Picking Up the Pieces

Part of why I didn’t want to maintain this blog in August was because my relationship ended near the end of July. In fact, that last post, Closing the Screen, was originally intended to go the other direction. Rather than limiting my screen time, I was going to make more of an effort to reach out to other writers and potential fans and build my network. Then everything changed, and I realized some things about myself, my own problems, the things I want to take actionable steps toward changing.

At the time, I didn’t want to talk about the breakup, because I was emotional, and I might have regretted some of the things I might say. This blog is not meant to be a place of negativity. So I had to unpack some things and figure out what I can take away from it.

I’m not here to just whine, in other words. She and I are still friends, and everything ended amicably. There is a mutual understanding between us of why it didn’t work out, and we each just want to work on ourselves now.

So, the reason I’m bringing it up now is twofold. First, it was a relationship that lasted for four years and we had an impact on each other’s lives, so I couldn’t just go on like nothing has changed. My relationship became part of my identity. Second, I’ve learned some important lessons that I feel are worth sharing.

Don’t forget the one you love is also your friend

We fell in love hard and fast. We made easy friends and just hung out a lot at first. Of course, there was that initial blast of puppy love where everything is super happy and you couldn’t see yourself disliking anything about each other. We got each other interested in our own things. I hadn’t finished watching the series Dexter and she hadn’t watched Game of Thrones. So we did that together.

Then we got our first apartment together, and it was awesome. She had never lived on her own outside of a dorm before, and we got to make it our own place. I cooked for her and introduced her to a couple of my specialties, even surprised her with how a grilled cheese can be elevated beyond the level of middle school lunch.

At some point, though, we kind of stopped wanting to hang out as much. I know this is pretty natural in relationships, but I started to feel suffocated, I think. I looked forward to when she would be out of the house because it would mean I had the place to myself. And it was this attitude that led to us not being as close as friends.

Don’t get too comfortable

This is a close companion to the last point, and I’ve experienced this twice now. When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, especially if you’ve bought things together and moved in together and share a rent payment, you begin to get a bit complacent about maintaining the relationship. At least, I do.

It’s a character flaw, obviously. I get to a point where I just take the relationship for granted. Once I’ve been with someone for two years, probably, I feel like “Well, this is it,” and I unconsciously stop putting in as much effort. At that point, I feel like I’ve reached the end goal. Find person to be with for rest of life, fall in love, be together, stay together.

Early on in a relationship, I actually put in an effort, because I want to win her over. After I’ve achieved that, I casually start revealing some aspects of my “true self.” And my true self is an angry, pessimistic person.

Granted, I have learned to control my temper in that time and I’ve gained patience, but I was still rather negative and self-deprecating by the end. That can wear a person out.

My development freezes in a relationship

Before I met her, I had been single about three years. When my previous relationship ended, I thought I’d never get over it. I ended up moving five-hundred miles to start over anew and get away from a lot of memories, both good and bad.

Eventually, I got over it. I started going back to school again, and I was writing again, and just generally getting better as a person, becoming more positive and productive. I almost moved again, in fact, and that was part of why we ended up together. Neither of us thought we would be together long at first, until we realized how great we were together, and I canceled my plans.

But like how I stop putting effort into a relationship once it seems solid, I stop working on myself because why should I change if I’m already the person she wants to be with?

I realize now that I should have continued to work on myself for the sake of both of us. I complain about not having a lot of friends and being a homebody, and yet I never did anything about it.

People grow apart

The truth is, she didn’t stop developing. She grew a lot more than I did, partly because she was 20 when we met and I was 24, and there’s a difference in that age range when it comes to growing and becoming the person you’ll be the rest of your life.

In that time, she got her degree, and found an internship that would likely become instrumental in her future career—which isn’t exactly what she expected, but she loves it and is super happy with it.

I, on the other hand, have been writing off and on throughout that time. I got my Associate’s Degree and have been working on my Bachelor’s since. And while she’s going back to grad school now, the difference in where we are in life regarding school and career left a gulf between us.

Love hurts

When my last long relationship ended, I went a little crazy. I wanted her back and I cried a lot and did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I lost friends.

I’m hurting, for sure, but I refuse to react so badly in the wake of a breakup ever again. The thing I realized is that the only reason I’m hurting so badly is because I allowed myself to fall in love. It’s the greatest kind of hurt, but I would do it all over just to feel that again.

In case there’s any concern about privacy, I would like to assure you that she has read this post already and gave me permission to post it.

Photo by Pedro de Sousa on Unsplash

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