According to Wikipedia, fight or flight is a physiological and/or psychological reaction “in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival.” First described in the 1920s by American physiologist by Walter Bradford Cannon, the instinct rapidly prepares an animal either to stay and fight a danger or to flee from it. A part of humans’ primordial hard-wiring as well, f&f may also have an influence upon how we react to breakups.
Here is a tale of two women. Both are true stories. (I know both of these women well. And each read and approved this post before its publication, telling me, “Go for it!” figuring their story just might help another woman in a similar situation.) Woman #1—we’ll call her “Cat,” responded to an impending breakup with her boyfriend of 10 months very differently than did Woman #2—we’ll call her “Mouse,” who was also facing a breakup with her boyfriend of (coincidently) 10 months.
Cat and her man had had a contentious relationship nearly from the beginning. He made comments and criticisms that were way beyond the pale. (I thought Cat was too good for him. I think he knew it, too. In an attempt to build himself up, he felt the need to tear her down. But that’s an outsider’s opinion.) I don’t doubt he cared for her. He just couldn’t show it—at least not in the way she wanted or needed—even after she told him. (Hell, she drew him a map! “Can you ask me once in a while about my day? Or tell me you were thinking about me and missed me?” she’d ask. Which wasn’t asking much!) She called him “quirky.” But seriously?! Who regifts their girlfriend a covered in company logo briefcase for Christmas he got for free from a convention? (Thinking, BTW, she’d love it!) He makes good money. He’s just cheap. He would also flirt with other women right in front of her. He seemed to know just how to “push her buttons.” She’d take it until she couldn’t. Then she’d explode.
Cat lived up to her name. She hissed and spat and scratched. In other words, she fought back. When he hurt her, she wanted to hurt him back. Because it was a long distance relationship (they lived on opposite coasts), they argued via tit for tat texts, each hurling accusations, proclaiming each had been provoked by the other’s behavior. Eventually too much was said in anger or from hurt feelings. He called it quits. Now is when the claws really came out. Cat owned her crazy; but there was no way in hell he was going to walk away without shouldering his share of the blame. Cat refused to be ignored. She called her boyfriend on every transgression. If they were breaking up, well then, damn it! he was going to hear her side of the story. In a way, I respected the hell out of the way she told him exactly how she felt. She had loved him (still does in fact). I believe she believed if they got it all out, they could get past it.
Now let’s move on to Mouse. Her and her man’s relationship was quite different. They never fought, argued or exchanged a harsh word. Things seemed to be going perfectly—until he went to rehab. Yes. He had a drinking problem. Mouse claims she never realized it was as bad as it was. He wasn’t a mean or sloppy drunk. (I think she probably just didn’t want to see it.) When he got out of rehab, their relationship ended. He didn’t come by, call or text—unless she did. And even then his texts were cold, impersonal, distant, full of he was “just really busy” excuses. Mouse thought she was taking the high road. Giving him needed time to get his life back on track. She’d never imagined she wouldn’t still be a part of it though. She stuck her head in the sand. She just couldn’t read the writing on the wall, although I thought he’d drawn her a pretty clear picture. He’d even colored it in for her and sprinkled it with glitter. Unlike Cat, who has a firecracker confident self-esteem, Mouse suffers from a pretty deep insecurity that causes her to devalue her sense of self-worth. Not only did she not want to call him on his bullshit treatment of her post rehab, (FYI, she’s the one who made the phone calls, got him admitted and drove him there!) she ran away from the issue entirely. (BTW, I also think she was too good for him.) Mouse didn’t –or couldn’t—fight back and call him on his cowardice because subconsciously she thinks getting dumped is just par for her course. Like her namesake, Mouse ran away. She suffers now in silence.
Me—as the outsider—sees all sides more clearly than either woman can. The sad thing is both these women are smart, beautiful, accomplished women. But they are in love. And love not only makes one blind—it makes one stupid. (Ever hear the expression “stupid in love?”) Granted, the circumstances and men in each relationship were different, but neither relationship was healthy. Both women need to move on to better men. (Yes. Do as I say, not as I do.)
Truly, how either woman is handling her breakup does not matter in the long run. Whether Cat pulls in her claws or Mouse learns to roar is a homework assignment for the next relationship. As for now, the time for f or f is past. Girls, take it from a friend who loves you both! Tonight’s assignment is a two-parter: g & g and l & l. Go and grow. Only then can you learn and love, not only again, but better. As each of you deserves! ♥♥