I’m going to tell you a story to get this all in perspective. I haven’t been very lucky with my relationships. Like, really unlucky. Either I’ve been fucked over by the person I’m dating or I’ve been too messed up to be with someone in every scenario, which hasn’t lead to a lot of positivity when it comes to me associating myself and romance, but for some goddamn reason I still stay hopeful, I still spend my life looking for my One. I’m either insane or just insanely optimistic.
Anyway, I had a really mind-fucking relationship a few years ago that completely rendered me incapable of being in a relationship with anyone for a long time after. It’s only been very recently that I thought that maybe I was ready to venture into the dark depths of dating again.
I’d made some false starts and hurt people because I wasn’t ready to be with anyone, but then I was, now I am. But now I’m mopping up (metaphorically) from another relationship and wondering what the fuck went wrong and will I ever learn?
I suppose I always assumed you’d learn rapidly from bad experiences and not put yourself in those situations again, not let people hurt you again, but in my experience that isn’t how it works. Maybe it is just me, maybe it’s because I’m desperate to be loved and desperate to be acknowledged as a worthwhile person, because I can’t do that myself. Or maybe someone else feels this way, too.
Well, here’s what I learnt this time:
- YOU THINK YOU NEVER LEARN BUT YOU DO
I think that’s an important thing to remember. Even if you don’t think it in the direct aftermath the chances are you’ve picked up at least something you won’t do again. Or maybe you will. You learn to refine your judgement, even if it’s just gradually, or change your behaviour slightly. The latter isn’t always a good thing, the latter you have to be careful about. I mean, if it’s something you’ve learnt, like, you’re annoying because you eat with your mouth open, sure, but if it’s a core part of you be careful that it’s really you that needs to change, or if it’s just the people you choose to love.
Once you’ve had a moment to step back from the end of your relationship, once you’ve run a marathon or hidden away with Netflix for three days or eaten seven tubs of Ben And Jerry’s, you need to look for what positive you’ve taken from your experience, or what you’ve learnt about yourself or other people. Honestly, it’s not all negative. You learn from everything, it’s human nature. I’m going to reiterate the point that if you think you’ve learnt something you need to change about yourself because your former partner called it out as a flaw, be careful. Don’t let other people change you. You’re worth more than that.
Did you learn not to date people with a very involved hobby? Did you learn not to date people in open relationships? Did you learn not to date people who have a lot of tortoises? I don’t know. And these don’t have to be absolute lessons, just things that raise little flags the next time you meet someone new. You learn. You always learn.
- SOMETIMES YOU ARE THE BETTER PERSON
I’m going to go into more detail about this when I write about abusive relationships, but you just have to know that you aren’t an awful, unloveable person.
I know I’m not alone in beating myself up when a relationship fails. I know I’m not alone in looking at myself and wondering what I did wrong. I guess that’s because when our hearts get broken we don’t want to believe that it’s because we made a poor decision and put our hearts in the hands of an awful person. And I think a lot of the time you look at yourself for something to change, to alter so that you’ll be loved, so you don’t have to be alone, but sometimes you’re better off that way. I promise. Sometimes you’re better off not being loved by someone who hurts you.
I’m not being egotistical, but sometimes it really isn’t you. My most recent relationship ended because I refused to be a part of a situation that made me uncomfortable, and then I was cut off, ruled out because I didn’t want to participate in something I wasn’t aware was a condition of our friendship.
In that case, despite being heartbroken by the douchebaggery, I knew that I wasn’t exactly to blame for that. I knew that if someone was willing to write me off because of my morals or preferences then they weren’t worth me being upset about.
Sometimes if you think about it you know that you’re better off out of that situation and you’re better off away from people who can’t respect you. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone deserves respect for their preferences. And if people can’t bring themselves to accept your limits then you’re better off.
- YOU CAN’T BLAME YOURSELF
I know this ties in with the previous point but it’s important on it’s own all the same. If you were the one dumped or abandoned or cheated on, it’s not something you’ve done. If someone has treated you badly, you aren’t responsible. If someone is putting you in a position you’re uncomfortable with, you don’t have to put up with it. If you think you owe someone a penance, you still don’t have to put up with it. Emotional well being is not a case of an eye for an eye. We all make mistakes.
It’s easy to blame yourself. It’s probably even the easiest thing to do. If someone is horrible to you, or if someone is cruel to you, it’s easy to think there must be something wrong with you for them to be able to turn on you in such a way. It’s not you. I promise, it’s not you. People are complicated, always running from their own demons, needing to be understood.
I’ve been the shitty person in a relationship, and I loathe myself for that. I’ve been awful to people who didn’t deserve it at all. Not at all. It was always my issues that I needed to work out that I took out on people who wanted to love me. It wasn’t their fault.
Despite this I don’t always remember immediately that I’m not to blame. I always try and work out what part of me is so disagreeable, because someone couldn’t care about me. It’s just easy to blame yourself, easy to think you need to change to be loved. But, just to put this in context, I know that the end of this relationship wasn’t because I was at fault. I don’t blame myself for being too chicken to push my own boundaries of comfort. For once, for the first time, even, I’m looking back and I don’t blame myself for how this ended.
- IT’S NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO BE ACCEPTED FOR YOU
It isn’t impossible for someone to love you for all that you already are. You really don’t have to be anyone but you. That’s what’s going to make you happy, and them happy. And I’ll say one very positive thing about my last relationship, it was nice to be able to be me. Okay, so there was obviously a limit, they were still a douche and still broke up with me for a stupid reason, but the part of me that I had convinced myself were unlovable and ugly, parts of me I’d forced myself to hide because of previous shitty experiences were accepted, embraced, I was allowed to talk about them, I was sheltered from triggers for my demons, and it was nice. I appreciated that. It gave me a lot of hope. And one day I’m certain I’ll find someone who’ll let me be a rampaging fangirl and love me completely for it.
- IT HURTS, BUT THE WORLD HASN’T ENDED
At twenty-eight I still feel all those ridiculously extreme emotions. My heart hurts, it’s broken, I’m upset, the world is over. But at twenty-eight I also know that I’ve been through all of this before, and it fucking hurts, but the world doesn’t end. The world hasn’t ended. It isn’t even the worst pain I’ve ever had. Breaking up with someone doesn’t get any easier, apparently, but I can rest assured that I’ll get through it. Break ups suck. Having your heart broken is just fucking awful. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel pissed off, feel all that you have to feel, but you’ll love again, someone will love you again, and finally it’ll be someone whose demons will play nicely with yours.