A few weeks ago my nephew came over for a visit.
He’s 27, handsome beyond words, and very gregarious. He’s just one of those guys you want to be near because his energy is welcoming and positive and his smile always genuine. We chatted and got caught up but I knew he was circling around something that he wasn’t quite sure how to say.
After a while, he couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“We broke up,” he said referring to himself and his girlfriend of five years.
He let the truth lay there on the floor in front of him—by now he was slouching and the energy that normally radiated from him had waned.
I could see the heartbreak behind the bravado and knew I needed to tread lightly. With the painful truth out there, we decided to go for a walk. The dogs (pets are such a good distraction, aren’t they?) were running and we chuckled and asked a lot of remember when? We have so many memories between us. His dad (my younger brother) died when he was six. After that, he and his brother spent an extended vacation with me every summer.
“I’m not sure it’s over,” he said out of nowhere. “I think I still love her.”
His voice was a whisper and he was staring at his shoes.
Oh man, I could see how much he was hurting and I wanted to tell him that it would be OK but the physical pain is palpable. It’s been said that you can’t die from a broken heart but anyone who’s ever experienced it, sure feels like they’ll be the first to prove medical science wrong. The gut-wrenching agony is real whether you’re 13, 30, or 70 and it takes time to heal.
Five years together is a long investment of time, emotion, and self. It isn’t something to simply brush off without thought and careful consideration. I could see that he was struggling to make sense of it as he tried to lighten the mood by talking about his new job. The sadness in his eyes remained though.
“I think you need to stay single and celibate for one full year,” I told him. “Take the year for yourself to explore what direction you want to pursue.”
“One full year? I can’t date, or be with anyone, for one year? Seriously?”
He was incredulous that I’d suggest such a thing.
“Yes, take a full year off and concentrate on yourself. By jumping back into another relationship (or even the previous one) before waiting a year, you’re not 100 per cent committed to the new person because you’re still wounded.”
He didn’t answer me. He didn’t have to. His eyebrows were raised in question, a smirk plastered on his face, and the continual nod — it was official — he thought I was nuts. I had to laugh because he obviously didn’t get the point. We continued our chat about his future plans and dreams.
To him, taking one year away from the dating/relationship world sounded daunting and impossible but it’s a period of time easily measured and one that can be committed to. It’s long enough to be significant and life changing, while short enough to be manageable. You can do anything for a year.
The pain and emotional toll of a break up should never be trivialized by rushing into another relationship or even back to the same one. The one year commitment to yourself can slow your impulsivity and shows maturity in dealing with your own issues before getting involved again.
“But what if I meet the love of my life before the year is up?”
“If she’s the one, she isn’t going anywhere,” I said. “Be friends and get to know each other. If she respects you and your decision to wait a full year, your future relationship will be stronger.”
He gave me a big hug and the smirk was replaced by contemplation. I think he heard most of what I said — time will tell.