A breakup landed me in the hospital, how did I remain friends with my ex?
The year was 2014. I was studying abroad. New York City to be precise. After what seemed like an odyssey, my boyfriend of two years and I moved together upon high school graduation to the Big Apple, he was pursuing his musical theater dreams and I was learning English in one of my favorite cities. The first few weeks seemed like a dream come true, the two of us together taking over Manhattan (or at the very least East Brooklyn). Little did I know that soon I would be on my way to the hospital after what remains one of the most traumatic breakups I have ever experienced.
Everything started before we moved. My then boyfriend had been my very first romance, and during the initial year of our relationship I was experiencing a full on teenage fairy tale. The first make-out session at the cinema that lasted a full movie, the late-night phone conversations, the surprise dinners unsurprisingly planned on our monthly anniversaries, you know, all of that shit. However, after I got used to this over-hyped rom-com fantasy and to my boyfriend’s incessant romanticism, I started to wonder what it would be like to date other people.
Once in New York, despite having great and sweet moments at first, the curiosity to experiment outside of our relationship returned, stronger than ever. At that time I had just become 18, was living alone for the very first time in a different country and was surrounded by all sorts of new people. Hell, it was just the right time to try new things by myself. And yet, I wasn’t brave enough to talk about these feelings with my boyfriend, I had just become of legal age and had already made peace with the idea of spending the rest of my life with someone I didn’t love anymore. But destiny had different plans for me, and was ready to shake me to my very core.
One day, while riding the subway, my boyfriend randomly brought up something he had been thinking about: “What if we opened our relationship?”. I could tell he wasn’t comfortable with the idea he was proposing, years later he would confess to me he did it only because he was afraid I’d get bored and leave him if we remained fully monogamous. The truth was the relationship was already dead, and I had just gotten the perfect way out handed to me. I accepted his proposal without hesitation.
It wasn’t long before I received a Facebook message from a cute guy who worked at the international school I was attending at the time. I responded immediately, and before I knew it, we were casually hanging out, watching High School Musical 2 after dark. I know right? A passionate affair indeed. We eventually ended up making out during a Halloween party and sneaking back to his room to… watch High School Musical 3. Just kidding, that time we actually fucked.
Meanwhile, my boyfriend was becoming more overbearing than ever. He wanted to know what I was doing all the time and strongly advised me not to hang around with certain people, particularly my friends who liked smoking weed. I didn’t even register it as jealousy, but more as an obsession for me to stay as the innocent kid I was when we first met. As soon as I realized this, I decided enough was enough, I wanted to move on to the next chapter in my life and he was pulling me back. And yeah, part of the reason I finally found the strength to call it quits was the freedom he gave me to peek at what was outside of our relationship.
After a tough text conversation in which I let him know we needed to have “the talk” in person, we agreed to meet on Central Station. This is were the nightmare breakup begins.
The chaos started even after I met with my boyfriend. At first I thought it was some sort of karmic prepayment for breaking up with him, but now I think the punishment the Universe had in store for me was so heavy that it decided to start delivering it early just so it wouldn’t be too much at once.
To get from the student campus to Grand Central I had to take a train in which all I did was listen to music and rehearse what I was about to tell my boyfriend. When the train finally arrived, an older man materialized out of nowhere behind me. Maybe he heard Lady Gaga coming out of my headphones, or perhaps he just didn’t give a damn, the point is he was determined to make a move.
The man started asking me all sort of personal questions, and since I was raised to always respect my elders, I couldn’t find it in me not to answer him, even if he was a little creepy. Once we got off the train he insisted on giving me a “tour” of Central Station, again, my latin need to please everyone stopped me from saying no. After showing me a couple of curiosities around the station and realizing I wasn’t gonna go anywhere else with him, he finally said goodbye, but not after groping my ass. I was in such a state of shock that when I finally saw my boyfriend I didn’t even remember why we were meeting. That lasted for about 5 seconds, before he burst into tears and suddenly I remembered.
For about an hour we discussed inside the station as if we were the characters in some Mexican telenovela. Yes, it was heartbreaking and difficult, but overall it seemed to be going pretty well. However, everything changed when he started to make threats about hurting himself. This was one of the main reasons why I hadn’t wanted to break up with my boyfriend, I was too scared he’d do something bad to himself, so when he claimed he would do it, it was an instant trigger. Blood started to come out of both my nostrils, suddenly everything around me was spinning. Full on panic attack.
I was scared, neither of us knew what was going on, and in our silly teenage minds what made the most sense was going to the police station to ask for help: terrible mistake. As soon as we walked in with red eyes, and my jacket drenched in blood, the police officers called an ambulance to come get me immediately. Not more than five minutes passed before I was on my way to the hospital accompanied by my boyfriend (or maybe ex at that point?), who was still crying about us breaking up and begging me to give him a second chance.
Once we got to the hospital, the nightmare didn’t end. Since I had become stable by then, the nurses where in no rush to take me to the doctor, which meant I had to wait next to my ex who, you guessed it, was still a bundle of tears. Just so you get a general idea of how bad things were, there was a point where he was literally lying on the floor crying in front of everyone. One of the nurses had to ask him to take a seat.
After I was discharged I went back to Central Station so I could return home… still accompanied by my ex, who kept throwing himself to the floor. By that point I literally had no idea what else to do, so I just left. The cherry on top? I was in such a hurry to get out of there I got on the wrong train, and when I realized it I was in such a hurry to get down I left my phone behind. Fortunately, I had enough money to pay for a taxi to take me home. At least one thing went well that day.
For many, a breakup like mine would perhaps be awful enough for the brain to activate its defense mechanisms and bury it deep in the subconscious. Nevertheless, whenever this more than embarrassing episode from my teenage years comes to mind, I can’t help but smile. A couple of years ago, when I went back to New York and revisited Grand Central, I even took a picture of the exact spot where my boyfriend and I broke up. This was now an emblematic part of my personal story which I share with my ex, to whom I sent the picture straight away.
Despite having an awful split, today my ex remains one of my closest friends. As I matter of fact, he’s the one I immediately turned to when I got my heart broken recently. Throughout the years, we have been each other’s confidants, advisers, and supporters. Sometimes this raises a few brows from people who assure me exes, especially those who went through a bad breakup, can’t remain friends. But for me, this just wasn’t the case.
During the first months after our split, my ex and I practiced the no-contact rule. In a way, it was easier for us to pretend the other one never existed. For a while, I thought this was going to be the case for the rest of my life, as I couldn’t imagine a scenario where we could enjoy each other’s company as friends without thinking about all of our baggage. But life always has a way of surprising us, and this was no exception.
After returning home from New York, I overheard my ex-boyfriend’s voice for the first time in months in the background of a voice note sent to me by his sister, who had been a friend of mine since before we started dating. It had been so long, our stormy emotions had finally disappeared beyond the horizon, and instead of feeling the sense of dread I always imagined would befall me when I heard back from him, I felt affection and nostalgia. I no longer loved him, but now I could see him for what he was: a great ex-boyfriend with whom I lived some amazing moments. I couldn’t help but ask my friend to say hi for me.
My ex was the first one to reach back, resending me a Facebook friend request after blocking me. It didn’t feel weird to accept it, in a way it was like if we had press “reset” on our relationship and were ready to reenter each other’s life without hurting either of us.
I don’t believe you need to be friends with your ex, in fact, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. In many cases, this can lead to confusing emotions, deception, reverting to old patterns, and even ending up feeling worst about yourself than you did right after the breakup. Why did I end up doing it anyway and feeling happy about it? Because I wasn’t looking for it, I just let it happen naturally.
It was clear to me that my ex was a great guy, and deep down I always knew he could be a good friend, but from the moment we broke up I began to get used to the idea that we were most likely never going to talk with each other again. It sucks to lose a person you once hold dear, but holding on to the past will never be good, neither for you nor the other person involved, as it only slows down the heeling process and even results in trauma. It’s ironic, but the only chance we have of keeping those cherished people around is to fully accept their permanent absence from our lives. In my case, having such an awful breakup helped me accept this right away. I loved my ex as a friend, but after what we went through I felt comfortable with the idea of never seeing each other again. It was clear that this was for the best. And, in the end, it truly was.