Do we have a culture of disposability? The myth of moving on quickly
You can take your time. You don’t have to rush to get over the heartbreak.
So you met someone. You like them—and what seems like a lucky twist of fate—they like you back. Something wonderful starts: a connection that feels so rare. Everything is great until it’s not. And with the end of any relationship, the onset of heartbreak looms near. But when that person leaves your life, you attempt to fill their absence with thoughts of someone new and by burying the sadness. It’s time to move on and that means getting over the heartache as soon as possible.
Sounds kind of familiar, right?
A lot of rules and norms shape the dating scene for our generation. The widespread use of online dating apps and social media to spark connections between different individuals has accelerated the tempo of dating to breakneck speed. This heightened pace also means that people are expected to be invincible when it comes to handling rejection or breakups. As a result, vulnerability is frowned upon, and it’s often considered a sign of weakness if you’re still “hung up on someone.”
But what if we embraced vulnerability instead of running from it? If we take the time to accept all of the pain and joy that someone has brought us, we can move away from a culture of disposability.
I’d like to propose a radical idea: Feelings and people are meant to be appreciated in their entirety—not quickly discarded.
The same mentality can be applied to platonic relationships as well. We’re entering a time in our lives where friendships inevitably shift and evolve—for better or for worse. Losing a close friend can be devastating, and it’s okay to admit that you miss them. When groups splinter or a pair has a falling-out, we want to be quick to prove we are better off without them. But we don’t have to pretend that their absence doesn’t affect us.
On top of the culture of disposability, there’s this tricky emphasis on labels. It seems as though many college-aged people and 20-somethings base most of the validation of their heartbreak on whether they had agreed to be “exclusive” or “non-exclusive” with the other person, or if they had earned the title of “girlfriend,” “boyfriend,” or “partner.” The duration of the encounter or the depth of the connection is sidelined when it comes to deciding if a person’s relationship was meaningful enough to justify a lengthy period of sadness or grief when it was over.
When I first arrived at college, I was disoriented by these expectations. I was dismayed when I would grab lunch with someone and listen to them shut themselves down over a relationship that clearly meant a lot to them—simply because they hadn’t strictly agreed to labeling themselves yet. Whether I was spilling my guts with my close friend or despairing over how bleak the dating scene is with a stranger in the bathroom at the bar, I heard the same thing over and over: Just get over it.
As peers and (dutiful) friends, we’re constantly urging each other to forget about the person we were seeing—reminding ourselves that, because nothing was official, we shouldn’t care as much. And while we hold good intentions, we often risk dismissing one another’s experiences and feelings. We hate seeing people we care about in pain, so we’ll say or do anything to make the heartache go away.
As we navigate the end of summer flings and move through the new school year, I hope you remember this: Labels or other people’s expectations don’t define heartbreak. What really counts is how much someone meant to you and how they made you feel. Whether it was a messy situationship or a swoonworthy two-year romance, you deserve to take as much time as you need to move through the sadness and grief of losing someone you shared a connection with. We do not have to search for new people in order to distract ourselves or recover swiftly from the heartache.
Being vulnerable is scary, but feeling numb is scarier.
So, grab a box of tissues and turn up Olivia Rodrigo’s entire discography if you need to. Whenever you’re ready to give the whole romance thing another go, remember that so much is waiting for you.
Simone Liang is an online editorial writer for Rowdy. Sometimes she remembers that she studies Political Science at the University of Florida. You can find her on Instagram @simonexliang.