The Best Part of Breaking Up
This has been a rough month for me, for reasons I’ve explained in my last blog post.
But, it has also been revelatory because it has forced me to fill the spaces she occupied in my life for close to a year. I have filled them with the things you fill them with immediately after a breakup: memories, should have beens, what-ifs. For one really intense week, I filled them with non-stop work. Then, I turned my focus to more useful things: sleep, meditation, journaling, long talks with friends, videos of wise men talking about the nature of love and pain, expectation and detachment. And somewhere in those spaces, I learned not how to breathe again, as I had said in my first post-breakup blog; I realized I had been holding my breath. And that gasp, that feeling of breathlessness, was me coming up for air. Finally.
Here is what I learned.
People exist for themselves. In existing for themselves, they have to do the things in life that make them happy. Sometimes what is good for them and makes them happy will not be what is good for you, or necessarily make you happy. Making someone else responsible for your happiness is a burden to them because we are human and flawed, and in seeking happiness for themselves, they will let you down. It’s unavoidable. You must also forgive them for failing to live up to your expectations, because, real talk? Have you lived up to their expectations of you? Have you lived up to everyone’s expectations of you? Is it possible to live up to everyone’s high expectations of you and still be happy within yourself?
If we give someone the power to make us happy, we give them the power to take it when they leave. As Kanye said, no one man should have all that power.
Loving someone fully means you want what is best for them regardless of where that puts you in the grand scheme of their life. Where we hurt ourselves is that we have expectations that once the smoke clears, things will go back to the way they were and the person you love will go back to doing what you want them to do, and return to the relationship eventually. Divorcing yourself from this expectation entirely, recognizing that it’s there, sitting in that discomfort but ultimately letting go of that expectation is the only way to peace. Loving someone is not wanting them to do what you feel is right for them, it’s wanting them to do what they feel is right for them. Loving yourself is not engaging in behaviors which are destructive to your spirit.
It’s okay to seek connections without expectation. In fact, it’s preferable. Hurts a lot less in the long run.
It’s a painful part of life, but someone will stop showing you they love you long before they stop telling you. The mind is a very powerful thing, because you will realize this is happening and question them, and they will resist, possibly even tell you what you want to hear. But their actions will continue to show you until their words tell you. You are not oversensitive or imaging things, you are reacting to something real, even if you can’t voice it yet.
Speaking the truth is a necessary part of healing. Because we are complex human beings and we know what’s in our hearts better than anyone else, sometimes hearing the truth, that we have done or said things to hurt others can be a hard pill to swallow. Someone expressing an uncomfortable truth to you about something you did is not guilt-tripping. They may not even be asking you to justify or defend, just to acknowledge their pain and fucking apologize for causing it. If you can’t acknowledge the ways in which you, a flawed person, have hurt someone, how can you expect to grow?
Keeping feelings hidden and shoved down deep is a method of control. But you are not just controlling yourself and your reactions, you are controlling the other person too. You have decided for yourself that the relationship can’t survive what needs to be expressed. You have taken the choice out of the other person’s hands. You are taking away their right to feel a certain way by proactively limiting their expression. You have decided that maintaining the comfort of the status quo trumps another person’s needs.
Furthermore, by burying feelings, you are silently teaching the other person that yours are not important. And they will continue to act that way until they commit a transgression so big, it all comes out. All the anger, all the frustration, the silence, the hiding, it all spills out in big ugly ways that are not always possible to fix. So, sometimes it’s better to say what you feel, and let the chips fall where they may. If speaking your truth leads to a negative result, it was headed there already.
People will tell you one thing with their words and show you the exact opposite. Act accordingly, but forgive them. They’re human and doing the best they can. You are, too. You are not exempt from ever having done the same thing to someone else. No one is.
Vulnerability, feeling love and loss is okay. Crying is okay. Falling apart is okay. Telling your friends you need them is okay. (Texting your ex rambling paragraphs at 2 a.m. is not. Come on, we’ve discussed this already...) It’s all a part of working through the pain and moving the. fuck. on. Just be there for them when they need you and you’ll have a friend for life.
There’s a ton of other things I learned, and am still learning. Things about myself that are hidden so deep that I’m not aware of them. Things that are at the surface and waiting for acknowledgement. Things that speak to the type of relationships I seek and why I seek them, what I am hoping to accomplish in this life; if I wish to continue to find a partner to walk alongside me or cut my losses and go at it alone. The future is now open in a way that it wasn’t before, and that is strangely comforting.
I’m in no rush to figure things out. But I am also steadily walking towards the truth, good, bad or ugly.
I am grateful to those who have chosen to walk with me no matter how long the journey, because they’ve enriched me and I hope I’ve taught them something about themselves too.
It’s all a process, and there’s still a long way to go. That’s the worst part, and the best part.
L.M. Bennett is the author of The Accidental Tsundere: Dating for Late-Bloomers, Loners and Misfits, which is available here.