Of Breakups and Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

This week’s Kuhnspiration question posed was inspired by my recent obsession with the Showtime series, “The Tudors.”  Nothing quite says dysfunctional like the litany of marriages and dalliances of Henry VIII. Unfortunately, for many of these women historically and in this broad interpretation of the facts, they didn’t have an opportunity to go through a breakup. Yes, you read my words correctly – opportunity to break up. Because that is what a breakup is — an opportunity to put something right by bringing it to a much-needed conclusion. For many of these women in the King’s court, it was death by beheading, poison or other fun party tricks that “finished” the relationship. I can only hope that none of this rings as familiar for any of you and your not-resolved-so-nicely pairings of the past.

So this week, I want to focus on us, not them; on what we said or did to put an end to things, not what they dared to do; and on the gains, not the losses, from the relationship. And I asked you (and me) to contemplate the following:

Looking back on your past breakups, what do you think you did right, what did you do wrong and what did you take away from the whole experience?

Have you thought about this topic or pulled out that still unused journal to jot down a few thoughts and feelings on the subject?

There’s a reason all of those past words and actions lingering in our thoughts are called baggage – they weigh heavy sometimes.

When I thought about this question, I found it intriguing that I didn’t even think about my first merry-go-round at matrimony. I’ve written on the subject before and even attempted to close that chapter in a past blog by writing my ex a letter that he will likely never see (though it helped me). No, strange as it may seem, I didn’t consider that breakup at all, perhaps because it felt like less of a choice and more of a necessity for my own mental health and physical well-being. Or maybe that baggage has just been shipped elsewhere. I thought about another relationship instead, the one just after that marital breakup and before my husband now. That’s right – the one that some people call…the tweener.

Others refer to this relationship as the rebound, but I think that minimizes its significance to both parties. Nope, he was a tweener in that the relationship did lie between two of my most influential relationships, yet in his own way, he may have made the biggest impact of all. I think a lot of us have people like this in our past, those who came along at exactly the right moment, who reminded us that we were indeed “in our right mind” and that in fact, the last person missed out on an opportunity to get to know yours truly.

I definitely owe a lot to my tweener. He helped me relocate my confidence when it ventured off on a long sabattical, and I do believe this encouraged me to tap into figuring out what I really wanted most out of life and love and opened me up to the possibilty of trusting somebody again. He helped me regain trust in myself.

So what did I do wrong? I’m going to bet one million dollars (that I don’t have, mind you) that what I’m about to write is not unique and that someone or more than one someone out there will know firsthand of this malady.

I broke the cardinal rule of relationships —-  transference.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Yeah, you do, you may just not have a name for it. There’s a great song from the ’80s band Flock of Seagulls called “Transfer Affection” that would be lovely to play in the background here. (The best I can do is offer you the YouTube video. which follows a brief interview clip.)

My tweener was a great guy – we’ll call him Jack. He had all of the qualities that my then ex did not possess in my eyes but had goals that were taking him out of the state to extend his education further. And what did I do? I accelerated that relationship as fast as I could possibly get it to move. After all, he was scooting out of there. So I took every feeling I would normally have after perhaps knowing someone for years and I gave him the benefit of the doubt instead of that other guy, and transferred all positive feelings of hope and trust and romance, all over to him, no questions asked and no expectations communicated or volunteered in return. And you know what I did? Exactly what you’d expect. I set myself up – it had only one direction to go. Nowhere, and it got there fast. Real fast.

I quickly realized that we really didn’t know each other much at all, not beyond the surface. But let me tell you: I tried like hell to make this not so. I was convinced that surely two people who were physically attracted to each other had much more compatibility and depth of their relationship underneath. Right? (Despite the fact that they never really had time to get to know each other as one would normally do during traditional dating, as opposed to Grand Prix, soon-to-be Long-Distance Dating.) It was like putting a courtship on overdrive – 6 months of dating in about one  month’s time. But it soon became apparent, at least to me: he didn’t know me. Not really. He had no idea about my basic beliefs on life, politics, people, anything. But for a special period of time, we helped one another and each served a purpose for the other – he got to be the hero to swoop in to rescue (I learned later that this was not the first time he donned the cape) and I got to experience a special kind of romance I had not experienced up until then. I also let myself be vulnerable enough to be rescued. I don’t even let people into my kitchen to help me with the dishes, control freak that I am. So this was a big step for me.

By the time Jack was 700+ miles away and I had made numerous attempts to close the distance physically and emotionally, many moves taken without really thinking through the inevitable dead-end that loomed in the not-so-far-away distance, I ended whatever our relationship was by simply pulling away and no longer investing. I couldn’t pretend anymore and frankly, he had a full plate – adjusting to a new school and planning his future. I didn’t fit into the equation. Now, I look back and wonder was it just a matter of bad timing but in that moment, as it all transpired, I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of Europe without a translator, proper currency or a map. Lost as hell. I carefully found my way back home, by not being so handy for return visits or as responsive to letters or calls, though they were fairly infrequent anyway. And of course, I’m a writer, so you know I had to write THE letter which summed up how I was feeling. The final punctuation. Hmmph. There.  That should cover it.

Breakups suck. They just do. But when I look back now, I realize that Jack prepared me for what was to come and I simply didn’t know it at the time. When the man who would ultimately become my true love did come along, I was ready for him – I still didn’t think that I was but unexpectedly he showed up anyway. As I said, I was never good with timing in any capacity. But we can’t question the why or when. We must act as our heart commands.

What breakups have left a lasting impression on you and why is that? Have you been able to pinpoint specifically what you might have done differently or been able to pull from it anything positive? I certainly welcome your candor and truth, if you’d like to share. We can all learn from each other’s lessons – let’s not call them mistakes, okay? I will never look upon any of my past relationships as mistakes, because they allowed me to grow and learn and feel, even when that meant scars on my heart or tears on my lips. And I can’t think of anything more beautiful than that. I hope that you can mine some form of peace and wisdom from each of your past relationships, too.

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!




  1. Blog Double-Take 2012 « Kuhn Stories - [...] Of Breakups and Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again (Sept. 8) [...]

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