The Lifespan of a Lesbian Heartbreak

Smile because you’re so happy. Smile because you’re thinking about her, and ahh! She’s so cute! Smile because she’s thinking about you. You know this, because she just texted you saying, “Thinking of you!” Fall in love. Be in love. Think that you invented love because surely no one has ever – ever – felt like this before. Your bodies fit together so well. Feel like you finally understand what that Postal Service song is about. Spend a lot of time together, all of your time together. Listen to your friends bitch about how they never see you alone anymore. Calmly explain that they’ll understand…once they invent love for themselves.

Meet a cute girl and notice it. Don’t flirt with her, but think about her for the rest of the day. Have sex with your partner that night, ’cause since you saw that girl, all you’ve wanted to do was fuck. But all this is normal, and you still love your girlfriend, really and truly. Honestly, actually.

Have your first fight, and see yourself hurt her. Or see her hurt you. Probably both — definitely both. Process your feelings and realize it’s all still worth it. Begin to fight more regularly, and notice yourself becoming increasingly passive aggressive. Hate that about yourself. Give it some space. Notice that space is good. Maybe too good. Wonder what it’s like to be single. Stay together anyway because you don’t want to take the easy way out. Open up your relationship, because it means you’re so secure. Realize you’re not as secure as you thought you were; that you’ve really just been skirting the issue, putting band-aids on broken buildings. Feel guilty, and a little sad.

Drink a lot of wine and talk about how you love each other while crying and making out. Only remember part of it in the morning. Go out for coffee to talk about it. Break up — for real this time — and cry in a coffee shop, maybe not for the first time. Smoke a pack of cigarettes in bed and refuse to sleep alone for two weeks. Lure friends over and realize that cuddling with them just isn’t the same.

Get your hair cut, even though no one will notice. She would have noticed. Sigh. Wish you were still together. Wait, no, wish you were still together…but happy. Reminisce about falling in love and that part where you were so excited and you had all the sex all the time and you giggled. Hear Beyonce’s “Love on Top” on the radio one morning and think about it for literally the rest of the day. See a young mother laughing with her child on your walk to work and wish you had someone to hold hands with at that very moment.

why don’t you return my text

Stop talking to her altogether, because it’s too hard, and delete her from Facebook, because you just don’t want to know. Spend a LOT of time with your friends – sober – and realize how important they are. Realize that your friendships are relationships, just not romantic, and they’re important too. Talk to people who have been through breakups and realize you’re not alone. Because just like you thought you invented love, you also thought that you invented heartbreak. Understand that this awful, debilitating sentiment is not limited to only you. But everything still hurts. Realize that they all survived, and that heartbreak is a common experience, crushing though it may be. Know that most everyone else lived through it, and now you’re a part of this big, beautiful thing, this universal feeling, this harrowing experience. You’ll live through it, because everyone else did. You’ll probably live through it again. Write a haiku about this feeling and post it on your Tumblr. Everyone likes it! They’ve been there, too.


Sleep with someone else, and realize that’s something you can do. High five people and go through the day all chipper, ’cause you had sex last night, bitch! Wish it was sex with her, but know that can’t happen. Sleep with other people! Or don’t! Either way, realize your own autonomy, and relish it. Keep missing her, but feel something new: relief. Understand you probably felt it the second you broke things off, but couldn’t admit it, because admitting it would mean you didn’t love her. Don’t worry, you did, you really did. But sometimes it’s just not enough, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. Stop blaming yourself, or stop blaming her. Both. The relief is so honest, and you hope she feels it too, whatever she’s doing these days.

Start talking again, and get your friendship back. Realize how much you’ve missed her! Not her in your arms, or her in your bed, but her as a person. She knows you so well, and vice versa.

Wait, are you still in love with her?

Think about it for a second…nah. But you do love her, just not like that, which, by the way, still doesn’t mean you want to meet her new girlfriend. Realize you might be happy, and not only that, but happy for her.

Date around a little, but don’t get into anything serious. You’re not looking for a relationship, ’cause you know who you’re dating? Yourself. Because if you can’t make it work with yourself, then how are you supposed to make it work with anyone?

Avatar of katrina

Katrina is a 23-year-old grrrl splitting her time between her great homeland of New York City and Washington DC. She loves activism and hates sleep, which is convenient because neither of those things really allows for the other anyway. She thinks that slang is rad. As a math equation (with words, because she is bad at math), Katrina would go as such: writer + riot grrrl = wrioter grrrl. When not manifesting itself as a mathematical equation, Katrina’s life usually reads out like a lesbian coming-of-age novel, though sometimes she wishes it were more like a bad 1950s lesbian pulp fiction story. Also, she really, really, truly believes that the revolution is upon us. Come read her rantings about it on her twitter and blog!

Contact: katrina[at]autostraddle.com

katrina has written 64 articles for us.

125 Comments

  1. Thumb up 4

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    Where’s the anger? You know, when you realize she left you to go back to her married lover. That she never really loved you and was just playing because she’s a broken little narcissist who lacks simple compassion. It’s the anger that I wasn’t expecting and really messed me up.

    And how long is all this supposed to take? I should be over this by now!

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        For me what’s missing here is loneliness. The soul-crushing, no-one-will-ever-love-me again-and-maybe-even-she-didn’t-love-me-either, and the what-if-I-am-a-defective-and-unloveable-human-being-what-then kind of loneliness.

        I think this is a well-written piece about a break-up, from the perspective of the person who initiated the break-up. Hence why it does not resonate with the angry, lonely, and truly heartbroken among us. It’s great to move on and find freedom and casual sex, but if you’re truly destroyed, if that person was someone you really loved, you’re not going to be able even think about sleeping with other people, nor will you feel ANY of the relief described.

        This piece actually reminded me of breaking up with my ex whom I knew to be wrong for me– yeah, I missed him sometimes, but the towering relief of not having to pretend to love him anymore, was infinitely greater.

        I could write another piece, about being that person sobbing on the bathroom floor of the bar, or drunk-dialing the one girl whose number you swore you would delete a few hours (and a few shots of tequila) ago. Yikes. Not all broken hearts are created equal, some are truly like diving into the abyss.

        • Thumb up 1

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          but there were no timelines in the piece, and I think even if you are in the abyss, you eventually see your way out, even if it takes a year or longer.
          Eventually you will want to sleep with other people.

        • Thumb up 2

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          “For me what’s missing here is loneliness. The soul-crushing, no-one-will-ever-love-me again-and-maybe-even-she-didn’t-love-me-either, and the what-if-I-am-a-defective-and-unloveable-human-being-what-then kind of loneliness.”

          <3

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          hey hi……. may be my reply is late but dont think any such thng about urself….. someday u will find d onw who will love u more than anythng in life….

        • Thumb up 1

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          “the towering relief of not having to pretend to love him anymore”

          Wow. This. Admitting this was key for me.

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          A marvelous description of my current state of mind. Nine year gone with the wind. Thank you for your words. They fed my soul in this moment of need.

  2. Thumb up 1

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    Um….. I don’t relate to this at all, I have a heart and everything, it loves, and it breaks, I just never relate to this kind of cliched how-were-supposed-to-feel editorial in lesbian media :-/ And the stereotypes I’m presented with IRL too – the u-haul thing, I just don’t get it. Like all lesbians are supposed to feel this way and have the same thought and emotional patterns – kinda makes me feel like a misfit. Is it just me?!

    • Thumb up 4

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      this isn’t about ‘how you’re supposed to feel’ — it’s a personal essay (it’s even tagged as such). it’s how she felt. it’s the lifespan of a lesbian heartbreak, not every lesbian heartbreak. no one here would ever tell you how to feel, rosie!

      we’re all misfits.

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      Hm, okay, I kind of get what you mean in terms of the ‘all lesbians feel this way’ stuff, but I thought this article was incredibly accurate just in terms of heartbreak. I’m bi (or whatever) and just ended a relationship with a boy in the fall and yeah. This describes us. Especially the feeling of inventing love– I literally thought most other couples weren’t legit because no one could feel as strongly as we did about each other. But I guess what I’m saying is… this heartbreak isn’t unique to lesbians but the article was really insightful… imo.

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        Thank you for all your replies to my comment – it helps. I think I’m feeling a bit weird because most accounts of lesbian love/heartbreak I read/watch, and are presented with IRL are along these lines – the same patterns – and while this is a personal piece, many other lesbians feel the same way too, which is wonderful, it just makes me question whether I’m made up right, if that makes sense! When heartbreak happens to me, or when I fall for someone, people around me (mostly those who don’t know me intimately) think i’m going to react along the lines above, but I don’t. I love deeply and openly and when my heart breaks it is crushing, it’s like I’m gonna die from it, I just don’t do the things that lesbians seem to do, in lesbian media and in my personal life. I say cliche because I see and read the same things over and over, in hindsight I should have said common experience. It makes me worry that there’s something not right about me! Sorry that this is self indulgent, I’ve not said anything about my worry before and it just came out…

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          If it makes you feel any better, Rosie, I don’t go through this stuff either. Most of my friends–queer or straight–seem to go through these experiences, but not I. Like traveling to a foreign land, I see these moments as a chance to observe a strange set of customs and rituals that I will never really be a part of.

        • Thumb up 1

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          I am often told I’m a cold person due to not having these types of feelings when I break up, nice to see its not just me.

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          Maybe look at it like an essay with a thesis? That’s what I did. Thesis: You are more than your romantic status. Fix yourself first.

          I’ve never been through any of this stuff mostly because I’ve never felt the need to date, but it’s a thesis I’m always trying to get through to my friends, so it worked for me that way.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    “Spend a LOT of time with your friends – sober – and realize how important they are. Realize that your friendships are relationships, just not romantic, and they’re important too.”

    If it can be said I have a ‘favorite part’ of breaking up – that would be it.

    Anyways, beautifully written. :D

  4. Thumb up 1

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    I read this once and I thought, oh! So true! But then I looked over it again and started thinking about it and, alas, much too trite. I agree that it’s really missing the loneliness,It’s missing the fucked up all-your-friends-were-her-friends-now-you-have-no-friends-drama-blah dynamic that is so common in incestuous lesbian circles. It’s definitely missing the anger (she treated you badly, she cheated on you, the girl she is dating now is that girl she was driving around with in a car while you were wondering why she was thirty minutes late). Also, good for you that you could find someone to have sex with…alas…not all girls have such game. Good for you that you realized you missed her so much when you started being friends with her again, as opposed to wondering if she’s a douchebag in and out of the sheets ;p

    I mean yes, it’s genius in that it’s generic, but it’s so generic that after you think about it for awhile you realize that it’s not applicable at all. But oh, if only it was!

    Maybe part of this washed out feeling comes with time, and all the little things that you feel like make you different or you more miserable wash out and become part of this great big generic story, eventually. But eh.

    • Thumb up 1

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      “Yes, yes, me and myself are quite in love as well. If you’re ever in DC proper, we should go on a double date. You bring your L Bomb, I’ll bring my fireworks, and we can make it an explosive evening that, hopefully, will feel just as good.”

      … But seriously, I would never want to hit on a taken lady (i.e. your girlfriend), Pips. I just can’t resist the call of a horrendously bad pickup line.

  5. Thumb up 1

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    One of the funnest moments I had this week was when I walked into a grocery store in the middle of the night a day after Valentine’s day and bought myself chocolate and flowers conveniently on sale.

    I love me sometimes.

    I also am in love with this other girl, but we’re poly and she loves me too, so she’s okay with my relationship with myself. :)

  6. Thumb up 1

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    This is so awesome! this is why I love Autostraddle so much, I feel like they know what’s happening in my life all the time. some of this things are happening to me right now and it sucks so much but at least I know I’m not alone that there are more people who went or are going through the same as me.

  7. Thumb up 2

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    This essay just reminds me how mysterious love is to me. I’ve never experienced being in love. Like in a relationship, not just yearning for someone I can’t have. True heartbreak and actual love just seems so scary, fascinating, and mind-boggling to me. I can’t relate to the feeling. However, even someone as inexperienced in the field of love as myself can read this essay and appreciate what its saying. Great job.

  8. Thumb up 1

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    What if all your friends were her friends too until you broke up and they were only her friends and then you don’t have anyone to sit around sober with? What if you started trying to be friends with her (and them) again after months of not talking and now everyone looks at you weird and you feel like you don’t belong anymore? What if you’re still angry about everything/what if you didn’t belong in the first place? :(

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      You need new friends..Been there..You need to NOT be friends with her yet..Maybe never..But it’s clearly too soon..As for anger..It’s normal, but don’t hold onto it too long..It’s a waste of time and the only person you’re hurting is you..Plus it takes so much energy to maintain, and really..Is she worth it? And remind yourself why it didn’t work in the first place..In fact, make a list..And be brutally honest..So when you start feeling like you miss her you can pull it out and remember why it is you aren’t together..And cut yourself a break..It’s called “heartache” for a reason

    • Thumb up 1

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      This exact thing happened to me. What I did was lean very very hard on my sister and my internet friends (because they were definitely mine and not hers!) and then join a whole new community and make new, real, wonderful friends and realise that the people who abandoned me after the breakup were a) never really my friends and b)fucking shitty people, jesus christ.

      Tl;dr you hurt and feel alone for a while and then you make much better friends.

  9. Thumb up 1

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    If you’re dating yourself and trying to make it work with yourself, shouldn’t you probably be avoiding casual sex? Shouldn’t you just be happy making yourself feel sexy and having sex by yourself, at least for the time being? I often wonder why some many people feel look they need to “score” with someone even without looking for a relationship just to feel whole or empowered, as just loving yourself can’t possible be good enough. I tend to think this mostly a male attitude, but I’ve noticed this seems to be the case of some women as well. Don’t mean to sound just judgmental, because every person is different after all. Just like to see someone elses thoughts on this.

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      Well, speaking from experience, having sex with someone else tends to help for some reason? Like, there’s this whole concept of a “rebound” for a reason. A lot of the fear from leaving a relationship is this misconception (dear God, hopefully) that you’ll never be so attracted to a person again, that if you are that person will never have sex with you, that there are no other lesbians, that you’ll just be alone forever…etc…you don’t want to “date yourself” because you have no other option. You want to /choose/ to date yourself. Casual sex/a rebound relationship can help alleviate the feeling that you’re not attractive/won’t get a girl again. That way, you can focus on yourself instead of your apocalyptic prophecies haha…

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        And, you aren’t solely sleeping with someone to validate your attractiveness to others (it’s fine and dandy to be sexy to yourself, but sexiness to others is the other part of what gets you laid lol), of course. You also realize you can be attracted to other people as well. You can enjoy time/sex with another person that’s not your (now) ex. It wittles away not just at the fear but at the emotional connection to your ex that the fear was holding onto to.

  10. Thumb up 1

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    Definitely scrolled through and checked for a comment from my ex before posting… this was absolutely perfect. I’m in the she-deleted-you-from-facebook-but-stil-leaves-you-playlists-that-you’ll-read-too-much-into-on-8tracks stage. Fuck crying yourself to sleep to Noah & the Whale. I’m hoping a new town and 300+ miles of distance help? Hello Portland….

  11. Thumb up 1

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    I’m at the crying, making out and talking about it in coffee shops stage. With neither of us ever quite brave enough to say it’s over. When you were best friends beforehand and know you won’t be afterwards it’s really scary. The fact I know part of me will be relieved means I really should end it shouldn’t I?

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      You don’t really need me to answer that question. So I’ll answer the one you’re internally asking yourself: Leaving leads to the unknown, and people tend to believe the unknown will be much more painful than what they are already experiencing. Sometimes it is, for a little while at least. But more often it leads to a greater peace that no words can even begin to describe.

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    I feel as though there should be a “create a Beyonce playlist that will show every level of the emotions you go through” step that’s missing here.

    Because she really does have a song for every emotion that you feel.

  13. Thumb up 1

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    For me, it wasn’t ever about seeing other people and being attracted. It wasn’t something that I could even describe in words. What is missing in this article, for me, is that feeling of lacking my other half. That she ultimately changed my life for the better, and I don’t have the desire to ever have another love. What we had was a form of pure, life altering love that is special to her and me. I don’t ever want to share that with someone again.

  14. Thumb up 1

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    so, i read this out loud to my two friends (they’re a couple) and then we all just stared at each other. then i read the entire thing out loud again, with theatrical emphasis added. katrina, this was fucking great. like i want to meet you and give you a high five.

  15. Thumb up 1

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    “Smile because you’re so happy. Smile because you’re thinking about her, and ahh! She’s so cute! Smile because she’s thinking about you. You know this, because she just texted you saying, “Thinking of you!” Your bodies fit together so well. Feel like you finally understand what that Postal Service song is about.”

    And this completes the circle. It is all very much true. :)

  16. Thumb up 1

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    I actually searched for this article today to see how far I had progressed from the time when it was published. I am still not ready to be friends with her (which she doesn’t understand), but I’ve made it to the autonomous stage!! I have actually thought about this piece a few times since it was published– and it has helped me, because I know how perfectly it described the last year and a half of my life. Thanks for the great article!!!!

  17. Thumb up 1

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    did you follow me around the past 3 weeks? all of this just happened. except the talking and meeting her new girlfriend part. shes just talking to that girl right now, and were not. and i just deleted her on Facebook this morning. but the point is, i’m not alone! thankyou.

  18. Thumb up 1

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    i don’t know how many people are still reading this, but i’m curious. what do you do when you’re an introvert at an in-between phase of life with only 2 people who even remotely qualify as friends within a 50 mile radius, and she was your absolute best friend for four years? how long is this going to take to pass? will i ever stop crying?

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      I’m still reading it. But I’m sorry to say that I have no solution for you. I’m in a similar boat, except I have 3 friends but I don’t drive, so I can’t really see them even if we had time. I’ve been crying for months now. But the heartache is starting to scab over a bit, so it only hurts sometimes. So maybe there’s hope for the future?

  19. Thumb up 1

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    hm! kinda wish i could post this on my facebook, but i just deleted my facebook so i wouldn’t have to go through changing my relationship status to single… kind ironic right? :( i’m so unhappy right now, but i know it will get better and this article really helped me see that.

  20. Thumb up 3

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    The part left out:

    Cry so hard the first night sleeping without her that you are afraid your neighbors will ask you if you are okay. Bite your pillow when it’s too much. Wake up and realize that you can’t cry for the rest of your life. Realize that you would like to love other people. Rearrange your furniture so you can stop imagining the way she looked when she walked into your room and took off her clothes before crawling into your bed. Remember that you didn’t want it to last, really, no matter how many times you told her that you loved her. Remember that you were trying to change each other into people neither of you could be.

    But still, I can’t stop wondering when sleeping alone will become bearable again.

  21. Thumb up 1

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    oh my god.
    i recently broke up with my girlfriend, and i’ve been so confused! this post basically sums up all the awful feelings. i was the one who initiated the breakup because, even though i really truly love her, i could not stop thinking about other girls. i love the single life. she has an extremely codependent personality, and the stress from the breakup has given her ulcers. she has also lost her appetite, and pukes up the few things she does eat. it KILLS me thinking about how sad she is! we still talk every day, even video chat, and most of the time our conversations end in crying. she’s just so fucking cute that i fucking hate myself for hurting her!! she is convincing herself that we will get back together after i have my “summer of fun”..but i don’t think she really comprehends the fact that I WANT TO BE SINGLE! not only that, but i can’t help but feel extremely guilty when she talks about this “summer of fun”, it makes me seem like a selfish horny bitch who thinks i can have her whenever i want. when i tell her that she deserves better and i dont want to be in a relationship again she suggests an open relationship….key word: RELATIONSHIP. i love her so much it hurts, but i want to be single. she doesn’t deserve someone whose focus is not completely on her.

    sorry if this isn’t the appropriate place to spill my problems, this post triggered some negative feelings haha. its just nice to know that im not alone

  22. Thumb up 2

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    Things I learned from my big-ass break up almost 1 year after the fact…

    1.) You don’t have to be friends with your ex.
    2.) Cutting off contact is the best thing you can do for both of you. Do it when your ready, but the sooner the better.
    3.) You will feel the loss of a relationship and a person in your life, but you should also try and embrace the new FREEDOM it provides. Remember that the new space in your heart can be filled with new people who love and care about you way more than your ex ever did (or could).
    4.) You do NOT have to date someone right away, or even years after your last break up. People are not replaceable. Accept the loss and work through it/adapt. You CAN and DO exist outside of your relationship to others, so you don’t NEED to always be in a relationship. If you do, you might want to investigate why you don’t feel like you are good enough for yourself.
    5.) Even at the worst, most loneliest of times, remember that what you are going through is completely normal and totally temporary. No one stays heartbroken forever, and one day you will find it difficult, if not impossible to recreate the feelings that devastated you in the beginning of the loss. That’s not to say you will forget what happened, but the pain and unpleasantness will fade.
    6.) Feel everything fully. If you feel angry at your ex, embrace the anger. If you feel like you miss them, embrace the fact that you still love them on some level (people go away, but love doesn’t). Acceptance of what you feel means that you don’t have to fight the feelings anymore and that will lighten the emotional load you are carrying significantly.
    7.) Try to maintain a policy of forgiveness for all the wrongs in the relationship. This will eliminate a lot of things that might prevent you from moving on emotionally and will help bring closure to a long dramatic episode in the canon of your life.
    8.) Remember that even though you are no longer part of your ex’s life, they are no longer part of your life and they have NO BEARING or RELEVANCE to what happens next in your life. This can be a very empowering and freeing realization if you let it be.

  23. Thumb up 0

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    This article is perfect. Only problem for me is that I did start dating someone, too soon and it had really negative consequences and I don’t know if we are ever going to work through them and I am exhausted.

  24. Thumb up 0

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    Got here from Top 10 Special Weirdo Things I’ve Done Since My Very First Break Up by Lauren, very, very happy I did.

    “Write a haiku about this feeling and post it on your Tumblr. Everyone likes it! They’ve been there, too.”

    Two poems and a limerick more like, talk about catharsis! This post really is perfection, I cried a little, it was a good kind of cry.

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      I know that feeling. I found out the same thing only three weeks after the break up. They were officially girlfriends (after THREE WEEKS) and it took 2 months for her to officially ask ME to be her GF back in the day. That made it even worse. It’s been like almost two months and a couple of weeks ago I (finally!) blocked her and her GF from facebook. I just don’t wanna know.

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