At one time I felt that Jonathan, aka Darth Vader, was the “Man of My Dreams” – my “last lover” (and exactly how many “lovers” will i desire to accumulate? Very few may be the hope-). Weird how one can believe in fairytale romance, even in one's Golden Years, or maybe it is simply me.
Alas, we crashed the day he rushed into our bedroom, inside a highly agitated state, to inquire about, “Have you been thinking of moving out?” We had not been getting along well, though I did not realize it was that bad. But within 2 days I'd packed my essentials and moved out. Easy breezy, pandemic be damned. And never particularly onerous, as breakup stories go.
So, what went down? Months were spent agonizing over this question. Darth is really a gifted teacher and writer, but talking about relationships wasn't his forte. What went wrong was left to my imagination, apart from him telling me he needed “space,” and criticizing a few my quirkier, but certainly not revolting, personal habits.
But still, within the dead of night I would obsess about whether I was inherently unworthy. Girlfriends and family were my therapists/detectives in getting through all of the unpleasantness of loss, rejection, and uncertainty.
Narratives Don't Always Match!
The last time Darth and I spoke, he offered his brand new narrative. Introducing a heretofore unknown theme into the story of us, he advised me that I had always been smitten with him, while his feelings have been more lukewarm.
We lived together not out of love, but while he was helping me out during a rough patch. I did not know any one of this! The narrative stung, who have been the intended effect, you never know. He actively revolted against any suggestion that his scenario was under just right.
But consider it. Using a palatable, realistic narrative for life's setbacks goes a long way towards putting an end to late night obsessing. Darth has this great narrative he struts around with, but what about me?
Why does he get to characterize me as a loser? Can one right this wrong? So why do I care what he says about me to individuals I'll never meet or never see again? Or worse yet, has he just stopped referring to me?
Lauren Howe, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Stanford, wrote an item in The Atlantic addressing the strength of narrative when rejection occurs (“Why Some People Take Breakups Harder Than Others”).
In it, she said: “The stories we tell ourselves about rejection-can shape how and how well we cope with it.” People who believed they were rejected due to an immutable personal flaw suffered more greatly than people who either accepted rejection as part of life, or understood that two wonderfully great individuals are not necessarily great together.
People who believed these were rejected because of a fixable personal flaw also did well, the flaw could be fixed, life continues.
Personal Psychology Affects Memory
In The New Yorker magazine, Elizabeth Loftus, a controversial but respected psychologist specializing in memory, says:
“Our representation of the past assumes a full time income, shifting reality. It is not fixed and immutable, not a place long ago there that is preserved in stone, but a living thing that changes shape, expands, shrinks, and expands again, an amoeba-like creature” (“Past Imperfect”).
In a Ted Talk, Loftus said:
“Part of memory may inform us who you want to be. There's scientific evidence that people distort our own memories in a positive or prestige enhancing direction without other people intervening.”
“Distortions can occur in the minds of people who are otherwise trying to be honest.”
“Maybe memories are who we prefer to be.”
Are there gender variations in how people process breakups, thus shaping their narratives? Women normally get the benefit of speaking with friends regarding their breakups. We help each other create narratives that help make things more palatable.
My sister rewrote my Darth narrative to state which i had actually sent him away (by so readily and easily leaving), conveniently bypassing the pair of that time period that I attempted to win him back. But on good days, I completely and highly endorse her form of events.
When I am with friends, we quite often pass time analyzing and discussing the male psyche. We exhume, poke, and prod in their inner lives, sometimes with great authority, sometimes with wishful thinking, Tarot Cards, and pseudoscience. Typically, these sessions are exciting but equally important, also healing.
According to a study conducted at Binghamton University and University College London, “women tend to be more negatively affected by breakups, reporting higher levels of both emotional and physical pain.”
Nonetheless, “women have a tendency to recover more fully and come out emotionally stronger.” Will the processing we do with this friends help create more sensibly robust narratives? Are men's narratives stilted if they occurred strictly in your brain?
Could this explain why Darth's narrative felt so off? He had nobody but me to tell him he was wrong and why would he choose to listen to me?
According to the Binghamton study, “men [-] never fully recover – they simply move on.” These researchers boiled the differences right down to biology:
“Put simply, women have evolved to take a position far more inside a relationship than men. A short encounter could lead to nine months of pregnancy followed by many years of lactation to have an ancestral woman, as the man might have left the scene literally minutes after the encounter, with literally no further biological investment.”
Women seek quality mates, men just kind of float around? Oh, how I hate it when every day life is boiled down to biology. And if there really is credence to this line of thought, do we continue to be impacted by biology in our Golden Years?
Is There the right Way to Heal?
The internet is full of books, stories, and articles about how exactly you have to “heal” after a breakup in order to move ahead in a positive fashion. With all of due respect to the counseling field, psychotherapists are most likely spending money on the holiday homes from earnings counseling abandoned clients.
Some would reason that healing and self-examination is unnecessary. The BBC reported the findings of a City University of NY study from the psychological well-being of people who had recently split up. Claudia Brumbaugh, a psychologist who studies adult attachment says that individuals who quickly start new relationships “feel well informed, desirable, and loveable.”
“There weren't any cases where people who were single were better off.” Apparently, individuals who quickly rebounded right into a new relationship experienced that “their relatively uninterrupted relationship status allows their lifestyle to flow smoothly because they transition from one partner to another.”
Now this really is great storyboarding! Person A thought I wasn't good enough, but this is a wonderful Person B who thinks I'm amazing! The content procedes to suggest that people, who report personal growth carrying out a breakup, might actually be kidding themselves. Telling oneself that life is better is really a way of soothing the ego.
But of course there are caveats. “Quick rebounders also are usually people who had difficulties with insecurity in their previous relationships.”
Now I am confused. It's supposedly okay if I rebound quickly, but only if I am not insecure? Who is not insecure, on some level? How do you know if my degree of insecurity is high enough to fall under this new category? And when I'm improving my self-esteem, how do you determine if it's really improved, or am I just selling myself an invoice of goods?
What Does Nature Tell Us?
Even scientists discover the breaking up process worthy of study. This year, Scientific American briefly reported around the study “Love Hurts: Brain Chemistry Explains the Pangs of Separation,” which discusses the deep depression that male prairie voles put on once they lose a mate.
Interestingly, Prairie voles “-display social traits we think of as deeply human.” These rodents are rare amongst mammals because they form bonds that outlast the mating process. Curiously, these prairie voles like whiskey (an unintended side dish towards the study).
It's unclear when there is a correlation between whiskey and monogamy, but I have my theories. I'm able to virtually chart the course of a brand new friendship in line with the amount of drinks I've on the first date.
But all is not hearts and flowers with voles. “As with human romances, pair bonding doesn't preclude what researchers call opportunistic infidelity.” And, some males don't pair bond at all. These footloose folks are known as “wanderers.” One wonders about the stories that voles tell themselves when losing a mate: “She should have been eaten by a predator or sweet talked by a wanderer.”
Abandonment belongs to the breakup lexicon. In her book, The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, Susan Anderson says: “Emotional experience is much more painful if this echoes a chapter in the past; that's especially true with regards to rejection and loss. The connection that ended today could be the fulfillment of the worst nightmares from childhood.”
Many people with these histories display tendencies towards “self-attack and recrimination.” One winds up scrutinizing the connection beyond so what can be looked at healthy, searching for all of the small things you have to have done to lose one's lover. The self-examination varies between the heartbreaking towards the mundane.
For people with difficult pasts, rewriting the narrative inside a positive light is especially challenging and in all likelihood cannot occur constructively in a vacuum. Some people come with an unusually hard time disbelieving the sad, negative, critical stories they tell themselves.
Grab Hold of Your Narrative
My favorite area of the book is the section on “rewriting the Closure,” which advises you to decide how things ended, on your own terms. After all, you had been a 100% participant in this relationship. Just because someone else ended that doesn't mean that you don't have your own experience.
Because I was so mad at Darth for his insistence on his narrative, I wrote him an extended letter detailing all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors, the kinds of stuff you may think about a person but never say. I ever so strongly wanted to seriously wound his pride making him doubt himself.
I wrote, rewrote, then wrote again, but never sent the letter. Why would I intentionally wish to hurt someone I once thought about, just because he hurt me? After the day, I made a decision I want to feel squeaky clean, emotionally speaking, and not feel encrusted with hate and thoughts of revenge.
The day-to-day nuances, along with the random thoughts that run with the mind of the partner can never be fully captured or understood. Although we all need narratives, most likely there is never one perfectly clean narrative.
Forgiving somebody that needed to have a particular relationship narrative in order to continue functioning, like Darth, feels important. Its only when that narrative can be used to hurt or destroy another that storyboarding becomes unforgiveable.
And, a thing to the wise. Seriously consider the storyline that your new love lets you know of prior breakups. Was their wife an evil shrew who did this, that, and the other, he as being a not too willing victim? Every day life is so rarely that clean.
In fact, at this time from the game, anyone who I date would hopefully have laid their last relationship to bed and does not use dating and intimacy with me as a way of processing his last loss.
Have you been looking for the “Man of the Dreams”? What's been your ability to succeed so far? Maybe you have experienced a relationship storyboarding? How did that feel like? Have you been on the delivery aspect? Would you seek revenge following a breakup? Please share with the community!