When Nan Bauer-Maglin was 60 years old, her husband left her for his 25-year-old student. "I thought about suicide. You know, there’s a great feeling of rejection especially if you’re older," she told me. "You just feel ugly and invisible and sad and quite gray."
Nan wrote a book inspired by their breakup and called it Cut Loose. "First I was gonna call it 'Dumped.' But that’s so negative," she told me. "Cut Loose is also about freedom."
Nan is one of hundreds of listeners who shared their breakup stories with us, after we asked for them last year. And she's not the only one who mentioned a potent mix of rejection, liberation, and confusion at the end of a relationship.
A listener named Drew remembers when his boyfriend went on a trip, left his dog at Drew's house, and never came back. Thomas*, who got married right out of college, is 25 and unsure of what his life will look like after his impending divorce. Mia sent in a voice memo about leaving her boyfriend behind, and struggling with the decision years later. Identical twins Matthew and Peter Slutsky realized they needed to break up after years of living parallel lives: attending the same college, working the same jobs, living with their families in the same neighborhood. Creating some distance was part of growing up, but that doesn't mean it wasn't hurtful.
In your breakup stories, you also described how hard it can be to know when it's over. Steve* knows he's not happy right now, but isn't sure if the problem is him or his long-term boyfriend. "I love him and I don’t want to hurt him," he told me. "This just seems like kind of a way to wipe the slate clean and start over."
Sometimes, though, breaking up can also feel like a long overdue exhale. Beth, a listener in Philadelphia, recalls the day when she was riding her bike on her commute and choked out the words, "I don't want to be married!" She was divorced within a year, and looking back now, wishes she hadn't waited so long to be honest about her feelings.
Whether you're in the middle of a breakup or you've been through one in the past, check out our Breakup Survival Kit. It's a Google doc created by all of you that's filled with your best suggestions about what to read, watch, listen to and do after a split. Plus: see what our listener Emily Theis built from your suggestions, at breakupsurvival.guide.
*Name changed for privacy reasons