“Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.” ~Unknown
Sometimes we prolong relationships for the sake of comfort and familiarity. We’re fearful of what’s out there, and life without a partner. No matter how many times we’ve been hurt, taken for granted, or had our needs neglected, we still choose to stay even if our mind and heart strongly suggest otherwise.
I thought I was strong for putting up with my ex's mistreatment. I had held the ability to forgive in high regard, and I wanted to keep that standard.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been dumped fifty times by the same person, yet I put my happiness aside for them. I can’t even count the number of nights I cried myself to sleep. Even in the shower, I found myself taking longer than I used to because I shed my tears there, where nobody would find out.
The worst part was when I could no longer fully express my feelings to other people due to the fear of getting hurt as I was being hurt in my relationship. I tried hard to numb my emotions so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain, but that also meant being unable to feel joy or any other positive emotion.
The last straw happened when I went on a three-week vacation in Canada and the United States. We didn’t communicate often due to my ex’s work, and I was touring different places with my family, so Internet wasn’t accessible at all times.
I hadn’t felt so free in a long while. I focused on seeing the world and spending my time with my loved ones, and I didn’t miss my ex one bit. Coming home from a vacation always gave me post-travel depression, but this one hit me much harder, since I knew I had to face the reality of my relationship again.
As expected, within days of my return, my ex and I fought for the nth time. I’ll never forget the exact words that were hurled at me. “You’re a loser. You don’t deserve a vacation.”
The crying and self-loathing came back. Except this time, I knew I had a choice and realized that I was choosing my own heartbreak. I remember the freedom I'd felt while away and decided I wanted that feeling wherever I went.
It might have been a hard pill to swallow, but after six years of an on-again, off-again relationship, I came to the conclusion that it was time to break it off for good.
The process was far from easy. It was a messy and dramatic breakup, and it took two months until there was absolutely no contact between us. No texts, no calls, no emails or messages on messenger apps, nothing.
We were together for six years, starting in my teens, so initially I had no idea how to move on from somebody who had been present while I was building my identity as a person.
Times like these put us in deep contemplation. We ask ourselves, “Is the sole purpose of my existence for him/her?” Or we tell ourselves, “No one else can make me happy.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that, no, those things aren’t true.
It’s been almost a year now, and things have been incredible for me. I am proud to say that I have moved on 100 percent from my past relationship.
The following are lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Love alone is never enough.
Formerly, I firmly believed that “love conquers all.” Never mind the problems, never mind the emotional abuse, never mind the important stuff we could never agree on; as long as there was love, everything would fall into place. But it didn’t.
I loved my ex very much and was loved back, but that didn’t change that I'd been disrespected. It didn’t change that my needs weren’t being met, despite how vocal I was about them. Is it even possible to love somebody who constantly degrades you?
We were unable to make it because while love was there, respect and understanding weren’t. I was too wounded to express all my thoughts and feelings because I knew they would only fall on deaf ears. Our relationship consisted of never-ending fights, and the false idea that love would solve our problems.
When I recognized how much self-respect and dignity I'd sacrificed, I realized that relationships need more than love to be successful.
Love is a powerful thing. We need it, it feels good, but we shouldn’t use it to justify losing ourselves.
2. You’re worthy, with or without a partner.
Other single people around me complain about their relationship status and use it as the basis of their self-worth. I used to think that way too, until I imagined what the future would be like if I continued to have that mentality.
If I retained that mentality, I would never truly be happy because I would always be dependent on my partner for love. I would always need that external validation instead of focusing on how I felt about myself.
Since my breakup, I choose to love myself through daily actions. I get more sleep at night, commit myself to a workout routine, eat healthier, and spend time around people who make me feel good about myself.
I happily accept the love I receive from friends and family because I know that I’m worthy, and I’m deserving of good things in this world.
3. Life is uncertain and we must embrace it.
My ex and I planned to live in a small house, with lots of dogs, and travel the world. We were going to run away from my parents, who didn’t approve of us, and live happily ever after. We weren’t going to have any kids, but we were going to pour ourselves into charity.
At least, that was the plan.
When a relationship is new, everything is great. I thought we'd eventually get married and execute all our plans easily. I was treating it like a fairy tale and refused to believe that we were less than perfect for each other. Fast-forward six years later, almost everything drastically changed.
After the breakup, the uncertainty scared me. I asked myself what was going to happen to me now that I didn’t have any plans. I never knew that freedom could be so terrifying and liberating at the same time.
I didn’t let the fear of the unknown stop me from following through with my decision. If I had stayed, the same problems would have continued occurring. Nothing would have changed. I knew I would never be happy staying in something that was detrimental to my self-esteem.
Of course, leaving my unhealthy relationship doesn't guarantee my next one will work out; it just means I've opened myself up to the possibility of finding a suitable partner.
The happiest people in history never settled for less than what they deserved when pursuing their goals. The same should apply in our search for a life partner. It's only by knowing our worth that we're able to find real, lasting love.