There are many reasons why the last relationship I was in ended. And for a long time after the breakup I tried them all on.
We were on different wave lengths; we wanted different things in life; we rushed through the early phases of dating and didn’t form a strong foundation; we didn’t have a lot in common; we never really got to know each other as well as we should have to truly support one another’s growth.
When people asked, I selected one of the above explanations. It was almost always met with a sympathetic nod of acceptance before the conversation moved on.
It took me a long time to be truly honest with both myself and those who took the time to ask.
My last relationship was challenged by all the factors listed above. But ultimately it ended because I wasn’t truly happy.
It wasn’t my partner’s fault. He had been the loving, kind, generous and supportive person I had met and fallen in love with for the entirety of our relationship.
But somewhere along the way the dynamics of our relationship shifted, and in hindsight, alot of that was my fault.
In the very early stages, our relationship went from zero to 100 quickly – too quickly. Within weeks I was spending Christmas with his family, going on double dates with his friends, booking overseas holidays and RSVP-ing events as a couple months in advance.
While his world was opening, and I was being embraced by the people and the lifestyle he loved, my world remained closed.
As exhilarating as the first few months were, and as incredible as it was to feel loved, accepted, and part of a partnership, I started to resent how steeply the foundations of our relationship favoured his life to mine.
I struggled to find my feet.
I was lost and found myself in the never-ending battle of trying to hold on to the person I was before our relationship took hold and I become one half of a couple.
The more I felt voiceless and powerless, the more I drew away and shut down.
I wasn’t happy. But everything that was compounding and making me unhappy had been my choice. The unhappiness was a situation, a reality, I had created through the power of my own decisions.
Rather than listening to my gut from the very beginning, and trusting my instinct that said slow down, weigh up your options, I let the momentum of other people’s expectations and the fear of hurting someone I cared about drive my decisions.
A bit like a runaway train, I didn’t know how to slow it down, much less change direction.
In the end I lost myself. In doing so, I learned a defining lesson in honouring myself and the importance of being able to say ‘no’ from a place of compassion and truth.
As a long-time people-pleaser that shuddered at the thought of ‘letting people down’, it was a gut-wrenching lesson. And one that took months, maybe even edging on years, to fully step into.
The incredible thing is: when I was truly honest with myself (and anyone who took the time to ask) and admitted we broke up, ultimately because I wasn’t happy, people’s reactions reflected that honesty.
Where I had been scared they would look down on me for placing my happiness over someone else’s, they reflected on the times they had denied their own truth and the daunting (and often confronting) turn of events that followed.
Four people told me they knew their marriages wouldn’t last before they’d even walked down the aisle. One woman said she cried herself to sleep the night before her wedding because she didn’t want to marry her partner.
Another said she knew when she became engaged her marriage would be a ‘long shot at best’ – they later quietly divorced.
A man told me how he knew standing at the altar he didn’t fully love his bride, yet he married her because it was what was expected. They shared a 15-year marriage and two children before separating.
In the early days of the relationship, I didn’t place enough value on myself. Rather than carving out a place for myself in the relationship and building a partnership that was equal and represented both our lives, I let my needs and my identity become second string.
All the factors that grated on me and that I came to detest in the later stages of the relationship were born from this decision. By the final days, I felt selfish and silly. I felt guilty that in instigating a break up I was denying someone else their happily ever after, in favour of my own happiness.
In truth, living a lie is a much greater deceit and cause of pain than being honest and true, even if it doesn’t feel so in the immediate future. It can be hard to comprehend this when you’re in the eye of the tornado, and the hurt and heat is swirling around you.
Learning how to say ‘no’ with respect, compassion, and integrity is one of the greatest lessons I have learnt and one I wished I had practised from a much younger age; because, (despite the three decades it took me to come true to the realisation) being who I am and honouring my happiness and my worth is one of the greatest freedoms and gifts I know.