Column: On Breaking Up

©Collage / Oriane Baud

In her latest column Paulina Czienskowski writes about love and what happens when it ends

There are a lot of ways to say goodbye. And still, breakups are somehow always nauseating. It doesn’t matter whether you were the one who left or the one who was left. It doesn’t matter how it was done. Facts are facts: You’re alone again. And the pain will only disappear with time. But, first that time has to pass.

Someone is out there in the world with whom you shared your life, someone you confided in – maybe for a long time, maybe for not such a long time. That person believes they know who you are. With all of that, this person is now out there buzzing around, free and uncoupled. And, at some point, everyone looks for their next love. The one who can show them once again how beautiful a shared life can be.

It’s crazy how interchangeable this concept of love becomes. By now, that’s been given a name. In his book The Course of Love, the philosopher Alain de Botton soberly explains that one could, theoretically, fall in love with anyone. There’s hope in that. And, by the way, he also says that we all wouldn’t understand that relationships aren’t defined by a romantically charged beginning.

No, you dear hopeful and hopeless lovers! Love stories start, as de Botton says, when you’ve left all of that behind you: When routines and problems, children and affairs, have become a reality. Only, not everyone seems to recognize that. The flight reflex to run from the responsibility of the “we” is, for many, greater than the strength to fight for it together. My god, these damned nibble feet we have…

De Botton also says that love relationships are subject, naturally, to phases. On one side, at least it never gets boring. On the other side, it means work. And a lot of it – with each other, and on yourself. Recognize your patterns, deal with them, and find a way to work through them. Love is work – admittedly, that sounds like a clumsy phrase you’d read on a calendar, but it’s a unique truth.

But back to breakups, that nauseating thing during which everyone develops their own mechanism to lift themselves out of the pain. Good! Keep going! But, that’s just something to say: Breakups are, certainly and without fail, painful. Only it doesn’t usually help replacing the pain with hate for your ex-partner, as many think. If you’ve been cheated on, deceived, or physically mishandled, then absolutely go ahead! But otherwise, the nauseating quickly becomes ugly.

So, the cleverer among us remain loving and maybe even travel back to the beginning in our thoughts – which de Botton describes as being somehow unrealistic – quickly bringing ourselves back to reality. Remembering how you actually spent time with that person can be painful, but can also make it easier.

All of the negative energy that one otherwise sprays in an audibly resentment-filled environment after the “we” ends, it hoses you far too much. But, it’s exactly this wasted energy that you need in this moment, and more than ever. So all the better to let gentleness reign, and also for egotistical reasons – in our eternal quest for mindfulness, it’s the best way to finally, finally, pass the time when the end has come.

Translation: Melissa Frost