The Mechanism of a Break-Up


Breaking up isn’t a one-way ticket out of something. It feels like a process of un-loving someone and, along the way, unloving your ‘old’ self. I won’t bore you all with the clich├ęs. 

If you’re hoping to mend your broken heart or to get a quick pick-me-up bite of false positivity, this is really not the article to read. This is the mechanism of a break-up.

I recently listened to The Messy Heads’ second podcast, ‘The Messy Hearts Club Interviews," and came to the realization that heartbreak is more than the loss of a romantic relationship. Sometimes, it’s literally the physical breaking apart of a heart; other times, it’s the vague feeling of being lost in a familiar space. 

When you’re in love, you’re like an ant repairing and building a nest for two people. Everything makes sense. It’s an efficient project, and you love it. The idea of being in love is as great and grand as the person themself. So when the purpose behind this ‘nest-building’ is gone, you’re lost, physically and mentally stuck in this suddenly empty space you once built for two people. 

To deconstruct a break-up, it’s really about un-loving and then loving again. What we yearn to do is to instantly un-love this one person—by deleting photos, burning gifts, rushing into rebounds, finding destructive distractions (i.e drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes), or even avoiding particular places and situations. And most of us know, these actions don’t actually work or ease the process. Un-loving cannot be forced by mere attacks on the surface.

Post-breakup, two processes are going to happen: un-loving and loving. You are trying to un-love this person along with all the fantasies you once had, the honey and moonlight you once felt. If you used to love the way he smells, now you either despise it or avoid it. If you used to love the way she did her hair, now the sight of the same hairdo on a stranger on a bus bothers you. Un-loving isn’t necessarily hating, but there’s a very thin line, and most of the time, we hate combatting other confusing emotions. To an extent, you’re un-loving not only just the person but everything you associate with them. 

This was my favorite movie until I watched it for the nth time with him and now we’re not together anymore but the movie reminds me of him. Now, my heart aches when I watch it. I don’t want to like this movie anymore.

It’s a defense mechanism. To un-love is our mechanism to ease the aching and sobbing. But during this process, we can risk losing your ‘old’ selves. Sometimes, this can be a good thing. If you were in a toxic relationship, a change is obviously needed. But other times, a break-up can momentarily put us in a state of loss and as a result, we abandon the ‘old’ self and form a new identity to cope. For instance, we may start listening to different music, wear different clothes, or move to a different place. It’s all a fresh start. 

Along with the un-loving comes the loving. Now, we’re (trying to) love this new identity. We’re getting along with our new music taste, making home of the new places, and starting to feel quite happy again. But, the ‘old’ self isn’t gone. We left it, but it’s a part of us and will always remain. The ‘old’ self becomes part of the memory–and perhaps that’s when you’ve un-loved the person, when they become a distant memory. 


By Anna Vo

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