When a couple breaks up, the one who moves out has it much harder. There's the hassle of finding a place, packing, purging and moving your possessions, which is no fun at the best of times, and is worse when one is also heartsick, and having to separate out things from the ex's possessions. Who gets that? Did we buy this together? Is this mine or his? Did he give it to me for my birthday, or did I give it to him for Christmas? Then when you have moved, you have to get used to a new neighborhood, find a grocery and laundromat. You have to remember not to take the old train to the old place at the end of the day when you're exhausted and on autopilot. You have to face the new place, maybe new roommates, the empty bed.
But being the one who stays behind has some unexpected problems as well. You don't anticipate the change in your own routine as readily, and even after you discover it, you don't seem able to hold onto it. For months you'll find yourself wondering at six pm "Where is he? He's usually home by now. Should I start dinner, or is he going to be really late? He usually calls if he's running late. Is he all right?" You'll be all the way to the end of these thoughts, ALL of them, with your full, conscious mind, before you notice them, before you remember oh yeah, he doesn't live here anymore. He probably IS home. Probably eating dinner right now. You don't need to wait. Go make dinner.
Coming home to an empty house is hard, but it's harder to get a new roommate because now when you hear a key in the door, your heart leaps as it always used to when he came home, right up until the day he left, then you realize it's not him, but this new, perfectly nice roommate coming in like he thinks he lives here or something, and your heart sinks, hard and fast. After a few months you're no longer expecting him to come home anymore, you know who it is when you hear the key, it's the roommate, this new guy you really like; nonetheless you feel your heart plummet, just for a second, everytime.
You're too reasonable to hold it against the roommate. Or so you think. Somehow you always need just a few minutes to yourself when he comes home, even if you've been home alone all day. Maybe especially then. When he starts to tell you excitedly about his wonderful day (and god, new roommates are always always having wonderful days, and they're so damn CHIPPER about it), you breathe deeply and recognize you're being an asshole (but my GOD, does he have to be so cheerful?), so you force yourself to listen, smile and ask questions like a normal, sane human being with some shred of empathy. It may only take a few seconds before you're genuinely enjoying him, not merely playing at it, but somehow you still need that prep time.
Maybe without realizing it, you've allowed this to become a new routine, and you realize it will take some strong step to break it. You do so, and for months, even years, it works, but then every once in a while, for no reason you can ascertain, you relapse; you hear the key, your heart leaps, then plummets again, and you try not to be disappointed that it's just your roommate.
Time does tell, though. As the years pass, you find yourself grateful for this experience when it happens, for the jab of pain and the flood of memories. You're grateful for the years you had with him, for the friendship you managed to salvage after the break-up, even if it still feels tentative. You're grateful that you still miss him, and have lived a life that includes love, pain, loss and learning. You're grateful that the sadness is just a small ember now, glowing quietly but still there. You know it was all worth it, and you wonder if you're strong enough to fall in love again, someday. You can't wait to try.