RELATIONSHIPS How to use break-ups to forge new beginnings
WE MIGHT NOT FEEL IT AT THE TIME, BUT THE END OF A RELATIONSHIP CAN HELP US BREAK NEGATIVE BEHAVIOURS, GUIDING US TO GREATER THINGS AHEAD, SAYS NATALIE LUE
We humans have a habit of forecasting doom, and anticipating that we won’t get over someone or something. “I’m never gonna get over this!” I’ve declared numerous times, only to then nd myself dating someone new or believing that the next relationship was ‘it’. Eventually, I had to admit that actually doom didn’t await me – I would get over it.
Not only did these experiences demonstrate that I hadn’t known who ‘The One’ (or what ‘it’) was, they also showed me that as painful, frustrating or disappointing as these relationships might have been, I’d needed them.
When we go through a breakup, we’re often so busy thinking that we’re a ‘failure’, that they were our soulmate, and imagining a future lled with loneliness tumbleweeds, that we don’t acknowledge what the relationship and our responses are trying to teach us.
Relationships help us to heal, grow and learn, providing a window to understanding who we are and what it is that we truly need and desire. It is only through our relationships that we get to shed old baggage and break patterns of thinking and behaviour that block and sabotage what we want to have, to do and to experience.
I went out with one emotionally unavailable guy after another. They’d chase hard and then gradually retreat down to a slow canter and eventually a hard stop.
Suddenly, somebody who I hadn’t been too crazy about was now the ‘love of my life’ and I’d slide from a cool, calm, con dent woman to an anxious wreck, worrying about what I’d done to ‘put them o ’.
I often wondered if there was some sort of secret in-built homing device that made me an easy target. From where I was standing, I wanted a relationship and commitment, it was just that I was having an extended run of bad luck.
Over time, my relationships increased in pain and toxicity. As my life came crashing down around me, I had to face the truth: my relationships were trying to show me something. It wasn’t just about myself but about my beliefs, feelings and attitudes about my relationships and my past.
I realised that if I’d really been sure of myself and able to stand on my own two feet, I wouldn’t have kept hitching my wagon to people who avoided intimacy and commitment. I realised that I was carrying so much pain and misunderstanding about my childhood and relationships that I didn’t believe I was good enough. I was playing out harmful patterns in an e ort to ‘get’ love, trying to avoid facing myself and my pain.
Often it’s not until a relationship ends that we realise certain truths about ourselves. Often it’s not until a relationship ends that we realise that we didn’t like who we were when we were in it. Sometimes we don’t see that we’re spending too much time trying to please others and not enough time being ourselves, or we might recognise that we’re behaving as the person who we think we are, or the person that others have told us we might be. The narrative that we’ve gotten used to telling ourselves about our past experiences and our worth can make us believe that we can’t do better, leading us to accept lies or deception from someone else.
But there are truths to be learned. Maybe we take a step back and notice that each of the people we’ve been going out with has been similar to someone in our lives that we’ve been inadvertently trying to get a second chance with. Or sometimes we suddenly become aware of our fear of being alone, and how self-de ned we are by our relationships, just as we are in the midst of dissolving.
At the time, we often don’t realise that we wouldn’t have discovered these things were it not for this painful ending that’s representing the beginning of nding our way back to us. We can be unaware of blind spots, assumptions and judgements that are in uencing our choices, and it’s only when we realise that we’ve been thinking and doing the same thing and expecting a di erent result, that we are forced to question our rules and ideas about who we really are and what will really make us happy.
When a relationship breaks down or a love interest doesn’t come to fruition and we then nd ourselves feeling as if our world is collapsing, it’s a painful but necessary awakening to our need to own ourselves. To realise that there were items in our emotional suitcase, the weight and impact of which, we were unaware of.
We wake up to ourselves. We start to remember who we really are. We become curious about what we are yet to have, to do or to experience. We discover our resilience while at the same time learning that we’re not perfect and nor do we ever need to be. We acknowledge where we were settling for less and hiding from our purpose, our true self.
We do the things that we forgot about. We change jobs to the one that we really want. We start businesses. We reignite creative passions, forgotten interests, and pay attention to whisperings that we didn’t have the space to truly hear. We rebuild connections and foster new ones. We gradually become kinder to ourselves, steadier. We rebuild our lives in a way that allows us to be authentic.
Every relationship experience takes us closer to the enriching relationships that we truly need, desire and deserve. Our greatest pains often become our greatest growths. While we don’t know it at the time, with the bene t of hindsight, we come to recognise that a breakup was the beginning of great things up ahead.
RELATIONSHIPS “Relationships help us to heal, grow and learn, providing a window to understanding who we are and what we need.”