Professor Green On Breaking Up
In his incredible new column Stephen Manderson writes about what happens when men go through break-ups. Should you be the Big Man, or the Big Knickers, or something else entirely?
*Apologies in advance for some of the primitive references and language. This is a piece about how man men emotionally handle break-ups. Any resemblances to real people or incidents in my life are purely coincidental. I’ve never had scissors thrown at me by an ex.*
Going through a break up which is more appropriate?
Putting on your lucky socks and your shagging hat, filling your boots and your bed? Or crying into your tub of Ben n’ Jerry’s watching films that remind you of ‘Her’?
Everything reminds you of her. Your own bloody clothes remind you of her because she spent more time in them than you.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else”, but what if there’s no shagging your way out of this one?
You put a face on it, go out with your pals and pretend the grass is greener. You mock the mate who leaves early “not to get on the wrong side of her”, but you’re silently crying inside because you used to be him. And you preferred it.
You drink yourself stupid. You all bunch into a cubicle and stuff your noses full of something you bought as cocaine but in all likelihood has little to no actual cocaine in it. You get messy. You forget about it all. You Escape. Escape to someone’s kitchen. Possibly with a new friend you’ve made who you’ll later leave to have sex you won’t remember with. Or more than likely with just your pals, to have what seems like at the time the most Important Conversation Ever, full of enthusiasm and ideas (that no one ever remembers the following day) until someone finally calls it a night instead of calling it in.
That’s when it normally hits.
The lonely Uber home in the harsh light of day.
Still a bit angsty from all the speed and caffeine you’ve sniffed, and having done one for the road, your phone is your only friend in the back of the Prius.
Only it isn’t your friend, because now you’re on Instagram and you’ve managed to land yourself, by some strange twist of fate (you’ve searched her handle) on your ex’s profile, and now you’re wondering what she’s up to – who she’s with. She looks happy, as do you on yours, taking every (or ‘every other’ if you’re smart, you wouldn’t want it to come across as forced) opportunity to look like you’re getting on just fine, maybe even with a girl or two amongst the group you’ve pictured just to get her really jealous – that is if she cares enough to look. You feel like shit.
It’s a bit like the feeling you were left with once you kicked ‘I can’t remember her name’ out and into the Uber you so politely got her after making up some sod rotten excuse to see her off, so you could be alone with the memories of the person you shared this house / flat / place / space / room / bed / life with.
What if she messages you? Is she just being courteous or does she want to get back together? What if she’s saying everything you wanted to hear all those months ago when it started going wrong? Has she finally seen the error in her ways or is she just being manipulative, wanting to get back what she’s lost?
Do you message her or not? The ex. Even if you’ve made the decision, or it was a mutual decision to break up (it’s never quite mutual), there’s still an ex-shaped hole in your life; a void that you have to fill. You could message her, telling her you’ll change every behaviour that’s been pushing her away now that you realise she’s serious about leaving – but will you?
She was your go to. Everything that happened in your life – good or bad – you told her first.
How do you fill all the hours you spent sending each other meme’s and pictures of cute puppies, Whatsapp’ing about absolutely nothing, in bed watching Netflix and chilling?
Actually chilling, the sex stopped ages ago.
On the same hand, how do you fill the time spent bickering over menial things, or time spent drunk having ridiculous arguments neither of you could explain the start of (not by the end at least)? Followed by a war of words – you both armed to the teeth with all historical wrong doings on either side as ammunition. How do you fill all the time that you dragged the relationship out, slowly becoming less affectionate, caring and respectful of one another? What do you do with it all? How do you do life now you’re alone and don’t want to be a big girl’s blouse.
Because that’s what you think you are for having feelings.
Why do you only miss her when she’s gone? Any time spent in each other’s company although beginning with an awkward, then familiar hug (and tears, let’s be honest, there’s tears) quickly turns into a reminder of why you aren’t together. But when she’s gone, you miss her. Or part of her. Or do you? Sometimes you’re sure you don’t. Finding something of hers can just as quickly bring up a ‘pink and fluffy, sure to bring a tear to your eyes’-type memory, as it can a memory of when she threw a pair of scissors at you because you suggested she might have had too much to drink, something she categorically denied (she screamed, “NO I HAVEN’T,” as she threw the scissors at you).
Of course the next day she says she would never have done that had she not been as drunk.
That or she conveniently doesn’t remember anything beyond a certain point. ‘Black outs’ I think they’re called.
What about blame? Who’s to blame? Someone has to be surely?
“It’s my fault, I fucked it up, I could have made more effort, I should have made more effort.” Maybe you would have if it was the right person or maybe you’re right and you were shit.
“It’s her fault, her friends are dicks and led her astray.” We all make our own decisions, so even if her friends are dicks, she’s an even bigger one, but maybe you are too? Who are you to decide who someone can and can’t hang out with? We all change at different times and people need room to make mistakes – it’s the only way we learn.
It isn’t your job to change someone, so if one or both of you finds yourself questioning things maybe have an honest conversation. Just because someone is doing something that upsets you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong thing for them to be doing – it also doesn’t mean they get to hold on to you while they do it. Sometimes you have to walk away.
You can’t attack someone for being themselves, though we often in the beginning project an image of ourselves that’s unsustainable. An image of an undamaged, perfect, issueless, secure, tolerant and unreactive person, accepting and overlooking behaviours in the other person because of the excitement and the lust we all feel at the beginning of something.
It’ll hurt no matter what – there’s emotions involved, no matter how logically or pragmatically you try to approach matters. That’s out of your control. It will hurt, then it will end, or you’ll think it’s over, then it’ll hurt some more. Like I said: out of your control.
What you can control is your actions and reactions – always take a breath, sleep on, or have a wank before doing or saying anything you might later regret. You can apply that to life, not just breakups. As easy as it is to be impulsive, being nasty or spiteful isn’t something you’ll look back on in hindsight and be proud of. So try hard. And wank.
Be selfish. Rebuild your life. Reach out to some of those friends you’ve neglected, the smart ones who won’t lead you down the rabbit hole. Come downs make it a lot harder to control impulse and also make sadness feel more like impending doom. Or doom.
It’s like grieving, only different, because it’s not the death of a person you’re mourning, it’s the death of something which – no matter how it’s ended – at some point made you feel the best you ever have, otherwise what were you doing with her in the first place?
Because beyond any possession you could name, what we all crave as humans is intimacy, and the intimacy you knew is sadly no more.
But what about once you’ve waded through all the shitty emotional states you find yourself in? You’re finally over stalking her on social networks and don’t give a fuck about who she may or may not be with, and you have a slight inkling you might have feelings for someone else? Someone new? No matter how much you try not to, because another relationship is the last (first) thing that you want, having just survived getting over the last one. What happens then?
Illustration by Berta Vallo
If you enjoyed this column check out the brand new podcast #learning to adult slowly. Professor Green and guests talk mental health, body anxiety and more.
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