Things You Learn When a Long-Term Relationship Collapses in Your Twenties
Ending a long-term love affair is just like being born – painful and full of shit.
Illustrations by Dan Evans
Ending a long-term relationship is just like being born. It's painful, loud and once it's over you're invariably left covered in shit, screaming at a world you don't understand.
There's a lot of stuff on the internet claiming it'll help you get over your ex – 95 percent of it is patronising bullshit, and the other 5 percent seems to be covert porn advertising. Both have their uses, but I've found zilch that really speaks to the true horror of what it is to suddenly have half of your personality cleaved away from you like you're demented and you forgot everything you ever fucking knew about yourself.
As such, helpful break-up advice would be the kind of coup that could make a person seriously rich. Unfortunately, I don't have it. I don't think anyone really has it, to be honest. And that is because it basically all boils down to sulking for a bit before getting bored of wanking and going out to find your future ex.
That said, guillotining a long-term relationship at a time in your life when you can glimpse proper, full-blown adulthood while still standing in the gathering ashes of your youth doesn't half teach you a few things. So here are some arbitrary lessons I've learnt since I became newly single in my twenties. Please come on in and share my pain.
NO ONE GIVES A FUCK WHAT AN UTTER SADSACK YOU'VE BECOME
Are you both still alive? Not making any plans for that to change any time soon? Then, honestly, nobody cares. Sure, your friends will drown you in platitudinal emojis and your parents will start calling you more, but fundamentally, hearing about your romantic shithousery is as compelling to the average happy person as opening a gas bill. Someone else's gas bill.
And this is because by the time you're in your mid-twenties, literally everyone – supermodels, dogs, eunuchs, your nan – has experienced heartbreak before. Nobody is ever going to prolapse feels from their gob because of your slightly out-of-the-ordinary Wednesday. And if they do, it's probably because they're toying with the idea of fucking your ex.
THERE HASN'T BEEN A GOOD PHOTO OF YOU TAKEN IN HALF A DECADE
This is something you'll realise pretty quickly while setting up a Tinder account one hungover Sunday morning: that a camera hasn't been pointed at your face and made you look in any way decent in so, so long. I personally am beginning to fear that it isn't even the camera's fault. I probably look nothing like what I think I do. Actually, I don't even know what I look like. What the fuck do I look like?
There is a reason for this photographic neglect. During my relationship I basically morphed from a fun-loving Soho Mercutio into any pointless middle-aged white dude from Surrey. My wardrobe is comprised solely of slippers and turtlenecks. Sometimes I tut at people on trains about the papers they're reading. I use the word "problematic" in casual discourse. I am a ready meal-eating flounce-throwing multi-tutting arsehole. I am so dull and so very, very alone.
THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE DON'T REALLY WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU
A myth spread by those notorious wrong 'uns over in Hollywood is that, if it weren't for their pesky bloody missuses, men would be sleeping with endless different dreamwomen every night.
But guess what: that's not real life, you fucking idiot – that's a suicide bomber's idea of paradise. If you still think women are basically just walking glory-holes after ≈ five years of being with one, you're probably a complete shit who never deserved happiness in the first place.
YOU DON'T WANNA HAVE ANY FUCKING SEX ANYWAY
It's not just that no one wants to have sex with you when you're just out of a long-term relationship 'cos you look and act like you've just returned from the front lines of a really fucking horrible war. It's also that you might not want to have sex with anyone anyway. In your idler moments, you may wind up comparing yourself to a really naughty dog that's been punted in the groin a few too many times and now just wants to forget it owns reproductive organs.
This will go on until that fateful day when you realise that the only people who text you any more are your drug dealer and Papa John's. That's the day it's time to fix up and get back at it, champ. You can't sit around hand-fucking your regrets all your life.
Ending a long-termer is just like being born. It's painful, loud and once it's over you're left covered in shit, screaming at a world you don't understand.
THE COURTSHIP RITUALS HAVE ALL CHANGED
When I first met my ex, I quite literally vomited onto the top of her head from the floor above during a university halls party (like the teen movie ones with the red cups, except without the red cups). So, if you're thinking that she wasn't the best girl in the world, please reconsider. When you're young, these things are normal behaviour. Vomiting on each other was to the 2000s what "taking a turn around the green" was in the 17th century. Classic, entry-level courtship. Those heady days are over. You're out of the loop. If I vomited on someone now I doubt I'd end up going for brunch with them the next morning. I'd probably be arrested.
WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS "FLIRTING"?
Seriously. What the hell is it? Is it just like talking, but with your hand cupped over someone's ears while you whisper some sort of secret code that unlocks pants? Answers (and phone numbers) on a postcard, please.
YOU END UP CALLING CLUBBING "DANCING"
The absolute fucking state of your life.
YOU'LL GO OUT "DANCING" BUT NOT DANCE WITH ANYONE
I go out. I get "out". But then when I'm there I don't talk to anyone. Instead, I am the person stood in the corner of the club with a Campari and soda staring into the lights and then looking at my mobile phone, hoping that somebody finds that alluring enough to talk to me. I am you.
KIDS HAVING FUN LOOK LIKE ALIENS
Recently, at a bar, standing near an attractive person who was maybe nine years younger than me, I felt like Brian Cox thinking about the universe: I could see all the component parts, understand all the theory, but deep down I had literally no idea what the fuck was going on.
Reach into your heart and deeply consider: 'Do I want to waste their best years as I have wasted mine? Do I really want to try and understand their world of YouTube personalities and emoji? Is downloading Snapchat really a viable option for me any more?' It is not, and you are never going to develop an intergenerational lingua franca through which to fuck. Kids just don't make sense any more.
FRIENDS ARE FOREVER, YEAH?
A couple of my friends are still best buds despite one them spewing hot, acidic bile into the other one's mouth on the dancefloor of Belushi's. Seriously. Get some mates. They're fucking great. They'll haul you out of the abyss just by farting into your voicemail.
YOU NEED TO ACCEPT THAT YOU'RE FATTER, SMELLIER AND LESS EXCITING THAN YOU WERE BEFORE
You're in your mid-twenties. You're single. Showers are now optional. Your ideal date is Super Smash Bros alone on your sofa. Your jumpers are too tight. Your jeans are too wide. Any more than six units on a weeknight and the toilets at work the next day are Shitpocalypse Now. People say that getting older sucks, but really there's a lot of inherent novelty to it.
Being in a good relationship is the perfect place for these weird, comfortable traits to develop – the perfect place in which to get older, basically – and when that relationship breaks down, you're going to miss that solace you were once able to seek from a world that cares less about you with each passing day. If you're a boring 21-year-old cunt, there's at least still the potential that you'll be an interesting non-cunt one day. If you're a boring 26-year-old cunt – and the only thing on your agenda is the ongoing struggle to get more Twitter followers than The Wealdstone Raider – people are just going to assume that you'll never be a non-cunt.
Relationships are great, but they also raze the parts of you that are necessary to function in the single world to the ground. The most important piece of advice I can give: rebuild these parts if you want any hope of reaffirming your status as one of life's non-cunts.
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