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Dear Kiki: My partner split up with me in quarantine

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Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area can be submitted to dearkiki@littlevillagemag.com, or anonymously using this form. Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Illustration by Jav Ducker

Hi Kiki,

I, too, am a writer for LV Mag and I find myself a little lost during this COVID-19 time. Not only is college closed for an extra week, moving classes online for the remainder of the semester (I am one of the lucky few who can work from a safe environment), however, amongst all of this uncertainty, I came “home” earlier last week to find my partner acting like he wasn’t feeling well. After a few minutes of chat that normally lead us into what’s for dinner or our Netflix fix for the night, he got very, very quiet.

He begins with telling me that he has to make some changes that I knew were coming. So I nodded. He continued on to say that those changes didn’t involve me in his life. And I nodded. It took a lifetime for it to sink in. All I could think as he was saying this to me was, he was saying to me: “We have come this far, and we will go no further.” I have to say the rest was inaudible. All I kept thinking was, no, no, you don’t mean that, you bought me a fan for the bedroom, our bedroom, because I can’t sleep without one. I could not stop thinking about that fan.

I don’t care to openly air his personal demons out on a public platform. He is a wonderful, funny man, he is handsome, and has loved me better than anyone. He made me coffee every morning and covered my feet on the couch when they were cold. I know that his reasons for ending our journey now are not to hurt me — they are to protect me. He has a lot of things he needs to deal with, and he feels that they must be alone. But now, I am alone.

How do you heal from this? How do I face every day knowing that the man I love no longer wants to be with me? That I have to move back to my hometown? That we will no longer have days at the dog park or make dinner in a kitchen full of laughter? How do I cope with this during a time of such crazy “un-normalcy”? I don’t have the usual shopping and nights-out-with-girlfriends option, I can’t even hug my mom. How do I give myself some comfort during a time like this?

—Heartbroken in the Time of COVID-19

Dear Heartbroken,

There is no good time for a split from a loved one. The pain will ebb and flow and show up unexpectedly, just like it would in any “normal” circumstance. Your heart will heal, eventually, just like it would in any “normal” circumstance. But the dirty secret that no one ever tells us about grieving is that we always go through it alone — even under “normal” circumstances.

The normal accouterments to a post-breakup world — girls’ nights, etc. — are welcome distractions from the pain, to be sure. But if you measure the time spent healing, it’s clear that they don’t lessen it any. The hard work is done internally.

In that sense, ugly as it may seem, this may be a blessing. One of the hardest things about recovering from a long-term relationship is re-learning to be comfortable with ourselves, as individuals — relearning who we are, apart from that partner. And in many ways, time spent with other friends and loved ones can be a (welcome) crutch. We put off finding our way back to ourselves by redefining ourselves through other people — whether safely (through friends) or unsafely (through rushed new romances). You are protected from that, in a sense. You, and all of us, are doing the hard work of learning to live with ourselves, whether we want to or not.

But despite that, connection is still available. You may not be able to hold or be held. You may not have shopping trips or nights out. But one thing this pandemic has made clear is that you don’t need to be in the same room as someone else to connect deeply with them. All around the country and the world, people are reconnecting with distant family and friends. We’re leveraging the power of technology in ways we were too busy or distracted to before.

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Set up a Zoom date with more of your nearest and dearest than could ever find time to get together before. Drink wine “together” and commiserate and love on each other.

And then find something you love, something you’re passionate about, and use it as your north star to find your way back to who you were without your partner. Because getting over a relationship is a whole lot less about learning to forget them and a whole lot more about learning to remember yourself.

xoxo, Kiki


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