instead I must do other things that make me happy.

I have a full-time job. I joined a film crew. I started pre-production for my own short. I called a local barn to see if I could ride again. I put “Play paintball” and “Learn to snowboard” on my bucket list. I watched a sappy episode from a TV show I love four times. Some days making myself happy requires different things – crying, laughing, exercise, the proverbial wine bottle. Whatever my coping mechanism, I am coping, just as we all do. However, I am tired of having this process rushed and my feelings made inferior.

We need to remember that healing takes time, for everyone. That despite being scared, I will be okay. That I’m sad, but I laugh, too. That I miss his arms around me when I sleep more than anything, but I’m starting to love that I can have all the covers.

Love is a double-edged sword. But there are some people that are worth both sides of the blade. Cherishing those memories does not weaken my ability to be independent, strong, or capable; it simply allows me to love what we had. And despite the pain and beauty in my post-breakup revelations, no matter what the future holds, I will always treasure that my best friend loved me back.