Lessons Learned from Being the Villain in a Breakup

I used to have a very harsh attitude towards relationships. Unlike my friends throughout high school, I never had any interest in the guys around me. I never dated, I never had flings and I never EVER fell in love. With that, I also never experienced heartbreak.

The first time one of my friends expressed their sorrows to me about the end of a relationship, I hadn’t felt a single smidge of sympathy. I hated seeing my friend hurt, but no part of me could understand how she could possibly allow some guy to be the cause of her tears. To me, love was a waste of time, especially at an age where it had been obvious that there was no chance of you staying with that person for the rest of your life. My understanding of love was that you needed to be ready for it because it was a huge commitment. The kind of commitment that you saved for someone you wanted to be with forever.

Of course, that hadn’t meant I was saving myself for marriage. I had planned on having casual flings and gaining some experience to help myself grow as a person before I would be ready to get tied down. I never wanted to date until I knew I was with “the one.”

Unfortunately, I hadn’t been immune to love like I had once thought.

That realization was a tough pill to swallow. I met an amazing guy at the beginning of one summer and in the four months that followed I became my younger self’s’ worst nightmare — a gooey, heart-eyed, romantic wimp, who was so desperately in love with a boy that she forgot her own beliefs about the “L word.”

It didn’t stop there, either. Every day for nearly two years I fell deeper and deeper. At the time, he loved me too, but he later recognized that he had just been infatuated with the idea of me (we’ll pretend like that didn’t hurt a lot because the high schooler in me refuses to cry over a boy). We lived together, spent every moment we weren’t in class or at work together, imagined what the future would look like together and did all that horrible stuff you tend to do when in a relationship. Basically, we were the best of friends and lovers.

That is, until my mental health took a turn for the worst. I started experiencing major, long lasting episodes of depression that were extremely detrimental to all aspects of my life — especially my relationships. Because I hated myself so much, I pushed everyone away and hurt a lot of people in the process. But when the low ended, mania followed.

Exactly a year ago I ruined my life because I experienced my first severe manic episode that lasted an entire month (I was later diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder which really put everything into perspective). During this month, I rarely slept (maybe a total of fifteen hours in an entire week) and yet I was “functional.” My brain was constantly racing, my anxiety had peaked and I was just super unstable. I also felt extremely numb, meaning that I wasn’t feeling any kind of emotion — sadness, anger, happiness. I was just flat.

It was at this time that I broke up with my boyfriend for no reason at all.

I decided to let the most amazing guy go all because I didn’t want to drag him down with all the shit that I was dealing with, even though he was my main source of support. At the time I had only been thinking of myself and what I did the following two months after that was terrible.

I had hurt him — terribly. I had done some terrible things. And when everything I had done finally started to hit me, it was Hell.

Even my family knew that I had made a terrible mistake. Every time I went home, I was asked by someone when was the last time I had spoken to him, how he was doing, what he was up to, etc. For a while I had been able to answer the questions because we had remained in contact, mostly for my benefit, because he was a good person and was still there for me even when he shouldn’t have been. But the questions had still sucked.

For a very long time, I couldn’t escape his name or our relationship. Karma definitely came around to bite me in the ass — a lot.

Friends (the ones that aren’t super close but you are still cool with) were constantly asking me if I was going to get back with him. Everybody had known us as the goofy, inseparable pair and it was weird for everyone to see us apart. While I had still been manic, I was just irritated by the questions and didn’t want other people in my business. Later, I wanted nothing more than for some confirmation that he still cared.

His friends, his closest ones, were quick to switch sides — which was expected and fair. If I ever saw them in passing or at the club when my friends and I went out, there was always tension or a slight glare. Everyone unfollowed me on social media (that really doesn’t matter, it was just another reminder that we were over) and nobody ever said “hi” if we were in the same room. Things were uncomfortable.

Because I had been the one to break up with him, I was a monster and I internalized that image. The questions people asked, the way they were asked and in what context, the looks I received and every slight action — all painted me out to be the bad guy. Every time I felt sad, I felt an equal amount of guilt. How dare I cry, when I was the one who decided to end everything? Every time I felt lonely, I felt an equal amount of shame. I had done this to myself and there was no one else to blame.

As a way to cope much later, I began to find different methods to fill the void. I surrounded myself with very positive girls who liked to party. I began to party with them so that I wouldn’t have to be alone with my thoughts and because I adored them. Then on the nights I didn’t go out, I smoked weed.

When all of that wasn’t enough, I turned to a long string of casual hookups to squash the loneliness I often felt. Having sex with guys I didn’t care about made for great stories that I could distract myself with whenever I was feeling incredibly lonely. Pleasing guys, even for a brief moment, also made me feel wanted and less of a terrible person, because at least I was putting a smile on someone’s face.

Being the person who ends the relationship often leads to you being given the “bad guy” title. After all, you are the cause of another person’s heart break. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the dumper deals with two heartbreaks — the knowledge of what they did to the person they loved, as well as the damage they do to themselves. At least in my case.

A lot of shame comes with the bad guy image, too. People look at you differently and people aren’t afraid to ask you uncomfortable questions, because people forget that you have feelings. It causes you to look at yourself in a new light. In my case, my reflection became my worst enemy.

But with the pain, I have learned a lot from being the bad guy. I have learned that owning up to your mistakes and taking responsibility can be extremely conducive to the healing process of any bad situation. I have learned that having positive, supportive people around you and genuine friends are a NECESSITY, especially when you become a lot of people’s least favourite individual. And I have definitely become more sympathetic to those going through heartbreak, so I’d call that growth, especially from where I started back in high school.

I’ll finish with a couple things. If my ex ever happens to read this, I am super sorry but I am also super glad that you are happy. To my friends and family – I LOVE YOU GUYS. And to anybody out there who is in a similar situation as I was, just remember that even though it can seem unlikely, you can still forgive yourself for the mistakes you make and so will others. Everyone makes poor decisions, everyone has to live with the consequences, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It can be a huge learning curve for you.