Relationships can be wonderful. They can be fulfilling, empowering, comfortable. Sometimes even if they aren’t wonderful, they still possess these qualities. It’s easy to feel intoxicated by the prospect of being loved. There is no shame in admitting that. Craving affection is a universal human experience. When we’re presented with the opportunity to satisfy that craving, we’re often willing to sacrifice things. You might sacrifice your opinions or your voice. Or personal indulgence or self-expression. And if you’re really unlucky, you might even sacrifice pieces of your identity that are difficult to retrieve even after your relationship has come and gone. If you relate to feeling like some parts of yourself were collateral damage from your breakup, you’re not alone. Let’s have a raw conversation about working towards moving forward and regaining a sense of self-satisfaction after a relationship.
I’m going to start with my experience. My most recent relationship lasted two years. For the most part, I felt happy, safe, and loved. I don’t regret being with my partner and I think I experienced a lot of personal growth through being with them. That’s how issues with relationships and identity can sneak up on you. When relationships are mostly healthy, you might not evaluate how you’re truly being affected by them and you may not be considering long-term effects. Investing in a relationship is a difficult skill that takes a lot of self-reflection, communication, and consideration. Without knowing it, you might intertwine your own personal development with the development of your relationship. That’s what I did. Since I invested so much time and energy into our collective growth and experiences, I didn’t take time for myself. I blurred the lines between ‘me’ and ‘us’ during introspection which is crucial for truly healthy relationships.
Growing together is a blessing that comes from healthy relationships. A great way to grow as a person is to do it with the one you love. However, taking that growth with you independently after ending a relationship is the hard part. We are all constantly evolving — changing into new people through new circumstances and challenges. Since I’ve been through a variety of experiences that have contributed to the person I am today, I am grateful for them all. But, there were times when I had to adjust my growth earned during our relationship.
My breakup was painless and then painful. It was a mutual and circumstantial breakup. I was moving away, and we’d done long distance before, so we knew how difficult it would be. We decided it would be better for both of us if we broke up. It definitely was, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. When we broke up, I think I ended up with the abrupt end of the closure stick. He felt the need to block me on social media and limit contact, which at first I understood, but as time went on, I became resentful. I didn’t feel like I had the opportunity to control any part of my own personal journey to closure and self sufficiency. While I can understand that some of my issues with our breakup were rooted in my internal issues with control and power, it still stung. It’s hard enough to learn to love and provide for yourself after losing someone, let alone when they shut you out.
However, I have healed since then. It didn’t go exactly as I had imagined, even if it wasn’t on the exact timeline or in the exact way that I had imagined. I started out with tried and true post-breakup methods: the crying, the ice cream, the rebounds. The responses are normal, and they’ll likely lift your mood for a while. Yet, they can’t help you mend your relationship with yourself or regain your personal responsibility, which you sometimes lose when you’re in a relationship. For me, it was necessary to spend time alone. The raw, unfiltered time I had with the person I had become. The amount of time you spend with your partner makes you sometimes unaware of how much you’ve grown together.
Sit on a park bench and listen to music. Walk for a while and ask yourself questions you haven’t asked in a while. Catch up with your current self. Take up a hobby you enjoy. Remember that gratification and love do not have to come from other people. Learn something you’ve always wanted to know. Stay calm, patient, and forgiving towards yourself. Allow yourself to feel as if you are a stranger once again, and prepare to reintroduce yourself. Thank yourself for supporting you for so long. Ground yourself in the present by expressing gratitude. It is much harder to fall in love with oneself than it is with someone else. The more comfortable you become with yourself and, perhaps more importantly, the better you can protect and foster your identity in future relationships, you will be able to elevate yourself.
So go on a date with yourself tonight. Ask yourself how you have been doing. You should give yourself the same attention you give others. Last but not least, remember that you are not alone. The breakup is an especially challenging obstacle, but support is available in abundance.
Check back to Femonomic for more content like this and don’t forget to take care of yourself above all else.