I have thought about writing this post for over a year, and I only just ended my long-term relationship in January. I knew it would be an important post for me to write, and that I would have to be fairly personal to write it, and of course respectful of my former partner.
When you know deep in your heart that your relationship is holding you back, yet you still love the person, it can lead to some drastic sacrifices – meaning, you can completely lose who you are. For me, my passion was fading. I became an anxious person. I took on traits of my partner. I repressed myself, much, much more than I had realized, and when you repress yourself for too long, you will eventually explode.
And I did – I got to a point where the true, fiery nimbus came out – she BURST out, cackling (rather psychotically), not letting anything get in her way. Though that pull-back was still there, to be mindful of the other, despite the weight upon my soul.
Have you ever been in this situation? It was rather new to me, I have always been the person to work hard (not that I didn’t this time – I did, believe me), to stick with it, and be heartbroken. To hurt another was rather foreign to me, and I was terrified. It absolutely gutted me, but it was so necessary to my well-being. I did not stop loving who I was with, but the love morphed into a platonic love, and it was not fair to me, or to him, to continue.
I struggled with this decision for almost 2 years. I justified staying for so many reasons – my partner had lots of good traits, but over time, the bad ones just clashed with me so much that I was quite literally losing my mind, turning into a person I did not recognize, almost worse than me in the past – the unhealthy, depressed, anxious cynic – now phony, irritable, lashing out, lying…so unlike me it was insane, and when it got to the point where I was being dishonest, I had to get out, immediately, because it was not who I am. I have always prided myself on honesty and I always refused to be fake – I am no good at it anyway. It was obvious I was going to leave, though I ignored my own needs and was eventually a brutal, horrible girlfriend – me leaving was really best for us both.
So over the last 2 years of grappling with my feelings, here is what I have learned. Some people might have an easy time letting go, and I’m not one of them. If I have loved someone, I care for them forever! To part is not easy for me.
Realize you do not need to BE with someone to love them.
This is something I discovered via questioning my beliefs – in the past, when someone I loved left to go back to where he lived in LA, I questioned the belief: ‘But I love him, I have to be with him!‘ And to turn that around, to “I don’t need to be with him to love him” was very powerful. It still works when you are the one doing the leaving. The other person may not believe you, but they don’t have to. YOU know it. Reiterate it to them. It seems cliche and phony, but if you are sincere, hopefully it will come across, even if they can’t see it immediately.
There is so much flack out there about being selfish. Everyone seems to have an opinion about other people’s relationships, what they should do, who they should be with, why they should stay or leave, what is acceptable and what is not, what is a deal-breaker, and what should be supported. But really, how can you be a good partner if you are miserable? You can’t, to anyone. If you are like I was, you could be so miserable that you don’t even like yourself – then how could anyone else? To be happy with others, you need to be happy with you, so you need to make sure your relationships are good ones. Of course, relationships take work, but there is only so much you can do when things are not right – you can’t force it. When it’s forced it feels gross. Make yourself happy. Give yourself what you need, especially if your partner will not, or cannot, give it to you.
If you are a normal person, you will probably know how horrible it feels to have someone leave you. Do it with the UTMOST compassion, regardless if they have been a shithead to you, or an angel. Even wonderful people can be wrong for you, and even shitheads can have broken hearts. Be as kind as you can.
At least listen to everything they have to say. You don’t have to agree or respond, but listen to them. They at least should have the opportunity to say what they feel. If you feel threatened or attacked, retreat.
Be Accepting of their reaction
They may beg you for another chance, they may threaten suicide or a number of things, they may hurt insults at you or be in utter agony. They might surprise you and agree! They might be completely cold and not even look at you. Whatever they do, it might not be what you are prepared for, so be prepared for anything.
Be adamant/firm – with them AND yourself.
No matter how much they beg or threaten, do not falter. It’s difficult but in order for you BOTH to move forward, it is imperative that you cut the cord completely. Emotional manipulation is not cool, and what that person decides to do after you leave is their business, not yours. Their problem, not yours.
Don’t do what I did – I tried leaving several times. The first few times, I changed my mind the next day. I felt horrible for hurting him, and when I was 100% sure I wanted to leave, I had to be damn strong in order to do so. Don’t hurt them more than you have to. It’s hard to leave that comfort zone. If you’re not ready, don’t do it. But when you do decide, make sure it’s for real, or you are likely to keep hurting them, and if you love them, why would you want to prolong the agony?
Be positive. Question everything. Put YOU first. If you aren’t happy you will take it out on your partner, and then nobody is happy.
I wanted to cop out so many times and just write a note and leave it at his place. I wanted to do it over the phone. I wanted to send a text (better than a post-it). I wanted to get someone ELSE to do it (that happened to me when I was 15, no fun). I knew none of these were acceptable, especially for a long-term situation, or an adult.
It sucks, but do it in person (if you can – I was once involved with someone overseas so I couldn’t exactly do that when I ended our relationship – so pick the next best option). Write a letter if you have to, but at least give it to them in person and stay while they read it, or discuss it – I did this, even though it was refused, and then I had a lead into what was going to happen.
Have support/Expect Criticism
The person doing the leaving doesn’t seem to get much sympathy, at least not in the open. The person being left (I hate the word dumped, especially in a loving situation – you never DUMP someone you still care for – you leave the situation – that person is not garbage – can we nix this term?) tends to get the sympathy. If you have mutual friends, some may take the other person’s side, some may take yours, and some may take neither. If some side with your ex, let them. Don’t expect all the support for yourself – your ex needs people on their side, too (but don’t put up with any nastiness from anyone! it will show you who your friends are, at least).
After I left, I had to replace certain habits with others (as in, instead of chatting with him several times a day, I’d call my mom to talk instead).
Everyone surprised me and respected my decision. Everyone understood. Seek out the people who will do the same for you. If no one will, get better friends.
Keep a distance
This may be tough if you still want them in your life, but as someone who is friends/on good terms with every single person I’ve ever dated (except the last, unfortunately), I know that sometimes it can take years to reconnect, but if your partner really does love you and miss you, they will want you in their life regardless. But give it time – you both need to heal. You need to re-balance, they need to mourn (and so might you). You need to reconnect with yourself and feel as strong and dynamic as you can before you venture forth again with someone new.
Let yourself be as miserable as you need. When I tried leaving the first few times, I felt like I had been dumped. I made lists and tried to find reasons to stay because the severing felt too abrupt, too harsh, and I hadn’t really made my concrete decision – I still loved him in a romantic way.
When I did finally leave for real, I just let guilt and sorrow overtake me. I dealt with the images playing over and over in my head. I wrote it out. I bawled. I talked to my friends and cried to them. I let people at work know that I was sad for a reason, but I still managed to get through it. Take time off if you have to, no one needs details.
If you can afford it, get away. I was lucky that my trip away coincided with my split, but I also made sure it happened before I went away – this was because I knew that I had to end things, and that going away would help me compose myself. It would also distract me and challenge me, plus the healing of the sun, cheap daily massage, and heavenly fruit was nourishing, and I damn well needed it.
If you can’t afford to go away, at least have a media cleanse and make your home a retreat for a weekend, as much as you can in your circumstances.
This has been a necessary thing for me my entire life – it got me through my teenage years without succumbing to heinous things like drugs or booze, especially since I was a loner and didn’t have anyone to confide in. Journaling did well enough.
Also, this is KEY to figuring out patterns. I write so much of my life down that to look back and see how often I wanted to leave my partner, and that I was writing about how boring my life had gotten – I could see my gradual decline over the years. It can be illuminating and humbling, the best sort of counsel.
Channel your love elsewhere – to yourself, your pets, your friends.
If you feel like you have no one to lavish attention on anymore, seriously, give it to YOURSELF. I have felt like this in the past when I’ve been heartbroken – and I spoiled the HELL out of my dog, I focused on the love of my friends, and I really spent effort on myself. Often when I feel like crap (especially after I left my ex), I felt so badly about myself that I said “WHY BOTHER?” and wanted to binge on shitty food, be a schlub, and physically destroy myself, when really, times like this are when you MOST need to treat yourself WELL. You should NOT feel guilty for doing what you need to do, so CELEBRATE yourself for being strong, and when you treat yourself with love, even when you don’t feel like it, your brain will catch up pretty quickly and remember that you are indeed awesome.
Don’t believe in forever – believe in right now.
I used to believe in this, because it is what we are told our whole lives. I never think this way anymore. It is idealistic and focuses on the future, when all we have is right now. I love you right now. Isn’t that what matters? Why do you need to know I will love you in two years? If I don’t, will you not love me now? It’s a foolish way of thinking and takes away from really living.
Falling out of love does not negate what you had with someone. I still have fond feelings for many people in my past, and never feel like I wasted my time knowing them and loving them. So many relationships end – but don’t we learn from them all?
In fact, I am glad of all the heartbreak I’ve had, because it formed me into a better person, a better lover, and much more present and mindful of my behaviour in relationships. It made me more open to seeing the other person’s possible perspectives, more empathetic and definitely more loving.
So please, do what you need for yourself. Your partner will live, and you can still love them, even if they won’t accept it without the relationship. You can love them so hard. Too bad if they don’t like it.