“I want love on demand,” she said. My friend Sophia was going through another hard breakup, hoping to sedate her pain. “Take it away when it hurts, but deliver it when desired, straight to my door.”
If only love were like Instacart. Last year, the New York Times published an article that claimed answering 36 questions could make two people fall madly in love. All you needed was 50 minutes, a partner-in-crime, and a mobile app. The Times app went viral, like herpes on spring break. Couples were accessing it on their first Tinder date, hoping that love would arrive before their Uber pickup.
We all crave love. Its universal language unites us as humans. Yet, it also slays us. If you gave people a choice between heartbreak and the Zika virus, we’d all be feverish in bed. Love’s pain spreads across our flesh faster than any plague. As soon as you think you’re cured, you relapse.
I once fell for a writer, hoping our words would stay intertwined forever. But one night he ended our affair abruptly, while we were still naked in bed. I grabbed my belongings, fell down his staircase, and ran out wounded into the world. Months later, when I felt comfortably clothed in my independent life, I had an unexpected meltdown. I was cruising Delhi in a tuk tuk, searching for the best roadside chai. The perfected alchemy of sweet and spice reminded me of his scent, and I wept while burning my tongue on boiling tea.
“Love is so short, Forgetting is so long,” wrote Pablo Neruda. Love isn’t something we can just turn off like a well-oiled faucet. It drips, keeping us up at night. So where is the mobile app that helps us fall OUT of love? Desperate for a cure, I created a step-by-step remedy. Try a dose; With time it works.
Step 1: Mind tricks
In the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a broken-hearted couple undergo treatments to erase each other from their memories. Sadly, Elon Musk hasn’t invented that bit of technology yet, leaving us to fend for ourselves. But there is another trick called “mind separation.” With mind separation, you parse out the actual person, your idealized projection of that person, and your own ego.
We idealize our lover after they have gone. Every orgasm turns into three, and each bestowed compliment becomes their entire language. We forget critique, alcoholism, and most of all, the fact that they prioritized their life over us. If we were the ones left behind, our egos pathetically cry out for help.
“Wait, but I’m awesome, right?” we question, completely doubting our awesomeness.
In most breakups, neither person is awesome, and both are looking out the relationship window, sick with vertigo, ready to jump. Whoever jumps and pulls the ripcord first, wins. The prize is an intact ego. Those who are paralyzed by unrealistic ideals trip, fall, and crash to the ground with unopened parachutes and shattered psyches.
Listen left-behinds, it’s time to pick yourself up. Separate your ego and ideals from reality. Release the unnecessary weight so you can float back up to the sky. Rethink the relationship, and focus on one true, yet unbearable thing about your ex. Then, use all of your strength to pull that ripcord so you can sail safely to another land, far away. It’s better there. Trust me.
“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
Step 2: Death for life
Most couples seal their marriage with the words, “’til death do us part.” Why should your relationship be any different? If you have been damaged by a relationship’s end, your mind has probably gone to “la mort”—either theirs or yours. After my last breakup, my therapist gave me a rainbow of pills to mute the misery of my mind. I was morbidly fascinated with unprescribed ways to use them. One was downing a bottle right before I jumped into the Pacific with my surfboard, hoping a wave would suddenly break and suck me down to the ocean depths, seaweed forming a noose for my head. Another was corking the more potent pills inside a bottle of Cabernet and stowing it in his wine collection. He would, naturally, go to open it when he invited the next blond woman over for dinner. I only hoped she drank as quickly as I did.
Death fantasies are delicious distractions. I fell in love with my own stories, feverishly writing new ones each night, devising drama that would make Shakespeare envious. After two months, I realized our breakup was my muse; if we were together I would be quite dull, writing only about honeybees. The death of my relationship was the birth of my prose.
If you feel like you yourself are dying, celebrate! Now you can become reborn. The relationship ended because there was something else you were meant to do. Fretting over the wrong person devours your mind; repurpose it for a higher calling. Write the death of your relationship. Make it epic. Make it tragic. Make it irreversible so that you’ll never return. It was just a prologue to something better.
“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”
―Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women
Step 3: Get under to get over
Everyone says the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. This isn’t quite my style. I cannot get under or on top of someone unless I can fall in love with them.
“Romance is dooming your libido,” said my friends. “Can you fall in love faster? View life like you’re nearsighted.”
I took off my correctional lenses and took out the New York Times app, reflecting over love inquiries while eating Mexican food on a Thursday night. It worked! Magically, I fell in love with my burrito. But despite its spice and decadence, I wasn’t going to make love to it. I left the taqueria searching for more human possibilities. Thanks to the Times, a full belly, and Tinder, I was ready.
I think that many people falsely frame each relationship as one that needs to last forever. How limiting. Consider dating as life’s dressing room, each relationship a new outfit to try on. An engineer will hold your angles, an artist will trace your curves, and a poet will entice your tongue. Each person will give you new perspectives and experiences to taste. If it were not for the men in my life I would never have learned how to climb rocks, shoot whisky, or speak sultry French. I decided to not fall out of love, but shift my love to a new person. Every, um, couple of months.
What did I do with the series of ill-fitting lovers? Turned them into blog posts, of course.
“There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.”
Step 4: Love more
Do we have to stop loving someone in order to love someone else? Maybe we shouldn’t try to fall out of love at all. Instead, let’s bottle up our love in a glass memory jar and store it on a visible shelf as encouragement. Although Sophia was averaging one breakup every two years, she remained optimistic:
You know, every time my heart breaks, it breaks open. I seem to love each person more than the last. Maybe heartbreak is preparing me for my life partner, and I’ll love him deeper than all the rest.
The heart is a muscle we can train. As long as we don’t close it off, reeling in pain, we can teach it to be stronger and to beat faster. True love means loving someone without needing to be with them. It means smiling at memories while wishing them the best for their future. If we are grateful for the love we once received, we strengthen our heart and are better able to bring its lifeblood to a new person. So don’t fall out of love at all. Fall out of the person. And fall more in love with someone else.
“Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”
This post originally appeared at Medium. @hisern /www.heidiisern.com