Denial, devastation, self-doubt. They’re three of the stages of recovery from the imploding of a relationship. Not the kind when you finally cut ties with your on-again, off-again, break-in-case-of-emergency jumpoff or you tell the dude you’ve been seeing for two or three months that you don’t think it’s going to work out. There are some pairings that need to be put on a pedestal in the annals of your personal history. They’re the ones that require the mixed CDs of Isley Brothers and Al Green tunes as a soundtrack to your sadness and make cookies ‘n cream and Doritoes the bedfellows of your heartbroken sorrow. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
I’ve been through one bad breakup. I should say, I survived one bad breakup. He had been my first love. Next to losing my grandparents, that was the most intense emotional pain I’ve ever been through. That thing was real. I remember it vividly: he called me in the middle of the night to tell me that he had a new girlfriend. I recall sitting up in my bed screaming. Literally. Whole household is asleep, and there I am, mouth wide open, hollering like an infant in a bassinet because this dude no longer wanted to be with me. So much so, he hauled off and got himself a new woman to solidify his done-ness.
There’s one more step in the sordid process of recovering from a broken heart: resolution. Part of that is coming to peace with the fact that it’s over. The other is fondly remembering the good things and learning from the ones that made you want to backslap the foolishness off yourself—like these five things I swear I will never, ever, not never do again.
Allow myself to be giddy about that gray area. Homeboy and I were together two years, three if you count that weird, in-between stage where we did all the things that we did when we were officially together, like spend time and have sex, which of course kept me nice and emotionally connected. But when he didn’t feel like being bothered or when I was getting too girlfriendy for his liking, he swiftly reminded me that we weren’t together. I was just happy he was paying me mind, so I stayed in that space for way too long. Hell, I should’ve never been in the first place.
Have a baby out of wedlock. Aside from being in love with the man, we’d had a baby girl together. I adore her and I surely don’t regret her as my child, but I do regret not waiting until I was in a healthy, happy marriage. My mama warned me not to be like her, a single mom raising a child on my own. But I was too head-in-my-behind, heart-in-the-clouds. I just knew me and this guy were the exception to the statistics, not thinking that once upon a time, my mother and father had probably been in love, too.
Fail to put God at the head. I grew up in a Jesus-loving household and I’ve always had a relationship with the Lord. But ask me if I ever, even one time, lifted up a prayer to ask the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit if I was with the right dude. I just knew what I wanted and pretty much expected God to fall in line with that and oh, by the way, bless the relationship. No wonder that thing failed. Not only was my man my top priority—another fail on my part—but he wasn’t even the right man, which I might’ve known had I invited Jesus into our twosome.
Lose my mind being jealous or insecure. Man, I was a handful back then. I even had an issue with the guy watching porn because I felt so un-fabulous about myself, I didn’t want him to have ready material to compare me to. As if, in our daily back and forth on a college campus that was about five girls to every one guy, he didn’t have enough to work with just going to the café to get a bite to eat. If Janelle now could talk to Janelle then, I’d say get some couch time, get a self-help book, and get over it.
Wait (and wait and wait) on a ring. I learned this one from the next boyfriend, who would’ve made the perfect husband—except he just wouldn’t drop down to that knee and pull that little sparkly piece of finger candy out. We had a ball together and he was a wonderful father figure to my daughter. But after eight years (oh yes, I said eight) I learned the hard way that a guy doesn’t always tell you he’s afraid of marriage. Sometimes he just shows you.
There’s a happy ending to all this hard-knock love lesson learning. My man now is beautiful and kind, and he knows what I’ve been through and appreciates me for the woman my experiences have helped shape me into. But even more important than that, I appreciate me for the woman my experiences have helped shape me into. Janelle 13 years ago wasn’t nearly as thoughtful and fearless as Janelle today is. That’s because, after you’ve survived a broken heart—if you know like I do—you know you can survive just about anything. And win.