In the days and weeks following a breakup I fall into the “woe is me” camp— constructing a monologue about what a waste of time my last relationship was.
My shrink has long told me that this is irrational, but a woman scorned is rarely rational.
I recently wrote out a program in my new novel, Love Rehab, about how to get over a breakup in a productive and gratifying manner. One of the very productive steps was expressing gratitude—or finding the silver lining in every single relationship.
I am a big proponent of practicing what you preach and so I catalogued the silver linings of my past relationships. Lo’ and behold there was one for each and every single one.
Here are my 6 favorites.
1. My high school boyfriend, KS taught me how to drive when I was 14 and he was 16 (the age difference now feels a little pervy to me). This was why I learned to K-turn in a vintage Mustang convertible that was the spitting image of Dylan McKay’s car on “Beverly Hills 90210.”
2. I was so angry when my college boyfriend began dating a freshman while I was studying abroad in Australia. I hated him. I hated the freshman. But over the years I found myself starting to like her more and more. She is hilarious and wonderful and to this day I still talk to her and not to him. He just handed me over an awesome lady friend.
3. There was the stridently Catholic alcoholic who I swear sprinkled me with holy water in my sleep and would ring up his priest after some of our dates was a fan of long-distance biking (during the day, while sober) and made me fall in love with 100-mile long bike rides out from Manhattan out to the far reaches of Long Island.
4. I don’t think it was my idea to adopt a gimpy mutt from a woman sitting on the northwest corner of Union Square one summer afternoon in 2009. It was a mutual decision borne in the throes of new romantic lust, the kind that tricks you into thinking you may just be together forever. We weren’t together forever, but that gimpy little mutt, now a robust 100+ pound beast and I have a understanding that til’ death do we part. He didn’t, but she does complete me.
5. The douche political consultant I dated in Philadelphia may have called me a turkey on a consistent basis, but he did instill in me a strong appreciation for the musical stylings of the band Boston.
6. My most recent silver lining may be the most convoluted and yet most rewarding consequence of a bad relationship. About five years ago I dated a gentleman who loved love. He loved love with about 37 other women while we were seeing one another. The breakup was epic and destructive. Yet, I somehow managed to remain friends with his roommate, an altruistic genius who helped me research my first book. That roommate would later put me in touch with another friend in New York, in the hopes that we would become buddies. We became buddies online, chatting on email and Facebook and nearly a year later opted to meet in person. I decided to bring along a couple of friends and so did he. The friend that he brought is now my boyfriend and quite possibly the most wonderful person I have ever decided to mingle romantic feelings with.
I can’t dispute the fact that breakups are the worst. But sometimes they are also the best. We date people for a reason. However brief the co-mingling of our lives tends to be, there is some part of them that makes us happy that can linger long after the shininess of a new relationship has dulled to a dingy afterthought.
Extracting the good from the bad may help lessen the sting from the breakup. Sure, it feels better in the moment to scream and shout and send emails with the litany of reasons that the most recent ex may have ruined your life. But, there is always that one thing left behind that makes the trauma worth it, otherwise we really wouldn’t have a reason to go out and do it all over again.