Let’s be honest, breakups are shit but do they always have to be rage-filled, expletive-laden gong shows?
If you’ve read Lou Who? it’s likely that my history of not super healthy relationships and definitely not healthy breakups are known to you. If you haven’t read Lou Who? well, first of all, you can buy a copy here, and second of all, let’s just say there were few, if any, relationships in the book that ended with anything other than a dumpster fire of ghosting, lies, drunk texts, and days and weeks of me wallowing in my bed.
I did not cope well with breakups. I would always spend the days and weeks afterwards hating myself for getting fooled again, replaying every second of our last conversations and re-reading all of our text history. Wow, I had some real time on my hands to be doing that. It was unhealthy and unhelpful, and I was always left feeling like somehow I’d lost part of myself.
But after a lot of “work” on myself, a lot of experience with relationships coming to an end, and a want to really try and put what I’d learnt into practice, I’ve come to learn – by witnessing for myself – that “healthy” breakups do exist. It has been a recent revelation for me. From a relationship that itself personified peace and respect, the breakup was similar. And I loved it and found it wildly disconcerting all at the same time. Where was the rage? Where were the angry texts? Where were the insult laden accusations? Hmm.. this was interesting.
It was like all my previous relationships had ended in a drunken rage and this one ended in a juice cleanse.
Of course the end of the relationship was still upsetting, but being able to come out of it and have more positives than negatives was something that brought me untold comfort in those sad moments. Being present enough to ensure that I didn’t let the emotions of end of the relationship cloud what I experienced in the relationship was pivotal.
I was aware during the relationship that I was learning so much about myself – like my eating schedule isn’t regular enough to keep a grown man from getting hangry and that I’d finally, FINALLY, figured out how to set boundaries – that when it ended I had this real sense of gratitude for having had an experience and an environment where I was able to develop myself.
We can do all the growing and learning we want by ourselves, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, some of it just has to be done with other people – be it friendships, familial relationships or romantic relationships. So much, if not all, of our life experience is relational. I can learn to love myself, I can learn to back myself, I can learn to have sovereignty over myself – but how is all of that affected when someone else is involved? When someone else’s wants, and wills, and opinions are in the mix? Do I still have that resolve I thought I built?
Even if there had been no other lesson or witnessing of growth during the relationship, which there was, I could at least say that in the breakup, for the first time, I fully surrendered to the end. I didn’t fight it. I didn’t try to change it. I accepted it. I accepted that it wasn’t meant to be. And typically it’s at this point in a breakup where I’ve lost myself even more before, when I’ve tried so hard to change someone’s mind, or change my viewpoint so I could align with them. And this time… I just didn’t. I just walked away. And again, set a boundary – no, you don’t get to be my friend.
In the aftermath, because even in healthy breakups there’s an aftermath, I was discussing the calmness I had felt, along with heavy heavy sadness because the two can co-exist, a particularly insightful friend noted that he wondered if I felt so calm this time because at no point during the relationship had I abandoned myself. I’d stayed true to myself, I’d set boundaries, and I’d been 100% me. And so coming out the other side, there was no anger I had that I felt needed to be directed towards myself.
That’s what this feels like? Well, shit, that’s kinda nice. I could get used to having actually shown up for myself entirely, throughout the duration of a relationship. Every, single step of the way.
The relationship undoubtedly left a positive mark on me, but the breakup also did in it’s own way and has likely changed the way I’ll look at them forever. At the end all we should be looking for is – what we did learn? Did we grow? Did we stay true to ourselves?
As healthy as the breakup was, I’d be lying if I said that I was always satisfied after a green juice. Sometimes you just want the comfort of a burger, or the relationship that’s passed. And that’s ok too. Life is about balance, and feeling all the feels, even if they’re in opposition to each other.