“The butterfly does not look back at the caterpillar in shame, just as you should not look back at your past in shame. Your past was part of your own transformation.” ~Anthony Gucciardi
Before I finally grew the courage to walk away from my boyfriend, I contemplated walking away many times.
There was the time that he had ghosted me for a week without communicating that he needed space. Then after promising me a timeline for telling his mom about me and our relationship, when the time came to do it, he made up another excuse. And there were many moments when he canceled our plans at the last minute.
Every time I felt disappointed or disrespected, I would feel my body start to tremble from the inside and I felt my sense of self start to break away as I tried all of the things I thought would repair the relationship. I tried to be patient and understanding, and I communicated my needs while trying to see where he was coming from. But nothing changed.
Sometimes I would feel a glimmer of hope as my partner took accountability and would try to be better. I gave him multiple chances to make things right, and yet he still went back to old patterns. I wasn’t expecting an overnight change, but I wanted more investment. Deep down, he just wasn’t on the same page.
So why couldn’t I walk away from this person who was no longer treating me the way I deserved to be treated? Why did I still keep putting up with less and accepting the bare minimum?
I didn’t know how to let go of someone I loved. I was scared of letting go of what I saw as the potential of this person and the relationship. And I was scared of letting myself down.
Relationships are complex, and people on the outside looking in make it seem easy for you to just leave at the first sign of turmoil or dissatisfaction. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and unhappy in a relationship, yet still struggle to walk away.
The truth is, I needed to go through these experiences to finally see that this relationship was no longer serving my highest good. And that’s not to say that I deserved any of it. But it would not have been as easy to walk away with the clarity, certainty, and purpose that I had at the moment that I had it.
When the pain of staying was greater than the fear of leaving, I knew it was the right time to walk away.
If I had walked away sooner, I might have held onto hope of getting back together, fearing that I didn’t do enough or give it enough of a chance. I would likely be floundering with my internal need for closure, rather than knowing I received all the closure I needed by the time I walked away.
Even though there were many times that my soul knew deep down that I would eventually have to walk away, my heart wasn’t there yet. And when it finally was, the courage grew inside of me like an ocean wave coming closer to shore.
If you’re struggling to walk away from a person or feeling regret about not walking away sooner, here’s what helped me on my journey of making peace with it:
1. Honor your lessons.
Love is not enough. This was one of the hardest pills to swallow, but it was necessary.
A couple days before we broke up, my ex and I had another hard conversation about our relationship. And at some point, I remember saying, “But we love each other,” attempting a plea to hold us together through some challenges.
Healthy relationships require more than just the feeling of love. There needs to be commitment, action, integrity, communication, and trust. Feeling love for another person is nice, but you can feel love for a person and not be in a relationship with them. A relationship requires much more.
At first, I felt sad and defeated when I reflected and realized that these values were not in alignment in our relationship. But now I honor this lesson and know that it will serve me well in my next relationship. I won’t waver on the importance of being aligned on values more than just a feeling of love.
When you have core takeaways from a relationship that didn’t work out, it helps to create a deeper meaning from it. And it helps you focus your energy on yourself, rather than your ex-partner.
2. Give yourself grace.
We can be so hard on ourselves. And the times that you need grace the most are often when you’re least likely to give grace to yourself.
In my relationship with my ex, I was quicker to give him grace than myself.
After I walked away, this hit me like a truck. That’s when I started to give myself the grace and love that I pushed down in favor of trying to hold the relationship together. Did I do everything right? No, but that’s the point of grace.
I poured so much love back into me and my life after the breakup. I gave myself grace to recognize that this relationship was not the right fit, and that it took me some time to really see that. Grace allowed me to forgive both myself and my ex, because it always creates a ripple effect.
3. Letting go is a process, not a destination.
Even though I walked away with clarity and purpose, I didn’t feel an immediate sense of relief right after we broke up. I knew it was the right decision, but my body went into a grieving process.
When someone passes away, we go through stages of grief. The same thing happens after a breakup.
As I wavered back and forth between anger and acceptance, it helped when I returned back to the core reasoning behind why I walked away when I did, and why that was necessary for my happiness and well-being. Each deliberate choice to return back to my core knowing, while giving myself grace, was a part of the process of letting go and healing my heart.
Making peace with this relationship and breakup meant treating my healing as a process and not a final destination. I had to acknowledge every step along the way to rebuild and come back from it stronger than before.
We don’t always make the best choices for our highest selves in every moment, but this is an impossible expectation. We are all human beings trying our best to learn from experiences and grow. And I don’t believe there should be any regret in that.