That one word can mean so many things to different people. But if there is one thing that everyone can agree on about relationships is that they are not easy. A relationship can be a lot like a rollercoaster; it has its various ups and downs.
When you’re in a relationship, and experiencing the good moments, it can be simple to just forget all the bad parts that have happened. The fickle thing about relationships is that it’s not the ups and downs that one should take note of, it’s about how healthy the relationship is.
Therein lies the sitch: everyone says relationships take work, that in order to have a strong relationship, you should work through your problems. But when do you know the difference between a series of bad moments and the moments that shouldn’t be happening? When do you realize that it is fruitless to keep working on a relationship? That no matter how much you try, you find yourself in the same cycle over and over again?
When that happens, there is only one outcome. You break up.
Over the past summer, I had just finished my last year of University and was anxious to get started with all my plans. As the summer began, I noticed that all of my friends had gotten into relationships, and during every night out, I would hear stories about how sweet their significant other was, and how I should try and find someone. As if it were as easy as buying a coffee, I used to think every time this was suggested. Looking back, I realized the irony of my thinking. I was out for a walk in the city and stumbled into a coffee shop that I’ve never visited before. And after some bantering with the charming guy behind me, I left the shop with a medium almond latte and a new number in my phone.
The relationship was a lot like a flame lighting a firecracker. It was hot and fast at the beginning and then fizzled out within three months. It was a pure summer romance with horrible consequences. The breakup seemed mutual, but it was clear that he was the one who initiated the end of the relationship.
After the breakup, I felt fine at first. Albeit, a bit sad, but fine. I went out and did my day-to-day routine. I brushed off the concerned calls and texts of my friends. I initiated plans to go out for dinner, or to the occasional club. I was fine.
Or so I thought. After those few days of blissful ignorance and not facing the truth, and sweeping everything under the metaphorical rug, it hit me all at once. I started analyzing how the relationship ended. I went over every little action, every little word, from the last few interactions before the breakup to the actual breakup.
He ended the relationship stating that there was no spark. That there never was a spark.
I remember thinking, Oh, then why continue being with me for as long as you did?
In those first few weeks after the breakup, I did everything I could to stay positive:
- I avoided the coffee shop where we first met
- I avoided our typical pizzeria
- I put everything that reminded us of our time together in a box and hid it away
- I went out as much as I can with my friends
But I still couldn’t bring myself to feel happy or content. I spent the following month questioning everything, from how I felt, to asking myself what would have happened if I did something different. Would we still be together? Slowly I sunk into a slump full of self-doubt and self-loathing.
Why didn’t he feel a spark? Was there something wrong with me?
I had no desire to go out anymore. I was scared to put myself out there. It reached the point where I was so tired of my own mentality, and I longed to be the person that I was before the relationship. That person was happy and content with who she was.
I was determined to make things right again, not with him, but with myself. So, I took action. Step by step, little by little, I began to pick up the pieces and put them back together again.
It all began with the process of self-reflection.
After I got past all the hurt that his words had caused me, I looked back at our relationship and its moments, from the little verbal barbs to the blatant disrespectful comments that he has said to me. There were moments where I felt like I was being held back and not able to do what I wanted because he did not want to do it. Looking back at all those little moments made me realize that the relationship we had was not healthy; it was damaging.
At first, I was angry. Not with him, but with myself. I kept thinking, How could I be so stupid to let a guy do this to me? To say those things to me? To disrespect me like he did? I was so mad at all the things that I let slide, because I was too starry-eyed by the idea of showing him off as a boyfriend. During the relationship—as well as after—all of those little comments got to me after a while. It made me lose my ability to love myself and realize my own self-worth.
2. The Beginning:
I got into a relationship for all the wrong reasons. I spent the beginning of that summer, before I met him, watching on in envy as all of my friends met their significant others and gushed about them every get-together. I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and saw pictures of couples everywhere. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to show the world I had someone. That alone should have been a warning sign.
When I met him in the coffee shop, he had simply complimented me and then asked for my number. We went out on one date afterwards and then all of a sudden, we were dating and I was bringing him along to dinners with my friends.
I wanted to be in a relationship because everyone else was in one, not because I had met someone true and kind, who I wanted to spend my time with. I just wanted the idea of a boyfriend.
I realized that to be happy with who I am, I needed to love myself again. But in order to not make the same mistake of jumping into a relationship for the sake of being one, I needed to love myself and know that I can achieve my own happiness without depending on anyone else. So, I made a list of every single thing I wanted to do that summer. And I vowed to complete this list—a little cheesy, mini-bucket list.
Here is an excerpt of what this list looked like:
- Find a waterfall and swim under it
- Go to a bonfire on the beach
- Take dancing lessons
- Try a new ethnic food
- Go hiking
I realized the importance of being present in my everyday life. To actually be in my surroundings, and see and value the people around me. I built some very important relationships that way. I made a new friend out of a mere acquaintance. I strengthened the relationship with my mom. Soon there was a change in my mentality; I was more positive. I smiled more, talked more, lived more.
I stopped avoiding everything that had to do with him. I realized it was silly to avoid a coffee shop or a restaurant because that’s where we used to go. It’s not the place that was to blame; it was the memories. There was no way I was letting memories stop me from getting good coffee or amazing pizza.
Slowly, but surely, I began to love myself again. To love the person I am, with my insatiable curiosity and sense of adventure that he always tried to tamp down. I had a spark, and it was his loss that he could not see it. I went on to have my own adventures. I explored many new places, swam various beaches, hiked gorgeous trails, read books, took dance lessons—I admit that dancing is a skill I’m never going to perfect. I made my own memories with friends that truly care for me. I made memories that only I would know. Those memories are the ones that I will cherish the most.
A relationship will always have its ups and downs. Like I said before, relationships are not easy. But sometimes there are relationships that are not right.
Relationships should not:
- Involve tearing your significant other down
- Diminish your self-love
- Make you scared to voice your opinions
- Let you feel constant self-doubt
- Hold you back in any way
- Make you feel safe and content with your significant other
- Should make you a better version of yourself
- Help you achieve your goals
- Provide healthy support
- Make you feel loved
In the following months after the break up, there was one thing that always resonated within my mind: he told me that I was afraid to try new things, that I was afraid to be myself. As I conquered my list, I realized that with each goal I checked off, I was proving him wrong. That realization felt very satisfying. He was wrong about me. He did not know my potential because he never encouraged me to unlock it.
To sum it all up, I had just come out of a relationship, was deeply hurt by it, and went through a lot of crippling self-doubt and loss of who I am. After some time in this slump, I realized that the relationship, regardless of the good memories, was an unhealthy one. I did a lot of self-reflection and decided that I should stop focusing on him and what he said to me and start focusing on the one thing I can control—which is myself.
The relationship was not a good one, but I don’t regret that it happened. If it weren’t for me dating this guy, I would not have realized my own true potential and my self-worth. I realized that I was dating this guy just for the sake of being in a relationship. I wanted to have someone I could bring to my friends’ dinners, just as they brought their boyfriends with them. It was not a good idea, and nor is it a healthy beginning to a relationship.
This journey of healing has taught me many things. Mainly, that self-love is essential before loving another person. You must be happy and content with who you are alone, and able to go out and be independent, and able to undertake new experiences.
Self-love is important because if you cannot love yourself, how can you expect to love another person in equal measure? My time and my effort is valuable and it should not be wasted on just anyone off the block. I realized that the time and effort you put on another person is as equally important as the time and effort you give yourself.
If you have recently broken up with someone, my advice to you is to self-reflect, sit back and realize that these things happen for a reason. As cliché as it sounds, every learning experience, every mistake, every person you meet, can make you stronger. It’s time to be selfish and to love yourself. It’s time to take the day and own it.
It’s high time you pay yourself the attention that you deserve. You never know what might come out of it.