Blindsided Breakup, One Year Later: Conversation & Closure

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote the piece about my Blindsided Breakup, and technically almost 2 years since the actual breakup, which feels insane to say, but…time really does fly. And that post is STILL getting traffic. I literally just answered a bunch of comments from a few weeks ago.

That’s the thing about heartbreak. It’s unfortunately pretty “evergreen” in terms of content.

I get emails about it, comments, and DM’s on Instagram from people on a monthly basis. Probably because, much like me at the time, the broken-hearted collective are looking EVERYWHERE for answers, and breakups happen every damn day all over the world. I remember Googling “blindsided breakup” and reading anything that felt like it resonated. So, needless to say, I get it. And that’s why I titled it “Blindsided Breakup.”

The one question I get a lot is “how are you doing NOW?” and here’s the good news: I’m pretty great! AND I’m still single. Dating, but single. Not sure if that’s considered good news to some (especially my parents), but I think it says a lot because I’m not out here trying to tell you that I feel better simply because I found my true love after my horrifying blindsided breakup. I managed to get over it and bounce back 100% on my own, and I think that is probably the most encouraging bit of information I can give you.

Now, before I get into the details of how I did that, I should mention that I DID end up speaking to my ex (we call him Steve here) earlier this year. February 2022, to be exact. I didn’t want to write about it at all, but I think this might be helpful to anyone going through it, knowing that there is light at the end of that tunnel, ya know? AND, since I spoke to him, I even asked for his permission to write this (which I didn’t have to do, but I will explain why I did in a minute), to which he obliged right away. No drama.

I reached out to Steve on Christmas Eve 2021. I figured that was a good “excuse,” not to mention people are usually a lot nicer to each other because “holiday spirit” and all that bullshit. He responded within 20 mins and was shockingly nice and open to chatting, which made me annoyed that I didn’t reach out sooner, but I also needed to make sure I was ready and if I’m being honest, I really wasn’t ok for a long time. That breakup really rocked me and changed me as a person. I can say it changed me for the better (more encouraging news for you broken hearts out there!), but there are things that I’m definitely still working through in therapy. Not going to pretend I’m completely free of issues after that.

But anyway. I want to be respectful of him so I won’t overshare too much about our conversation, but by the time we actually coordinated time to chat, it was February. We spoke for nearly 2.5 hours on the phone (seriously), and the one thing that shocked me to my core, was that he thought he was “being kind” to me, and that I was being “aggressive and hostile” towards him. I said, point blank, “what you did was the most unkind thing you could do to someone.” But this is why perception is reality. I felt like I was being patient and giving him space. He thought he was being kind. And neither of us felt that from the other person. Which is what ultimately led to our downfall: lack of communication.

I don’t think he really understood the extent of how hurt I was until that phone conversation, so I made sure to let him know. Not because I wanted him to feel guilty, but because it was really just not fucking fair. And I know life isn’t fair, trust me, no one knows that more than I do (read here, you’ll get it), but so many men do this to women and get away with it, and I was kind of done with accepting that. It’s why I reached out in the first place. It was clear he wasn’t about to be the bigger/better person here.

I am all for having empathy, patience, and seeing the other side. But when the other person isn’t telling you their side and shuts you out because it’s what “they” need, why does it not matter what “I” need?? I’m a person too, dammit. There has to be a compromise. Being the bigger/better person doesn’t feel as satisfying when you blink and the person you shared a bed with is now a stranger who refuses to speak to you as if you killed their family.

Oh and, for what it’s worth, I know this happens the other way around too. Women do this to men. People do it to people. I’m not out here man-hating, but believe me the bulk of the comments and messages I get are from women. It’s science. Because most men have this innate ability to flip a switch and shut down. Which is basically what Steve did.

That said, I don’t think Steve is a monster or a bad guy. I just think he had no idea how to handle it, so he flipped that switch and ran from it as fast as he could. He ran all the way to Chicago (lol). But when I spoke to him, he was basically the same Steve. Still goofy, still sweet. That part made me a little sad, because it reminded me of how well we used to get along, but in a way it was nice to know that I didn’t dream this man up. Because there were times when I questioned that. I really thought I imagined this wonderful person and wonderful boyfriend. Did I romanticize him and all the things we did? Was our life together some kind of cruel joke? No, it was real. But he dove in way too deep and couldn’t find his way out. It started to make sense a little, the more we talked.

You should know that ultimately, he didn’t share anything revolutionary with me. There was no one else (the most shocking bit of news to me), no “one thing” that ruined it all, no mental breakdown, no second family (this is a joke), no nothing. He just didn’t see me as his longterm person, didn’t really know why (still), and had to get out. He admitted that he could have handled parts of it better (all parts, in my opinion), and he also admitted to not feeling resolved after the few fights we had when we were together, aka there was a lot more bottled up between us that I didn’t know about. I’m not a mindreader so that felt unfair to me, but again, the whole thing was, so no point in trying to change it now.

One thing I got from him that definitely helped: knowing that he did love me, that he did in fact miss me at times, and even had a few moments of regret. I know that sounds ridiculous and maybe pathetic, but I really didn’t know that. My friends used to give me *that look* and ask “do you REALLY think he didn’t love you??” And I’d say “I have no idea anymore.” The way he ended that made me question every part of it. And that’s not a lie. I really didn’t know what to believe and it made me feel INSANE. I couldn’t believe that anyone who loved me could do that to me and be ok with it. I know he wasn’t “ok” with it, but he never once faltered, and he never looked back.

If you read the first piece, you’ll know that what hurt most was the lack of outreach at ANY point in time. Not one moment of weakness, not one “I miss you” drunk text. At the end of the day, that was probably the kind thing to do (aka not fuck with my emotions), but it fucked with my head MORE because it made me feel like I meant absolutely nothing to this person. We lived together and loved each other and he didn’t break ONCE? Not ONE moment of one too many beers at happy hour where he felt a little pang of regret and wanted to hear my voice?? Nope. It sucked, no other way to put it. But, turns out, he did have a few moments where he thought “did I make a mistake?” Didn’t change anything for him obviously and he still didn’t reach out, but it helped ME to know that I was, in fact, missed.

Now, as for the “how” I got to the point where I can confidently say “I’m doing great,” that’s kind of a mixed bag of things. But I guess you could say that in addition to “trauma drive,” which is very real (aka I worked my ass off last year and didn’t date anyone), I really just leaned in to all the little things that make me happy. And reading. I read A LOT of books, most of which were breakup books. List of those here. But then I moved into work and creativity type books (hence the main image of this post).

Also, I don’t think you need to take THAT long to date again, but I was very scared of getting hurt and I had zero desire to deal with another human. Thankfully I’m not a big attention seeker or a flirt, so it wasn’t difficult for me to avoid dating.

I eventually got to a point where I felt confident in my own skin again. It took a while, but it happened. I’m very strong willed, stubborn, and I don’t like letting the actions of others dictate how I feel about myself. I know, deep down, that I’m a catch. I have my issues and my flaws like everyone else, but overall, I think I’m worthy of someone great. Because I believe that I’m someone great. And even in my lowest moments post-breakup, where I felt cursed and unlovable, I knew that that just wasn’t true.

Just because one person doesn’t love you or see your value doesn’t mean you’re never going to find someone who does. BUT it 100% feels like that in the moment, and I’m not discounting that. It’s really painful to be left in this way and it makes you question EVERYTHING. Including your self worth and your sanity. And let me tell you: people you date can smell that shit. I got into actual fights with guys on FIRST dates if they peppered me too much about my breakup. Not trying to scare you but I’m just saying…make sure you’re ready before you dive back in because I sure as hell wasn’t until this year.

For me, the biggest challenge I faced (and still face), is trusting my gut. No alarms ever went off in my gut about Steve, and he burned me. Really fucking badly. So, to say dating has been a challenge would be an understatement (see above). THAT SAID, it’s also been fun again – I’ve met some really cool people, some of whom became new friends.

If this experience has taught me ANYTHING, it’s that I am going to be ME no matter what. I felt 100% like myself in that relationship and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The negative side of my brain could sit here and go “ok but maybe that’s the reason he left? Lol” but even if it were, why on earth would I want to be with someone who doesn’t LIKE the real me?? So when it comes to dating, I let my freak flag fly and take no prisoners. For example, my Family Guy Stewie impression is my voice prompt on my Hinge profile. You have to be a very specific kind of weird to be into me and I want that to be known. I’m 38 and I’m not playing games.

I have definitely made mistakes with dating in the past year and a half, but I’m learning from them. You can unapologetically be yourself and also know when something needs work. For example, I can be very blunt and sometimes my delivery can be deemed “aggressive” by others, and I had that come up in an argument with someone I was seeing over the summer. So, I’m learning to take that down a notch since that was clearly a problem in my last relationship too. I don’t want to be viewed as some scary monster, so that is something I want to change about myself now. On the flip side, if someone has an issue with my sarcastic sense of humor, then I just chalk it up to not being right for each other, because that’s not something I want to change. Make sense?

I thought talking to Steve and getting that “closure” I was so desperately seeking was going to make everything better. I thought it would make it all make sense. And spoiler alert: it didn’t. It helped a little to push me forward, but it was hardly everything I needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I think closure is important and in those few months post-breakup when I felt like someone was ripping my heart out, I could have very much used that conversation. But a year later? I can’t say it drastically changed anything for me, because I had already done so much grieving, so much crying, and so much self reflection on my own. It was nice to rid myself of the negative energy and I’m glad he took the time (finally) to give me what I deserved, but it didn’t make anything magically better. The only person who was capable of doing that was me. So unfortunately – that cliche statement of “closure comes from within” is true. NO ONE hates admitting that more than me; I promise you that statement infuriated me for MONTHS.

Fun fact: we even got into an argument at one point! You know why? Because that’s what happens when you don’t talk about it for an entire fucking year. That’s truly why closure is important. It just sits there all bottled up otherwise. I do think space is necessary and cutting off communication is helpful for healing, but a few months of that would have been just fine. I didn’t need to wait an entire year for this conversation.

So I guess my (hopefully) inspiring message to you is this: don’t give up on love because someone gave up on you. Learn to love yourself again, because that’s sometimes even harder. But when you do, you’ll feel free. And by then, all the closure in the world won’t change your opinion of you.

10 Comments

  1. Great piece – i think you really got across how you felt and what that was like to deal with. As a side note I also genuinely want to hear the Stewie impression – future IG story perhaps?

  2. Very well written!!!

  3. Mary Beth Anderson

    Well said, Dara. I wish I had had that level of insight into myself at 38. Took another 20 years for me. Hope you find someone to have romance with, but you are a completely beautiful person on your own as well. Love that you are still dancing. Love following your adventures in food and life. All best in 2023.

  4. I loved reading this. It 100% does get better and when it does, you have a record year.

  5. Thank you for being you- for putting yourself out there, for helping to normalize thing- which some of these things didn’t have to be, but ya :/. I recently had a blindsided friendship (of almost 10yrs) breakup via text followed by radio silence. It has eaten me alive. Hurt sucks…. At almost 37, I too am single (maybe by choice- so much of my own issues I’m forever working on), and now thinking about freezing my eggs- but that’s a whole other thing. Anyway, it’s so weird when we say “you seem so great” to people we follow on IG that we truly don’t even know in real life. However; you truly present yourself as so genuine and transparent. Thank you for that and know that will get you so far and so much you want 💛.

    • Thank you for this amazingly kind message. And I know allll about friendship breakups too, I should write about some of them. They can hurt just as much! But I believe in things working out the way they’re supposed to. <3

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