How My Failed Relationship Changed Me (In A Good Way)

First of all, I’m back on the blog!

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I took a break over Christmas to revamp the website and that turned into a nearly 6 month hiatus. What you didn’t know is that before I took a temporary break for website designing, I’d been struggling to write here on the blog for a few months. Since my break-up in October, I had a bit of a creative block when it came to the written word. I stopped writing in my personal journal, and here on the blog, the only thing I really could churn out were posts about TV shows or movies. But even that started to feel forced.

The problem was that I was really, really numb those first few months post-breakup. I wanted to act like everything was totally ok, like nothing had changed. (Because honestly, not all that much HAD changed considering we were still living under the same roof and I was still feeling as ignored and unloved as ever.) However, after the official “This has to be over” conversation, there was a significant shift in perspective of what my future could hold. And for a time, I just didn’t want to deal with it. For me, that meant avoiding self-reflection which is what I use writing for the most. So I just couldn’t write.

But since I finally feel healed enough to jump back on that authenticity train and officially shared what happened over on YouTube last Thursday, I thought it might be a good time to get back to writing on the blog as well. I joined a writing group in the interim and it’s helped me produce a few self-reflective pieces on my relationship that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you in the coming weeks as well as some stories about family and my teenage years. Basically it’s been a great way to get back into my writing groove.

But for now I wanted to start with a little supplement to last Thursday’s video. After a conversation with a friend about my breakup video, I realized that what the video doesn’t address is all the GOOD that came from my relationship.

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There’s definitely been a heck of a lot of bad over the last several months, but the more I talk about it with friends and family, the more I’m reminded that even if I had a Time Turner and could go back and change what happened, I wouldn’t. My relationship with Parker made me who I am today. And as someone who spent pretty much her whole teenage and young adult years absolutely hating herself, I actually like the person I am now, which is pretty much the first time since I was 13 years old. There are definitely scars from my relationship, but I want to take a moment and focus on the good and how I can use it to build a beautiful future.

The Courage to Fight My Depression

When Parker and I first met and started dating, I was at my lowest low with depression. I remember crying while he held me on a lounge chair out by my parents’ pool one summer night because I was so utterly miserable. And my getting help ultimately became a part of us pursuing a relationship. Which is why I was initially afraid that when we broke up, I would descend back into the darkness that I’d dwelled in prior to meeting him.

But what I learned is that while Parker was a catalyst for my getting mental health help in 2012, I was the one that did all the work necessary to help me recover. I built an arsenal of tools to help me when the depression would start to creep back in. And so when I no longer had his support, I found I was still well-prepared to fight for my own mental health. In fact, I’d been doing it all along without realizing it.

Spontaneity

I have never been a spontaneous person. Give me a month or week’s notice and I’ll be there. But ask me 20 minutes before you want me somewhere or to completely change my plans for the evening even if they only included going home and curling up under a blanket to read, and I’m out.  But that was not the way he functioned when we first met which meant if I wanted to spend time with him, I had to learn to be up for just about anything.

On the one hand, it got me into a few uncomfortable situations over the years and many days of almost falling asleep at the wheel because I stayed out later or traveled farther to see him than I should have. But it also taught me how flexible I can be. And how being spontaneous can actually lead to wonderful memories you might not have had if you didn’t decide to say “screw it” and just “go with the flow” every once in a while.

Chill

Along with my lack of spontaneity, I’ve also always been wound pretty tight. This comes from a wonderful combination of it just being part of my personality (which I get very honestly from my parents) and from suffering with anxiety issues. When we met, Parker was the most chill person I had ever known. Sometimes it seemed like nothing would phase him, and I was just…the complete opposite.

But there’s something about spending a long time with a person who’s much more chill than you. It does actually rub off a bit. Mostly because when things would happen that usually caused me great stress and he’d just roll with it. And I found with time that in many situations, it was easier for me to as well. Sometimes having someone model for you how to handle stressful situations or even just daily life in a different way is helpful in learning how to change how you handle them. I’m still not anywhere near as chill as 2012 Parker, but I know there are so many situations in my life where it’s okay (and better for my mental health) to disengage so I’m not so stressed over things I can’t change or control.

A Love for Hiking and the Outdoors

I’ve always loved being outside and did my fair share of hiking growing up, but it wasn’t until Parker got the #GetOutside bug and wanted to bring me with him that I really embraced it and found how much I loved hiking, exploring, getting dirty, and just being out in nature.

I learned that I absolutely NEED a walking stick so that I don’t clench my back muscles and get sore. I know how many miles and what kind of elevation I can do without getting blisters or overly exhausting myself.  

And one of the saddest parts of the deterioration of our relationship for me was that we stopped hiking or spending time outside (but then, admittedly, we stopped spending time together in general). So this spring as the weather warmed up, and I was finally starting to come out of the post-breakup cocoon I’d built to protect myself, I wondered if I’d still enjoy hiking. And boy, was it wonderful to go on that first solo hike and realize, yes, this was something I loved for me, not just because of him.

A Lot of Weird and Wonderful Shows, Movies, YouTube, and Pop Culture

The amount of media I discovered and fell in love with because of him is probably staggering. But with 6 years of dating and/or friendship, there’s definitely going to be a fair amount. To name a few: New Girl, Rick & Morty, The Office, Game Grumps, Deadpool, Star Wars: Battlefront, and the list goes on!  What’s important for me here is that a lot of it was content I considered “guy stuff” and thought I’d never be interested in. And without his introduction, I probably never would have given it the time of day and learned to love it. (The biggest example here is of me going to see Deadpool 2 in the theater by myself this past weekend because of how much I loved the original even though I had only gone to see it because of Parker and had assumed it would be too gory or gross for me. But oh! Was I wrong!)

A Better Understanding of Myself

Probably the best thing that came out of our relationship was a better understanding of myself.

First as an introvert since I’ve spent a lot of my life assuming I can’t make friends because of the weird combination of my introversion (only being able to be around people but so much) and my social anxiety (my fear of being in social situations and around people in general). As a fellow introvert (and maybe one even further along the introvert scale than I), Parker struggled with some of the same fears of feeling outside the world as it was moving along without us.  He had his own coping mechanisms and tricks for “pretending” when life called for us to be just a bit more extraverted, and we spent time learning from one another and encouraging one another when we did something out of our social “comfort zone.” It also showed me that you can be with someone who understands, respects, and works with your level of introversion/extroversion. He was the first person I never felt uncomfortable being an introvert around, and it helped me embrace who I was with friends and family.

And this bleed into a better understanding myself as a partner within a relationship too. I had always assumed I’d have to be alone in the long run because of my career-drive, introversion, and personality. But I was a good long-term partner.

And because of the good and the bad in our relationship I’ve definitely learned more of what I want and DON’T want in a forever partner. That I deserve someone who loves me fully, not just accept the first person who’s willing to look past some of flaws but ultimately wants me to change for them.

I am human and imperfect and I am always working on who I am, but I do deserve someone who will be there with me as I work and not demand for me to be the person they imagined when we first met.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find that person, but I like to hope I will. I certainly hope I’ll be much more discerning with my choices in the future and not put up with someone treating me in a way that lacks the kind of respect and dignity I deserve just because I fear no one else will love me.

 

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