[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party.]
My girlfriend of four years just broke up with me last night. I’m totally devastated. Even though we’ve had our ups and downs, she just dropped me from out of nowhere. She also told me she cheated on me, which just makes this all worse. We had been dating since high school and I thought we’d be together forever. She said she wants to stay friends and to help each other through the breakup by staying in contact. My heart is shattered and I still love her, even though I’m also angry and so hurt. I can’t imagine how I can continue living a regular life without her. How do I stop all these feelings and forget about her?
Devastated Dumped Dude
Dear Devastated Dumped Dude,
You don’t stop all these feelings. You should feel devastated. Your heart should feel shattered. That’s how you can tell you were really in love, that you’re really alive, and you’re really a human being. It’s also how you can tell that you really allowed yourself to be truly open and intimate with someone else. Many people can’t handle the pain of really loving and caring about someone else, so they avoid intense relationships and the vulnerability that comes with them. You should take pride in the fact that you’ve been strong enough to be weak. The strongest people have the capacity to really let themselves feel. Sure, it hurts. But it’s also how you got to experience all those wonderful feelings too. Don’t let the pain trick you into closing your heart to the world and the future.
And don’t try and forget about her. Odds are you’ll remember her for the rest of your life and think about her constantly, even years and years after you’ve recovered from this initial onslaught of painful emotion. When you’re in a relationship with someone for a significant amount of time, they become part of you forever. You’ve exposed your soul to them, and whether you like it or not, they’ll retain their place in the story of your life for the rest of your time here on earth. But you’ll find that your memories and thoughts of them won’t always be painful. They won’t necessarily be enjoyable either. They’ll just be thoughts. Like remembering a dream. Don’t be afraid of your thoughts or your dreams or your nightmares. You can think about things without always having to feel emotions connected to the thoughts.
As far as “staying friends” and “helping each other work through the breakup,” I think that’s a bad idea. Many people I’ve met somehow stay friends with their exes, but I’ve never really done it and don’t understand how it works. No offense to those who pull it off, but my advice is to never feel it necessary to talk to your ex again, especially if they cheated on you. It’s something that has ended, like high school.
You don’t go back to high school after it ended and start taking freshman classes again just to keep in touch. You’ve moved on to a new part of your life. If you get fired from a job, you don’t go back and do some shifts just for fun to help your boss out. It’s over. You step forward into the next adventure that awaits. Have the courage to make a clean break. If you keep picking at the wound, it won’t heal as effectively and will keep re-opening. Be done with this and keep moving.
Most of all, stay strong. You will make it through this time. You will be stronger because of it. You will be OK again. In fact, you’ll be better than ever. You will meet a woman that’s the one. Probably when you least expect it. You will hurt and you will also feel excitement. Your attachment to the past will morph into curiosity about the future. Whatever you do, keep your heart open. Do not let this relationship be the end of your life. Let it be only the end of that time in your life. Now is the only time that matters. Your time with her wasn’t wasted. Every moment is precious, even the moments that suck. I’m thinking of you and sending you strength.
Your party will continue. In fact, it’s only just begun.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.