Getting over a break-up: happiness as performance

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I’ve been trying extremely hard not to write anything about my ex-boyfriend lately. Although I wrote a post about endings which I shared with people on Patreon, I didn’t publish that here in public and there’s been only one thing on the break-up diaries tag since the summer. Please dispense medals and cookies accordingly! Then immediately snatch those medals and cookies back, because inevitably I’m about to have some Big Feelings about him in this post! I’m allowing myself a quick burst of emotion for reasons that I won’t fully explain, but which I will try to justify with excuses that sound poetic but are only half the story. Getting over a break-up involves a lot of waffling and emotional incontinence! Strap in!

Ovens and pride

Since I moved to my new place, every single time I’ve used the oven, I have remembered to turn it off after cooking. This may not seem like a massive deal to you, but to my ex this would be news. It did his head in that I’d forget to turn the oven off, and he’d often roll his eyes at me when he walked into the kitchen two hours after dinner to find that yes, the fucking thing was still on. Again. I am a forgetful bellend sometimes, and I was always relentlessly bad at turning the oven off.

Yet now that I’m on my own, I remember to turn off the oven.

I am not entirely sure who ‘wins’ in this scenario. Him, because he can crow about how I was always capable of turning the oven off, but I’d fallen into laziness because he was with me to remember on my behalf? Or me, because I can crow about the fact that I have now learned to turn the oven off, like a Big Strong Girl, thus proving I can survive on my own without him?

It doesn’t matter who ‘wins’, really, because my actual feelings have very little to do with competitiveness. As I was pondering this last night, all I could think was ‘dude, guess what? I’ve learned how to turn the oven off!’ That’s my go-to thought, most of the time. When I think about him, I am sometimes sad and sometimes angry and always horny and missing his dick but the overarching emotion – now as always – is a desperate (irrational, unhelpful) desire for him to be proud of me.

To love me.

Pathetic? Of course! That is who I am.

Pride and pathology

I really love being single. I get excited about all the things I’m doing on my own – the plans I’m making and the arse I’m kicking and everything else. I boast to my friends and my family about life, hoping one of them will give me the ‘attagirl’ I always crave. But their ‘attagirls’ – no matter how heartfelt and enthusiastic – will never quite make up for the ones I spent ten years eagerly trying to earn from him. When I dug massive holes to lay a patio, made treasure hunts for him around the house so he could discover sweets and jokes each day I was away, wrote blog posts to try and capture the depth of my feelings, or that time I spent an entire week learning how to nail ‘American Idiot’ on hard mode on Beat Saber so when he returned from a work trip I could impress him with my skillz… I spent so much time thirsting for validation. Not just any validation: his.

That’s a tough habit to break. So even as I grow and change and fight and work and kick arse… put up new shelves and build other things and write different blog posts… there’s a little voice in the back of my mind that cannot help but whisper: ‘hey, are you proud of me?’

He won’t be. It would be utterly and completely absurd of me to expect him to be. But that’s where my head goes when I let my head go somewhere, so I try not to let my head stray too far from the here and now. That’s why I haven’t been writing about him.

But in not writing about him, or acknowledging the fact that I think about him a lot (every day. Every single day. Multiple times each day) I risk straying into dishonesty. Like I managed to successfully cut him from my life so that no traces of the love I had remain. And although droning indefinitely on the blog about just how much I miss him feels obsessive and unhealthy, acting like it’s no big deal doesn’t sit very comfortably either.

So I’m gonna let a little sigh of the weird/sad out today, team. Here goes: I still talk to him sometimes. Not actual him, but an imaginary version. I know. Pathetic. I sometimes tell him about my day. I tell him I wish he was here to help me attach mudguards to my bike or tell me how my computer works. I sometimes whisper to him, late at night, that I hope he’s OK and I wish I could hold him. And the other day I announced to him – to an empty kitchen – ‘hey, guess what?! I learned to turn the oven off!’


Sex blogging and exes

Why am I telling you this? I think it’s for the reason above, but I suspect there are other reasons too: like the fact that I can’t bear to think he might check in here, and see only joy and none of the mourning. To think that my lack of whining indicates that my love just disappeared.

He doesn’t read my blog any more. At least, I pray that he doesn’t. I joke about the beautiful pasture to which all my ex-boyfriends go after we break up, because the idea of them falling for brand new people makes my heart hurt. But imagine if my ex-boyfriends all had sex blogs? Pastures where they were publicly wallowing in other people’s fuckjuice, gleefully telling the world how much fun they were having without me, and I could step up and watch from the sidelines, torturing myself with their newfound joy?

Awful. Fucking awful. Beyond horrible. Genuinely my second-worst nightmare. My worst nightmare being, of course, me foisting that shit onto someone I love instead. And yet I won’t stop doing it. Quitting now would mean I have to close the door on something I started when I first fell for him, which he encouraged and supported me to do. Something which (I think, at least at the time) made him proud of me. It would mean tying the whole of GOTN to him, irreversibly.

What’s more, I need my job. Not only does it keep me happy, it also helps me pay my bills and I’m not sure how else I might go about doing that. I’ve contractual obligations that run me through to the end of 2022 and if I stop adding new ones now I won’t be able to pay the gas bill. Besides, who’s going to hire me for a ‘normal’ job? There’s a seven-year gap on my CV that can’t just be filled with a note in bold that says ‘FUCKBLOGGER: DO NOT ASK’.

If it were me, I would read. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. If my ex had a sex blog, I’d have to enlist tech-knowledgeable people to fuck with my router in ways I didn’t understand to make sure his site was blocked on all my devices. He doesn’t have much of an online presence but what he has, I have looked at. I don’t know what I’m looking for: there’s nothing there for me. I think I just like seeing that he’s still around. That he exists and persists.

I hope he’s OK.

I wonder about him all the time. Picture him sitting on his sofa or sock-sliding across his living-room floor. Imagine him tucked up and cosy in the bed he’d hyper-optimised for cloudlike, perfect comfort. I think of him sitting on his balcony at midnight and wonder if there’s anyone lucky enough to be sitting beside him.

Then I remind myself not to think about that because Jesus fucking Christ stop torturing yourself, GOTN, you massive twat.

Next, I try to be gentle with myself because it’s understandable to wonder about these things, and it’s not like we can turn off our emotions like a light switch (more’s the pity).

I am lucky enough to have almost no updates on him. Getting over a break-up is so much easier without any information about the other person, isn’t it? Yet despite my solid-gold luck in being given the gift of ignorance, I still crave updates anyway. I ask friends: have you heard from him? Is he OK? Many of them are still on his Facebook, I think. They can pop up in his WhatsApp whenever they want. They get the prize that I thirst so desperately for: they could literally see him if they wanted. Hug him! Smell him! Fucking touch him! I marvel at the idea that someone could have permission to do these things and yet not be trying to do them every single day. But then they are not hampered by the addictive love for him that I’ve had to work hard to try and put aside. This pathetic, weak, needy, thirsty love that so desperately wanted him to be proud of me.

The cloak of happiness

As I said at the start, I’m going to try and justify writing this post, and my justification will be weak: I think I’m writing it because I want those of you who have gone through similar heartbreaks to understand that part of getting over a break-up is performance. You put on your cloak of happiness – of confidence and enthusiasm and joy and fun – then go out into the world and fucking embrace everything you find. Fuck new people and hang out with your friends, go cycling in the rain and decorate your living room while singing showtunes, drink cider and plot a few fuckparties. Focus on the good things and try not to wallow in the sad, and pray that one day the sad things will fade. You shine a bright spotlight on the bits of your life that go well, and avoid mentioning that time when you sat on the floor weeping because you couldn’t fit mudguards to your own bike and that’s exactly the sort of thing he’d have been great at helping out with.

When things get bad, as they do, you remind yourself of all the reasons you broke up, because it’s easy to forget them when you’re right in the middle of missing the absolute fuck out of someone. As Dr Nerdlove so beautifully puts it: “nostalgia puts a soft blur on everything that dulls the sharp edges.” You talk to friends who remind you to trust your past self: the one who knew it had to end. Then once you’ve steeled yourself with sharper memories, you don your cloak of happiness again and smile and embrace everything that you’re able to enjoy now you’re single.

But for a long long time, that cloak is only ever a cloak. It doesn’t become part of your skin, not yet. It’s still just a costume that you’re putting on to avoid having to deal with the sad things that follow you everywhere. Those sad things will never disappear, of course, but they might fade enough that one day you can look at them without feeling like you’ve been dropped from a 5-storey building onto concrete.

In the meantime, though, despite your costume, memories will bubble up all the time – displaying this person’s face and their smile and their hands and their body curled up cosy on the sofa. The way they’d roll their eyes if you forgot to turn the oven off. Their shapely feet in colourful socks. That aching sensation, as you lie in bed, that perhaps they might just slip back in beside you.

I hope he’s well. I hope he’s happy. I hope he has lots of Lego and fun plans. I miss him so much.

The process of extricating him from my life involves a lot of missing. I go through patches where sometimes all I remember is the hard shit, and I let myself open a small black box of anger and really let rip with my feelings. Other times, like now, I go through a patch where I am utterly floored by even the echoes of how much I loved him, and I feel monstrously stupid for not being able to fix what was broken and keep all the things that I treasured.

So when I tell you I’m writing this post for you, I’d like to be telling the truth. But right now, on what WordPress tells me is the twenty-ninth edit of this waffle, I’ll be honest and say it’s more complicated than that. I’m partly writing this post for him, in case he still reads (please don’t, God I hope that you don’t), because I can’t bear for him to only see the cloak and assume that’s my new skin. I don’t want him to feel – even for a second – that he was just a sidenote in my life.

And I’m writing it for me too, because I am still here, and I don’t want that cloak to cover up how much he meant to me.

Because it’s over and I love him. Because everything still hurts.

Because I think about him every day.

And I learned to turn the oven off.




  • Silverdom says:

    GOTN, this reads like something I would write (‘though with considerably less skill than you) if I were ever to lose Silverdrop.

    Grief is a real thing. We just hope to get better at managing it.

  • Chris says:

    There is so much positivity in these. It was clearly something wonderful that, for whatever reasons, didn’t work out. And mourning something good is difficult. And valid.

    Personally, when I came out of a long-term relationship, I mainly had the negative stuff. The voice I heard in my head was the constantly critical one, and it compounded every mistake and failure for a long time.

    This isn’t a ‘oh, but mine was worse’ thing, because fuck that noise. Both are valid, both are different. And both are difficult to move past. But there are positives there, and I’m glad you had it and I’m sorry it’s still hurting. You clearly both rock, and processes take what they take as you move on.

  • EuphemiseThis says:

    I completely empathise with every single bit of this post. I really hope he’s not reading, but this post needed to be here just in case. Sending big hugs your way x

  • Purple Rain says:

    This is beautiful.

  • Ellie says:

    This made me cry like a baby, it is SO exactly how I feel. Thirsting for his validation, wanting to know he’s proud of you, jesus, that is spot on.

  • Jon says:

    This really hits home. I totally understand and feel all of it.

  • fuzzy says:

    Beautiful. Do be gently with yourself. I find that love never ends; as grief never ends — thank the small gods for that ” soft blur on everything that dulls the sharp edges”. But in not ending they temper us and smooth us and strengthen us, and one day I’m a smooth river rock in the stream of life.

    Blessed be.

  • L says:

    You type wonderfully along the fine line of sad and hopeful

    The performance thing applies applies to many aspects of life

  • Pinkgilly15 says:

    Beautiful and hear wrenching post GOTN I totally get the need for it, written with incredible skill and made me cry about the what ifs of loosing my love and knowing these feels XXX much much love huge hugs and take care XXX

  • katerina says:

    Thank you for this. It conjures feelings in me that I haven’t felt for a long time, but my body still remembers. It’s beautiful <3

  • Mel says:

    Thank you for this post, I was moved to tears in recognition of so many of your thoughts. Kudos for having the guts to get through 29 edits.

  • Boo says:

    This has me in tears GOTN. Thank you for your honesty. I can identify with a lot of it at the moment.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you so much Boo! I’m sorry you’re going through similar difficulties right now – I hope that you can embrace all the joy on offer and that soon the sad things fade for you too xxx

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