The Only Difference That Matters Between Adult Breakups And Young Love Breakups


Last night, my two best friends opened an OKCupid account for me while I lie on the hardwood floor of one of their living rooms, cursing the universe for not making me a lesbian and cuddling a grey cat named Eddie, who I happen to be terribly allergic to.

We were almost out of Kraken rum and they were bored, and they were clearly determined to channel the sharp, stingy remains of my recent break-up into a rum-induced search for love on the internet. Although slightly misguided, their intentions were sincere.

While they put up all of my prettiest pictures from Facebook and tried to put enough words together in a row to write a profile, I drunkenly declared that all men were terrible and insisted that I was totally okay with dying alone at the age of ninety-seven, still cuddling the allergen-inducing cat.

“It’s going to be fine,” Jessica reassured me while she and Sarah scrolled through the list of available bachelors and favorited the ones they liked. “If nothing else, you’ll get a bunch of messages from guys telling you how pretty you are. And you never know, maybe you’ll fine one really sweet guy to date and he’ll treat you like a princess and then you’ll feel better.”

She gave me a giant grin from her place at the computer, and then went back to arguing with Sarah over whether they should be favoriting hipster dudes or bros.

Jessica has always been a glass-is-half-full kind of gal, and so far it has worked out for her. She’s perfectly content letting the good things in life just be good, while I have to examine the origin and truth behind every circumstance. I simultaneously admire and am extremely jealous of her unbridled ability to be happy.

“Besides, you just need to bang someone anyway,” Sarah added. She’s always been the realistic one of our little group. A really tough, pick-yourself-up-by-the-brastraps kind of girl. “Get that sadness shit out of your system. You’ll feel better.”

We spent several more hours in that same position, with the girls scrolling through photos, “shopping” for a new man in my life, while I guzzled the remaining rum from my place on the hardwood floor. They continued to ignore me while I repeatedly damned the entire male species. I ended the night in a drunken stupor, cuddling Eddie the cat in Sarah’s spare bed.

Eddie the cat—like most of the men I’ve slept next to in my life—ended up being a very poor decision. I woke up this morning with allergy-swollen eyeballs and a terribly dry throat because Eddie had decided to curl up near my head, giving his fur allergens the most direct pathway possible into my poor, asthmatic lungs.

After I finally summoned enough gumption to find my purse and keys, I whispered a pathetic goodbye in the direction of Sarah’s room and walked out into the sunlight to discover that I was still going through a break-up, I was still sad about it. The mounting OKCupid messages piling up in my newly acquired inbox had not changed a thing. And my friends’ advice, as true as it may be, hadn’t changed my mind either.

The truth is, adult break-ups just suck. They really, really do. They feel far shittier than any other type of relationship ending a girl experiences in her youth or early twenties. When you’re an adult—and I mean a real adult, like with a 401k and over a decade of serious dating history—untangling your life from someone else’s is a messy, detailed, and unbelievably complicated process. And with all of the other pieces of life pulling you in other directions, the thought of ever picking up and moving on with someone new just seems exhausting and futile.

Adult breakups can make you feel like the earth is swallowing you. Like a part of your identity has been stripped away. Like you placed a high-stakes bet and are watching the dealer swipe all of your chips away from you in slow motion.

Unlike the breakups of your youth, the most natural way to respond to this type of heartbreak as an adult is to take action. You’re used to solving problems by now, so why not this one? You look for an answer, a gameplan, a method to pull yourself out of the shitstorm that is your grown-up broken heart.

You quickly discover that there is nothing you can do to circumnavigate the sadness. No matter how many other guys tell you how pretty you are, or buy you drinks in clubs, or ask you for your number, none of them are the guy you that you just abruptly stopped sharing your life with. Nothing feels the same. And that is the hard, unavoidable truth about your current situation.

I hope my friends are right. I hope I will be fine, eventually. Even though I know that relationship closure can’t be forced through casual sex with strangers or random online dating messages about my pretty hair.

Maybe I’ll wake up one day, not cuddling an asthma-inducing cat, and feel perfectly alright about my place in the world and the person I’ve just left behind. Maybe one day I won’t feel a stab of loss and regret every time I hear his name. Maybe I’ll get through this separation the same way I survived breaking up with my high school boyfriend over a decade ago, or that guy I fell hard for in college. Maybe time will simply heal this too.

Until then, I suppose, I’ll spend my extra time writing. Just as soon as I delete this goddamn dating app.