It’s been a few months now since my ex-partner and I ended our relationship. Although I’ve been through many relationship breakups in the past, this one felt more significant somehow.
I’m 29 now – and although I don’t currently have any desire to get married and pop out babies, I definitely had put some constraints on myself as to how much life *should* look. Shouldn’t the average 29 year old woman have a man in her life? Be planning for a big wedding, white picket fence and 2.5 kids? I certainly thought so.
The fear of being alone and becoming a bitter and twisted spinster with yellow teeth and a crooked nose probably kept me in the relationship a little past it’s due by date. But hey, I do believe everything happens for a reason. And that goes with the timings of breakups as well.
This breakup has been different to any I’ve experienced before – and the learnings I’ve taken both from my previous relationship and it’s eventual demise of it are worth their weight in gold. So I’ve decided to share them.
1. The fear of being alone is NEVER a good basis to start / or stay in a relationship.
Up until now, I’ve been a serial relationship-ist. As soon as one relationship ended, I’d be straight onto the next one with barely a week in between. In the last 15 years, I have spent almost NO time on my own. If I ever found myself without a boyfriend, desperation, panic and stress would set in, and I’d cling to the next available man who showed even the tiniest iota of interest in me.
I had a debilitating fear of being alone. I could write a book on this – in fact, there is a book on this called Co-Dependant No More if you suffer from the same infliction. I came to realise that until I am comfortable in my own company, I am never going to make the right choices when it comes to relationships.
If you are SO terrified of being on your own, how can you determine if someone is a good match for you? You’ll be so grateful that SOMEONE has saved you from that dreaded loneliness, that you’ll find yourself with people who aren’t all that good for you (and vice versa).
Now that my previous relationship has ended, I’ve made a conscious choice to be on my own for a while. No relationships, no dating, just lonely aloneness. Why?
2. Love isn’t enough. Your core values must align too.
This was a difficult one for me to swallow. Love isn’t enough. If your core values don’t match, then it’s unlikely that the relationship will be successful. There is a great blog post here on figuring out if your core values match in your relationship. My ex and I saw SO many things from opposite angles – and despite our best efforts we just couldn’t see eye to eye. Our basic fundamental beliefs about our lives and how we should live it were so different, it was just never going to work.
There were too many deal breakers that we ignored in an attempt to stay together. Ultimately, our unique core beliefs won out. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole.
3. Attempting to fix and change your partner will do nothing but drive you batshit crazy.
I am SO guilty of this. Up until now, I’ve been brilliant at falling in love with the ‘potential’ of a partner, rather than the reality of them. What follows is a mass campaign of prodding, poking and coercing, in an attempt to mould my partner into the person I want him to be. (If you do this, read Co-dependant No More. This is another major sign of co-dependancy).
I have now also been on the other side of this experience. And it’s not pretty.
At the end of the day, you don’t have the power to change ANYONE. If you can’t accept your partner, as they are, then that relationship needs to end. If you want to stay together, then you need to find acceptance in the areas you don’t like so much. And look, it doesn’t mean you condone those areas, or even agree with them – but I believe love is simply full acceptance of someone. As they are and as they are not.
Yes they’ll drive you crazy. Yes they’ll do things that will piss you off. But forgive them for that – they’re only human. Just like you.
Instead of trying to fix and change them, put the focus back on yourself. I can guarantee you, you’re probably no walk in the park either. If you want change, start with you – it’s the only thing you’ll ever have any control over anyway.
4. Trust yourself, honour your desire, follow your bliss
Before my relationship ended, I was on a mass-campaign of self abuse. My head was constantly screaming at me “What the hell is wrong with you? Why can’t you be a normal girl? Why doesn’t marriage and babies and commitment get you all excited? You’re broken, there is something wrong with you. If you do this, you’ll be alone forever. Loser.”
Ew, it wasn’t pleasant. But there is something to be said for the unconscious pressure society puts on women. I came back from my trip to New York with a desire to move to America and have a crack at setting up One Girl USA. The rush of a new challenge and learning curve that would come from living in a new country and starting a company from scratch again is far more compelling to me than a white dress and a baby.
And because of this, I thought I was broken. Women aren’t meant to be leaders. They certainly aren’t meant to want to move to America and start companies. So I began to research, and I picked up a book called The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. This book allowed me to take ownership of my desires.
I began to own my desire. And trust it. Consider that at the deepest level, you already know what you really want. You just layer that with all the opinions you have about what you SHOULD be doing.
Ignore it. Your heart wants what it wants. Trust it. It just takes time for your head to catch up.
5. The scenarios in your head are far worse than reality. You’re stronger than you think.
The day I moved into my apartment on my own was one of the toughest days I’ve ever had. It seemed so strange to me that I can be completely fearless in so many other areas of my life – but the idea of living in a house by myself and not having a boyfriend was enough to break me completely.
My fear of being alone went into overdrive, and I’d spent the night prior to my moving day crying on my sisters shoulder about how scared I was. She reassured me that it would all be okay. “You’re going to love living on your own,” she said.
And holy shit, she was right. The first weekend was tough. The dreaded loneliness demons danced in my head for hours – but the reality was so different. I slept the first night on my own. I woke up, and I was still in my apartment. Alive. I’d made it. It was quiet and peaceful. On the second night I lit candles and incense and tucked myself into my brand new bed. A little spark of potential danced in my heart.
For my entire life, I’ve never believed I could make it on my own. I’ve ALWAYS believed I’ve needed a man in my life to function. What I’ve discovered is that it’s rubbish. I’m living by myself, with my dog – I’m paying my own bills. Cleaning my own place. Driving my own car. And look, for many of you this might just be second nature. It wasn’t for me. It was the one of the scariest ventures I’ve ever undertaken. And I’ve done it.
You are capable of anything. Even the stuff you’re crazy afraid of.
6. Good self-esteem is essential to for a healthy relationship.
My self-esteem has shot upward like a rocket since my relationship ended. I’ve been in midst of building up my self-esteem for almost two years now – and the hard work has really started to pay off.
I believe that I am worth something. I believe I deserve to be with someone who loves me as I am. I am more than happy to set boundaries for people and let them know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. I VALUE myself. I know that when I’m ready to get into a relationship again (which won’t be for a while), that I’ll be discerning.
Before I jump into the deep end, I’ll want to understand their core values. I’ll see if they can communicate openly about their feelings, I’ll expect a certain level of self-awareness and ability to take responsibility for their actions and feelings. Just as I am willing to take responsibility for mine.
Why? Because I deserve all that. In all my previous relationships, I’d spend all my time figuring out if the guy I was with thought I was right for him. Does he think I’m pretty enough? Smart enough? Skinny enough? Nice enough? Feminine enough? It didn’t even CROSS my mind to consider if he was right for me. I was too busy trying to make myself right for him.
Not anymore sista! That’s the power of self esteem.
7. You are seriously fucking loveable. As you are. Like, RIGHT NOW.
I only realised this after my relationship ended. I left the relationship feeling like I was broken. Not feminine enough. Not girly enough. Selfish. Only interested in business and adventure and pushing myself to the limits. Why would I even consider giving up this cushy life in Melbourne to head overseas and attempt to start One Girl, from scratch, AGAIN? WAS I CRAZY?!
By some people’s standards, yes, I am crazy. But – that’s me. I have a crazy vision. I dream big. I want to educate 1 million girls across Africa by 2020. I want to build the world’s leading female focused non-profit organisation. I want to inspire the SHIT out of people and make them CARE about the world’s forgotten girls.
I don’t fit into the typical ‘woman’ mould. And I never will. Maybe one day I’ll want to get married and have kids. But I’ll never have the white picket fence. I’ll never be a housewife. And that’s okay.
I picked up another book (yes I love reading) called Startup Life : Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. This book made me realise that I wasn’t broken. I’m just a female entrepreneur. I get more turned on by business, learning, growth and development that I do about starting a family right now.
And that’s okay. It might make it more difficult for me to have a relationship, but I truly believe that when I’m ready – someone that compliments me perfectly will appear.
It’s funny writing all of this down now. When I read it back, it just seems like common sense. Isn’t this how everyone operates?
Well – they should, but the reality is that they don’t. So many of us fear being alone. So many of us stay in relationships when we know it’s not what we really want. So many of us think if we just TRIED harder we could forced that square peg in a round hole.
Wherever you are at, right now – is perfect. It’s taken me 15 years of unhealthy relationships to come to this understanding. We can’t force our journey. Just trust the path you’re on. It will unfold as it’s meant too.
Lots of love,