I’ve had several notable breakups where I became desperate for those men to stay with me. I tried every avenue—calling them, “accidentally” bumping into them and if I did, making sure I wore something that was totally uncalled for and at the height of my desperation, I went out of my way to pretend that I was okay that we fizzled. Spoiler alert: nothing could have been further from the truth.
It took me a long time to finally figure out that it wasn’t them I was after. It was what they represented.
While I believe that there’s nothing wrong with being single, I do believe too much value is placed on whether or not you’re in a relationship. I saw it all the time when I was single and heard all the phrases.
“You’re too pretty to be single.”
“Love will find you when you’re ready for it.”
“Love will come to you when you least expect it.”
It was as if who I was on my own wasn’t good enough; somehow I was less than whole if I didn’t have a partner to share my experiences with. The same kind of outlook could be said for everything: you get engaged, people ask when the wedding will be; you get married, people ask when you’ll get pregnant; you have a baby suckling on your breast with bags under your eyes, you get asked if you’re already planning for another. But that’s another article for another day so I digress.
It wasn’t until I was single for a few years that I finally started asking myself, “Do I even want to be with you?” When my ex left, I was heartbroken. I was in the “read Sylvia Plath, listen to Taylor Swift” phase for a solid year or so after our breakup. During those tumultuous months, I saw just how much emphasis I placed on that relationship. That relationship defined me and it’s been interesting to see how much that’s changed over the years.
I’ve been with my current husband for six years. We do everything together, from cleaning the house to grocery shopping, traveling, watching TV, and every mundane thing in between. Rarely, do we spend time with any outside people because we’re not just each other’s family, we’re each other’s friends. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company and that in of itself, makes life shine a whole lot brighter. That being said, my relationship actually defines me less than how it did when I was single. Yes, part of my identity is that I’m a wife. Part of my identity is the house we share, the children we’ll make, and the destinations we’ll travel to but it doesn’t define my worth; I am my own person regardless of who I share a queen size mattress with. That is a stark contrast to the version of me that existed a decade ago.
My journey toward finding my own value had to first involve asking myself a very difficult and heartbreaking question: “Do I even want to be with you?” When two people break up, it’s not always the end-all of a relationship. There are significant situations in which the timing just doesn’t work or someone has to work on him/herself before being able to love another person. However, you know whether or not you’re happy in a relationship.
Happiness doesn’t have an all-encompassing definition. Instead, it’s something you feel. It’s something you wake up knowing – and it’s something you’re in desperate need of when you don’t have it.
However, all too often, people are willing to overlook their own sense of happiness because a relationship is how they value themselves. It’s how they put a price tag, so to speak, on how attractive they are, how funny or how worthy of love they are. This is a sign of low self-esteem and if you have it, it can be an incredibly challenging and tiresome thing to work through – but you can work through it. It’s actually when we stop giving in to those who don’t respect or give us the love we need that we actually begin to feel better about ourselves, yet we often believe the opposite is true. You will never feel good about yourself when you aren’t being treated the way you deserve to be treated. It’s a harsh truth but it deserves to be said.
The same people who complain about their relationship are the same ones clamoring to get it back when it ends – and why? Because their value is attached to the relationship, even if the relationship was bad, even if it doesn’t work, and even if the person wasn’t happy while they were in it. That’s why you have to ask yourself, “Do I actually want to be with you?” Do you actually want to be with someone who chooses work over spending time with family? Do you actually want to be with someone who dismisses your concerns when you talk? Do you actually want to be with someone who doesn’t defend you, stick up for you or makes you feel like your concerns and needs are invalid? Do you actually want to be with someone you have to vie for attention for? Or do you want to be loved, unconditionally, regardless of whether you’re right or wrong or lying somewhere in the middle? Do you want someone who eagerly wants to be with you, learn from you and grow with you? Do you want to be with someone who genuinely thinks your jokes are funny or who forces you to question those silly notions you once held that kept you insecure and incapable of sticking up for what you needed?
Unhappiness – just like its counterpart – looks different for everyone. Only you know what unhappiness looks like. Only you can feel it.
We resign to the belief that if we change, the person we lost will come back to us. We hold on to the belief that if we just pretend we’re happy, they’ll want to reignite that flame, when in actuality, you should just be working on becoming happy for yourself because as cheesy as it sounds, the rest will all follow.
What happens if they come back? What happens if they spent some time away – a few weeks, a month, maybe more – and they come back and fall into the same routine? You talk, they fail to listen. You make a move on them, they shy away, cringing by your touch. You suggest a date night but they disagree. What happens then? You’re just as sad and miserable as you were when they were gone only now, you’re left with the realization that maybe this wasn’t what you wanted in the first place.
Maybe all it was ever about was showing off to the world that someone loved you, when all along you’ve had – and still have – the power to simply love yourself.