With just a few precious moments of my twenties left, sometimes it can be hard not to spiral into the what ifs and when, of a life I thought would include my Mr. Right by now. With each passing year, every breakup hits me with a different set of lessons learned and new realizations about what I want now and what I want next. Somewhere between the heartbreak, the loss and the rebuilding that happens during the vital sweatpants and sweets phase, I invariably come back to the self-imposed pressures of time’s (and cupid’s) refusal to yield to my will.
Why can’t the beginning be the whole experience, the ending be over already and my biological clock be turning back instead of forever jumping forwards? These questions reverberate in the cavernous spaces of our minds and hearts when we realize that the next potential One, whom we hoped might finally be the last One, turns out to be everything but, leaving us to struggle with a quickly fading dream and the need to reassess our future yet again.
What makes the end so epic, is that we now have to acknowledge not just the loss of a relationship, but the damage this has caused to an identity that we tied – even if only subconsciously – to expectations based on mere possibilities like family and marriage. It’s likely that these expectations and desires aren’t always so clearly defined when we search out and connect with a long time lover or a one night stand. But they’re there, at least in most women I know. Somewhere in our minds, we’re wrapped up in the thought that time, place, opportunity and fortune will all align at some point and when it does, we’ll be ready for it. But are we?
How do you manage this self-esteem ruffling permawhisper of the egg timer when you do finally shave your legs and jump back into the dating pool? How do you keep that third date high from blooming into browsing bridal magazines with your besty or wondering if you’re wasting time? I can’t say for sure. But I can say that taking the pressure of “us” sometimes means taking the pressure off “him”. Bring the focus back onto you and what you can do for yourself. Start by loving who you are, so you aren’t looking for validation from an unpredictable source. Grieve and accept that part of the healing journey will be painful but a necessary part of the preparation for whatever happens next. Knowing who you are (as a single whole entity) and what you want (alone and from a relationship) can help you to accommodate a little more time into your future plans if you too believe that love matters as much as career, lifestyle, fun and the chance to broaden your understanding of family life.
I can’t stop my body from aging, my eggs from escaping or my eyes from welling up at the end of rom coms but I can get a more realistic idea of what I need both in and out of a relationship and how to manage those desires. The truth is, you have the rest of your life to find the perfect person (note to the universe: it’s still fine if he shows up tomorrow) but you don’t have as long as you might think to contemplate motherhood if that’s something you think you really want. For a lot of us that’s a hard thing to hear, but a reality we will inevitably return to, like it or not, when our potential partnerships end. That’s why the first part of your next first date should probably start with the GYN. If you want wee ones either in 5 minutes or 5 years, make sure your girl is still glowing and get an actual understanding of your fertility health – not one based on assumptions, deadlines you’ve given yourself and the doom and gloom of loneliness fears.
Make this breakup phase about you and what you need. You don’t always need a “significant other” to make significant choices about the life you’re planning for two. I encourage you to feel everything you need to feel but, when you’re ready to get back in the saddle, remember that baby crazy panic is less sexy than pretty panties and confidence. Be proactive and take steps to find out how much time you have left to plan your family. Take time to breathe, to get better informed and to plan for the possibility that the magic one might not be the next one, two or three guys, that you meet. Make this a journey of self-discovery. Cover your bases and get a bigger bolder picture of who you are and what you want. And then do something about it, even if that something is waiting for a better opportunity with a brand new beau.