Friday, March 2, 2012

Reflecting on a failed relationship

This was something I had initially written back in January, and then forgot about. Oops!


I came across a blog entry today. A photographer and Marine wife in St. Louis completed a photo project last month depicting a grieving widow. I'm fairly confident this was a creative project she embarked on, though that's not specifically mentioned. 

It came on the same day that I had been talking to one of my recently-single lady friends about breakups in general, the grieving process, and getting back to "normal." On my favorite forum, there's a group of us "single ladies," so you might notice the language of the last sentence isn't specifically addressed to one person.

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of reflecting today. On everything - but mostly the good and the lessons. And I wanted to share it with you.

This is my comment to Rachel earlier:
Just know this is all a part of the normal grieving process. Don't beat yourself up over being upset, or thinking about him, or wishing he would call. 
I was so heart-broken after my breakup that I slept on the couch for days, because I couldn't bring myself to sleep in the bed that we had shared. I screamed. I cried. I went to a counselor. I turned assignments for school into a way to talk about my breakup. (My final for one of my classes was seriously a 14-page paper on our relationship.) I read books on how to save a failing marriage, or how to improve a relationship. I journaled. I blogged. 
I also baked a lot more. I traveled more. I spent time with friends that I never would have, had we been together. I spent money on whatever I wanted, without having to fear a negative reaction if he didn't feel it was a wise purchase. 
There is no right or wrong way to heal. Do whatever it is you need to do to come to terms with things, as long as that doesn't involve seeing him (for right now). Do embarrassing things. Do empowering things. Chop all your hair off. Go skydiving. Write him nasty letters, and don't send them. Read It's Called a Breakup Because it's Broken
Breakups suck. You'll have good days and bad days, and we'll be there for all of them.

 During the relationship:

  • I learned how to communicate so much better. Sure, I might have placed in State for debate in high school, but I had no idea how to communicate in a healthy way in a relationship. 
  • I learned the importance of expressing love often. When Kyle was deployed, I realized that I had previously taken a lot of things for granted. Our communication style changed in a lot of ways, and this was one of them. We were both more affectionate and verbally appreciative of the other. 
  • I learned about myself. What I could and couldn't put up with in a relationship. I learned what I was able to live with, even if I wasn't particularly fond of [the habit, behavior, whatever]. 
  • I learned to pick my battles. Buying sex toys for other women? Worth bringing up. He left his clothes on the living room floor, or turned down the A/C to 64 degrees and then left the house all day? Not a big deal in the long run. 

After the break-up:
  • I spent more time in the kitchen. In the final months of us living together, we fought so much about how he didn't feel I ever really cooked dinner. (Though he certainly asked for plenty of my recipes after he moved out!) The strife surrounding cooking in general led me to not really want to spend time slaving away over the stove. Having that strife behind me has definitely allowed me to experiment a lot more, and now I have my wonderful food blog! (And he's the guy behind the nickname that prompted my blog title.)
  • I traveled more often. I spent time in California with my friends and grandparents for the first time since I/we moved down here. We had talked a few times about going out to meet my grandparents, but in over two and a half years, we hadn't made it happen. I was free now to up and leave whenever I wanted, and I did so on several occasions. I also traveled to Europe this summer. We had chatted about travel often, but never made it past a day-trip to Sedona, a few days in DC, and a Marine Corps-funded weekend conference in Nashville. 
  • I met some new, amazing people! One of my best friends this past year is a woman I probably never would have met if Kyle and I had stayed together even one more day. The day after I ended things, he came to collect all his crap from the garage. I had previously put us on the guest list for a VIP event at my favorite wine bar that same night. I ended up going alone, and met the most wonderful couple while I was standing in line waiting for food. We sat together, chatted all night, and they have truly been lifesavers for me in the short time I've known them. They opened their home when I was displaced in April. They introduced me to a new source of income. And they have been loving and supportive in more ways than I can count. I can't express how thankful I am to have them in my life - something that probably would not be the case if timing had been different. 
  • I learned that it wasn't so bad after-all. In the moment, I focused on the arguments. Sometimes I'd make a point to note the really good times. If we had a good day, or if he was being extra sweet, I'd let him know I appreciated it. But more often than not, the bad times set the tone for our communication. Then initially after the break-up, I had these ridiculous manic "but things were so amazing! Look at what a good time we had!" moments, swinging back down to "what a douchebag. I hate his guts and can't believe we dated past a year." Now, I'm able to look back and see that there were certainly negatives. But there were really sweet moments, too. And not just vacations, or dates, or what-have-you. We shared a car, and he arranged his work schedule so he could pick me up from school and take me to work. He would always bring me a snack of some kind, or dinner to eat at work. I remember one time we had been fighting, and he was apparently doing his best to give me the silent treatment. He still made me a pb&j sandwich. 

I've learned a lot from dating since Kyle, too - some things that make me realize I deserve so much more than I had, some things that made me appreciate little things he did, and some things that have made me realize I wasn't totally innocent either. 


All in all, I'm glad I've had the last nearly-a-year to move forward. I still would hesitate to say that we're friends, but we get along much better than we did in the last few months of our relationship. We still are able to communicate so well. We have better communication than I've had with anyone I've dated in the last year. 

I guess all that was to say that I can finally admit I don't regret our relationship. I wouldn't take it back. If I had to go back five years, I would still make the same decision. It helped shape me into who I am today. I learned so much about myself, about how to interact in future relationships, and about... life, really. I experienced so many new things because of him, and I value the time we spent together. 

So when you're heartbroken and mourning a love lost, realize that not only will you pull through, not only will you be stronger in the end, but you will be able to look back and glean lessons. Maybe not right away. Maybe not even a year later. But some day you will be able to look back fondly and recognize that you wouldn't be who you are today without those particular experiences - for better or for worse. 


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