Learning to love what you thought you lost in a breakup

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Penelope Wilson

"The pleasures we took together were no longer pleasures at all, but painful reminders of the relationship I no longer had."

"The pleasures we took together were no longer pleasures at all, but painful reminders of the relationship I no longer had."

I'm sitting in my lounge room, turning my phone over in my hands, my bottom lip held hostage by my teeth and a blank stare on my face masking the millions of possible scenarios playing over in my mind. I'm deliberating sending a text message that I've had sitting in it's recipient's text box for some minutes now.

The text itself is completely innocuous, a few excitable lines about Pentatonix, the music group-turned-YouTube sensations famous for their acapella covers.

The reason why it's so hard to send this message? Because the recipient would be my ex. 

When you break up with someone, there's a lot you have to learn to let go of: missing their body lying next to you, never fully understanding at what point things started to fall apart, knowing you haven't heard from them in months when you still remember them saying they wanted you in their life. 

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But there's also a lot you have to take back.

What I'm learning right now is how to take sole ownership of loving the things I used to love together with my ex-girlfriend. TV shows, musicians, actors, books, games, authors... There's a lot that builds up over two-and-a-half years.

When we found something we loved, it became an obsession. Many nights were spent binge-watching episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, Criminal Minds or America's Next Top Model. Our car trips consisted of a select playlist of songs on high rotation. Each morning was spent belting out dramatic renditions of songs from musicals such as Wicked, Rent, In The Heights or Legally Blonde: The Musical. These were a few of our favourite things. 

Some of them already held a place in my heart, and as our relationship grew I shared them with her and they became things that we loved together. She took my devotion to Grey's Anatomy and injected it with new meaning, as all of a sudden the same-sex relationships felt more relatable and more important. I introduced her to the original Broadway cast recording of Into The Woods, and we eagerly anticipated the Disney version together.

There were also things that she shared with me, too, like her utter devotion to Anna Kendrick - who she swore she would leave me for at the drop of a hat. One night, on a drive home and for a little over an hour after our arrival, she told me the entire story of the Star Wars trilogies - all (then) six episodes - in full detail. For her next birthday, I had a custom portrait drawn of us dressed as Han Solo and Leia. 

It's been six months since I closed my front door to what was now my one bedroom apartment, a little bit emptier of both possessions and company. All of a sudden, these pleasures we took together were no longer pleasures at all, but painful reminders of the relationship I no longer had. 

When I come across one of these things we loved together, my first instinct is to avoid it completely. It reminds me of her, it reminds me of the love we shared for it and how it helped shape our love for each other. A wound is reopened with each encounter and that is a pain I immediately want to turn from. But in doing so, all I'm really doing is denying myself the chance to continue to love these things on my own.

There are some things I almost feel belong to her, and that I'll never truly be allowed to have for myself. Perhaps because she always seemed to love something in particular more passionately than I did, or because it was something she introduced me to, it was 'hers' before it was ever 'ours'. Anna will forever be her other girlfriend.  

I've had this happen in friendships before as well. I can't quite watch Masterchef without remembering rocking back and forth behind the curtains in first year uni drama class with my then-bestie as we attempted to best each other at George Calombaris impressions. But somehow, this feels very different, and much harder to overcome. 

There is something so incredibly sad in the thought that the passion you may feel so fervently for something could lose its meaning or worth when you associate that feeling with someone who is no longer a crucial part of your life. Even more so to purposely disallow yourself to enjoy something you used to love so much.

So I'm not going to send that text, because I'm going to learn how to enjoy Pentatonix on my own. Rather than consider them a passion that died the day my girlfriend walked away, I'm making the choice to take them on as something I will continue to fiercely love, all by myself.