What Breaking Up Taught Me


In October I decided to try my hand at dating. I’d been single for a good many years for multiple reasons. My relationships in my early 20s were dysfunctional and emotionally abusive on both ends. I always completely immersed myself in my partner and their needs and I completely forgot that I existed.

When I think about past relationships I think about losing myself, I think about depression, I think about constant fighting, not feeling good enough and feeling incredibly lonely.

Fast-forward five years.

I discovered self-care and finally got to really know myself. I worked on the anxiety and depression and made it manageable. I discovered my self-worth and self-esteem for the first time ever and over all, I was happy. Happy with myself and happy with my life. I didn’t feel this huge sense of something “missing” but I did feel like things could be better, thus the idea to start dating again got planted in my mind. I didn’t want my past to hold me back, I didn’t want fear to stop me, I didn’t want to short-change myself by being single forever just because of a few rotten experiences, so I listened to that voice that said go for it. And I did.

I went on one date, and it totally bombed. I remember going home and thinking what a stupid idea this all was. Here I am, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and ending up with nothing but a bad-date story. Bummer. I got back on that horse however and went on a date with someone else, which lead to a second date and a third and fourth. I was excited and giddy. This was how it was supposed to be. This was why I was doing it. Something fun and new.

After just a few weeks things started to change.

I felt exhausted and drained and I wanted to sleep all of the time. This was just from texting and hanging out for a meal and netflixing twice a week. I didn’t realize how much mental work went into a relationship. I started to feel panic-y and anxious about my time and space being infringed upon. Strangely enough, when we were together I was fine and enjoyed myself, but when we weren’t I found myself being very protective about my “me” time.

I was upfront from the beginning that when it came to relationships I was out of my league and that I was very introverted and cherished time alone. We decided to take a step back and hang out less so that I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed. It didn’t really help. I kept thinking that it didn’t feel right, that I shouldn’t have to struggle so much to make things work. I was waiting for that moment where things would click and the stress and anxiety would fade away. I was so unhappy.

A little after a month I decided to end it.

I can’t tell you how hard that decision was. I felt like maybe I wasn’t giving it a fair shot. I felt like a huge failure. I felt that something was inherently wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with them, it was all me and I resented it. I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I should have been able to see that I wasn’t ready. I was even more stressed out and anxious than ever and I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of overwhelming guilt I felt at having to hurt someone that I cared about. I spent days crying and feeling like a terrible person and beating myself up.

But I also felt relief and a staggering sense of freedom.

That moment after I ended it, I can’t even say how good I felt. For the first time in awhile I felt like things were right. I felt like someone had just opened the door to a prison cell and let me out. I remember leaning my head against the wall, taking a deep breath, and smiling. Relationships shouldn’t feel like that. I knew that I had made the right decision for me. I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I wasn’t ready for someone to pin expectations on me. I wasn’t ready to change my life for someone else.

It wasn’t all sunshine afterwards. Like I said, the guilt really got to me. I knew that I had hurt someone deeply and I felt the weight of that. We tried to be friends afterward but it didn’t work out and I felt the loss of that too. I spent a lot of November doing a lot of crying and soul-searching. However, there was an undeniable truth.

I did what was best for me.

That, in itself, was amazing. I can imagine, in great detail, how Dominee-of-the-Past would have handled it, poor dear. She would have gone along with things, too scared of rocking the boat and feeling bad about it, fallen into depression and done nothing to try to make it better or she would have been passive aggressive and sabotaged things so that the other person ended it. It wouldn’t have been healthy to anyone.

Instead, I was honest from the very beginning about my needs and at the end, I was truthful and compassionate. Admittedly, the aftermath of the guilt and self-blame could have been handled better, I spent days crying and beating myself up over it, but we live and learn and at the end of the day I did my best and I am proud of that. I learned a lot.

Sometimes you just aren’t ready and that’s okay. 

I can tell myself that I should’ve known better, that I wasn’t ready, but sometimes you just can’t know until you try. There’s no shame in trying. It’s better than standing by the sidelines wondering but not being brave enough to put yourself out there. I tried and I failed and it’s totally okay.

Listen to that inner voice.

I had all of my friends telling me to stick with it. They were so happy for me to finally be in a relationship after so many years of singledom. One suggested that maybe I was self-sabotaging because I was scared of being happy. I was happy, before, being single. I kept coming back to that thought. I was happy then but I wasn’t happy now. I searched my heart for the truth. Was I scared of being in a relationship? Of course I was, but I was more scared of putting myself in a situation that didn’t nourish me or make me happy.

You’ve got to put you first.

I hate disappointing people. I always have (semi) reformed people-pleaser that I am. I felt like I was letting down so many people – my friends and family, them and their friends and family. I knew what was right for me, but at the same time I like making other people happy. It is in my heart and soul to nurture other people. But what I’ve learned on my self love journey is all of that has to start with you. You can’t nurture others in a healthy way if you are depriving yourself. In the end I had to stick by that.

I’m not ready for a relationship and who knows, I might never be. I can only continue to do the work and make sure that I am happy and healthy for me, and if another person comes along in the future, that I have the right tools to create a nourishing relationship. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll be okay with it. My life has been amazingly full these last few years. Yes, sometimes I want companionship but I’ve also got a great life, a job that I love and another job that I like, I’ve got hobbies that nourish me, I’ve got great friends, and at the end of the day, I have a really good life.

I honor that and I cherish that.

What was the hardest thing you dealt with in 2013? What did you learn?    

  

  • Elizabeth Goddard

    I've been single for most of my life (I'm 23/24), and that's how I liked it. I need a lot of me time, and the times I did date people I always had to ask "do I like you more than all the other stuff in my life that you're encroaching on the time of?" Invariably the answer was no.
    From reading this post, it sounds as though you just weren't with the right person? Not saying you should have done/do anything differently at all. The right people come along at the right times, but I think you have to be in a good place with yourself to see that they're the right people… if that makes sense.
    This is a ramble. But ultimately I could have written a remarkably similar blog post a year/year and a bit ago, and now I have the girlfriend of my dreams. She supports me without encroaching on my me-time. She takes absolutely no mental work to be around (very important as I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME). I wouldn't have thought it possible to be in a relationship like this (happy and healthy) considering my other experiences. This comment isn't meant to be an offensive 'don't give up hope!', just that… thanks for sharing your story, and here's mine I guess!

  • Katie J.

    I'm glad you ended up taking care of yourself by putting your needs first. I'm sure they understand why you ended things. I'm happy that you're happy now. You live. You learn. Cheers.

  • Dominee

    I'm so sorry to hear that, Linda. I hope you find a path to freedom and happiness. <3

  • Dominee

    No offense at all! I totally get what you're saying and thank you for sharing your story. I think for me, it's a little from column A and a little from column B, on paper she was perfect but probably not right for me regardless of my readiness. Maybe one day someone will come along and it will just happen easily and flow and that would be great and if not, I'll still live happily ever after!

    I love that you asked yourself the question about enjoying the company of the person more than the stuff you're missing out on. They've got to compete with books! They've got some heavy competition, lol.

    <3

  • Dominee

    Thank you very much and thanks for the comment! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Dominee

    Thank you! I'm glad that there are people out there that get it. The older I get the more I hear variations of "When are you going to settle down…" and people find it so hard to believe that being alone is pretty awesome and they make you feel like you're deluding yourself and a little piece of you wonders if there's any truth to it.

    Then you find yourself being alone, doing your thing, and laughing and giggling like a maniac or not being bothered in the least that you've spent days without human contact and you're like "Yeah, this is happiness."

    I hope this year is better for you and your girlfriend! Many blessings to you!

  • Linda Ursin

    I only have two reasons for not having kicked my husband out already:
    1. He might use my daughter to get to me. Talking bad about me to her.
    2. Finances

  • Linda Ursin

    Thanks. It will happen. I'm just tired of waiting.

  • Eve

    Good for you, Dominee! And thank you for sharing this story. I can really relate with coveting that "me" time as a fellow introvert. When my girlfriend and I first started dating two summers ago that was a really tricky piece for us, but we've come to a place where I feel like I get my me time right next to her. It's kind of weird but really satisfying (though sometimes I really need my alone time, haha).

    I think it's really admirable that you know that relationships might not be for you and are coming to peace with that while still keeping options open. A lot of people, especially women, feel that if one isn't in a relationship and doesn't want to be, then there's something wrong with them, and that's so frustrating. Relationships just aren't for everyone, especially if they don't foster happiness!

    The hardest thing I dealt with in 2013 is fighting with my girlfriend. It was our first year together, we had been best friends prior to dating, and we fought something awful since we both deal with anxiety and depression. Sometimes I wondered if it would be better to break up, but I've never felt so right as when I'm with her, so I've learned a lot of patience and perseverance, and also that I have to find new ways to communicate anger with a significant other than I do with friends. It's been quite the learning experience going from a friendship dynamic to a relationship!

    I wish you happiness in a relationship with yourself and happiness if you ever find someone worth persevering for. <3

  • You know, I met someone at the end of November. We met at a night out, exchanged numbers and started texting constantly. He was lovely. Until we met. We got on well, but I did *not* see myself in a relationship with him at all.
    After I went home, I sent him a wee message, asking if we could just be friends, that I didn't see myself *with* him.
    That's the first time I've done that in a long time. I was honest, with myself and with him, and I felt so much relief!
    I'm getting myself out there this year. I have a date lined up for next friday… I will see how it goes.
    At the very least I'll get some company and time out of the house from it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Candace

    Sorry things didn't work out with your guy ๐Ÿ™ It always sucks when that realization hits you. I actually put myself out there in the dating scene again starting in about September through the end of the year. I had a few dates and talked to one guy for a short time, but it just never clicked. So, I decided to take a step back and just focus on other things for at least the first half of this year, and then I can revisit the idea at that time. Don't get me wrong; if I just meet someone awesome between now & then, I'm open to it, I'm just not doing to really go looking.

    While I was doing the 'dating thing', though, there were definitely a few people that I just didn't feel it with, for a variety of reasons. Telling the other person that when they are obviously more into you than you are into them is really awkward. It actually made me feel for some of the guys in my past ๐Ÿ™‚

    Personally, I think the hardest thing I had to deal with in 2013 revolved around friendships. Learning people aren't who I thought they were or who even they thought they were. Letting go of long-time friendships. And probably most importantly, realizing that while I have a huge base of online friends, I don't have a ton of friends in my day-to-day life. So that's something I'm looking to change in 2014.

  • Deanna Kimball Herrman

    ((((HUGS))))). Better to realize your boundaries in the beginning that feeling trapped in a marriage with multiple kids years down the road and coming to this realization. Believe me, I know. I wish you the best no matter what happens… I love you!!