The Breakup Choice

My first mistake in the relationship was unintentionality. I slid into the relationship without actively deciding to be together. In the end, my needs weren’t met, this relationship wasn’t even recognized, and I felt stressed and lonely.

I didn’t make a good decision to be together, but I strived to make good ones after breaking up. This post was about a series of intentional choices I made. After the breakup, I didn’t want to jump into another relationship because I wanted to process my journey and learn from it thoughtfully. I reflected on it almost every morning, pondering my thoughts, feelings, and choice. It had around 15000 words now.

Should I break my no-contact rule?

I initially told my ex not to talk after the breakup. Yet, I couldn’t hold my no-contact rule after a week. I wanted to contact her desperately. I discussed this with my friends; I saw three options

  • Option 1: No contact
  • Option 2: Still contact each other. Not cutting clearly, or even becoming friends with benefits.
  • Option 3: Bang it out.

Option 1, the no contact rule was the toughest. For Option 2, I saw a friend of mine still visiting her ex almost every day after the breakup, declaring they were just friends. Another friend of mine said she loved being friends with benefits with her ex to enjoy the same physical and emotional benefits without asking for unmet expectations. For Option 3, it was convenient to find a temporary replacement.

My heart hated Option 1. I needed to clench my teeth, actively controlling myself when I woke up every day. When I was almost ready to give up, a friend shared her experience of breaking the non-contact rule. She said, “When we talked again. My ex appeared so happy, which made me angry that I was the only one suffering. So I hurt him, and I felt bad doing about it afterward.” Hearing this, I decided I didn’t want to hurt my ex.

Another friend of mine tried to explain the benefits of becoming friends with benefits. She said, “He respected me so much more. I let go of my expectation and just enjoyed the physical and emotional intimacies that we had.” Nevertheless, what did this relationship mean then? It was burying your head in the sand, pretending problems didn’t exist. It was a stagnant relationship that was going nowhere. I couldn’t see myself in a place that only enjoyed short-term benefits but not long-term visions. Getting stuck there would also block me from good things in the future because I couldn’t move on. So I said no. I completely cut out Option 2.

I was left with Option 3. I could find someone to bang out my desire, angst, and sadness. I wasn’t interested in a new relationship or having casual sex, but I desperately wanted to do something that would alleviate my pain. My housemate asked me, “If you seek to bang it out as a solution, your neurons would be associated with the same triggers next time you break up. Won’t you always go through this path?”

“No,” I whispered, so I remained with Option 1.

This was one of the most difficult choices I made, especially when I knew my ex was still eager to talk to me. All the choices at every moment of not contacting were on me. It was a choice that heavily taxed my mental and physical health, but I was very proud of this choice. Choosing Option 1 paused the relationship, so I could put all my energy into reflecting on my thoughts and emotions rather than dealing with dramas. I didn’t use work to distract myself because I took my learning seriously. I didn’t want to carry all the unprocessed mistakes and problems in my future relationships.

Friends who chose Option 2 were still trapped in their relationship, creating more fights and complicated tangles with their ex. At some moment, I could also feel my heart was full of hatred, and I would take my revenge on my ex if we were in contact. I’m proud that I prevented myself from stabbing when I already held the knife in my hand.

I was also thankful for my past that I didn’t choose Option 3 because it signaled to me — if I could deal with my emotional tsunami.

Beyond the no-contact rule, I summoned my energy to make good and intentional decisions. I attempted damage control, mostly masking my ex’s name or awful things to protect her reputation in the school. I strived to resolve all the dramas with my ex-related people, even if it meant opening my injury again. I knew I could make my ex’s life very difficult in this school, but I chose not to do it. But it was no joking that all these decisions came with a high cost. I made my life even more painful, and all the vomiting and retching were real.

When I ended my story here, someone asked, “Why aren’t you thinking of making a good decision for yourself? Why aren’t you thinking of self-development?”

The real question here is, what does “good” mean here? Good in the short term and long term has an entirely different implications. Good in the short term means I will choose Option 2 or Option 3, so I will be happier and healthier at the moment. But it also takes away my chance of learning and growing up, becoming someone that develops principles and clarity from mistakes.

All the choice implies who I am or how I attempt to develop myself. When happiness and self-development conflict with interests, what would you choose? The path of least resistance through Option 2 and 3 or maximizing your growth and preparing for a new and better future by the lonely and painful Option 1?

Maximizing growth and preparing for a better future seemed to be way too ideal to say right after breakups, but deep in my heart, the two major forces that drove me were — “I don’t want to hide from problems and mistakes” and “I don’t want to be that kind of person.”

They were all negative structure, “I don’t,” rather than a positive, “I want,” because the breakup was such a challenging experience that I stopped thinking of thriving but trying to survive with the minimum baseline of my character in mind.

Though it sounds scary, it’s universally applied to everything. To test the quality of a code, you need to experiment with edge cases; to understand the quality of a theory, one needs to actively search for all the instances that the theory cannot explain. To understand a person’s quality, you look at all their choice made through difficult times.

Through the breakup, I learned how to handle grief, anger, and desire. I learned greater love, forgiveness, and empathy. I wouldn’t have the growth if I hid in my work or hid in the arms of another person. I knew sometimes I might want to treat myself gentler, but it’s a non-negotiable that I would always strive for a better choice in my life.