One of the most important things that we can do as people exiting relationships, is to learn from them. Granted, it's hard sometimes to look at our mistakes in the eye. But if you ignore them, then they served no purpose.
Realising after the event that you wanted more clarity and communication, is something that everyone feels. And that's great and constructive to know about yourself to take forward in a new relationship. You can communicate your boundaries and expectations more effectively.
Okay I'm going to level with you here, guys.
Relationships are hard, Love is hard
And therefore it stands to reason, break-ups are hard. Arguably, they're harder. Because you acclimatise to all that your partner offered you and the more you realise what you are missing, the more you will miss it. Obviously. However, things aren't all doom and gloom forever – as always – there are lessons to be learned. I don't mean this in the dramatic sense that all suffering is always worthwhile because we can learn from it. I think that is too intense and insists upon us having to break down to know what we're made of. I think there are plenty of realisations we can – indeed, have to – come to alone. This comes from time spent in our own company and figuring out who we are and what defines us.
Yes, at the moment we're spooning an ungodly amount of salty comfort food into our mouths while we gratuitously rewatch old episodes of Friends, but it won't always be like that. Comforts like that exist for a reason – to make us feel better. There's nothing to be ashamed of in engaging with them, but once they are no longer consoling us, we need to try and reflect and move on.
Love that journey for us!
Seriously, it solves a multitude of problems. The simple reality is that all relationship advice boils down to either 'communicate more, or break up'. Because that's all there is to it. Again, making a few mistakes in a relationship is absolutely fine once you extract yourself from it. Discover things that you now realise you want in a relationship that you didn't or did get before. Recognise where you maybe didn't communicate your needs or say what you meant. Even if it leads to breaking up or awkward conversations, communication can clear the air and make sure everyone is on the same page. Relationships are a two-way street and you have to ensure that all parties are heard.
The importance of prioritising and protecting yourself
This is another killer point. I listened to a podcast once about how all relationships are asymmetrical. That one person is always more invested in it than the other, or more willing to risk themselves. I thought it was very cynical at the time, but the reality is that we can work to equal things out. We should aim for an equal, giving, reciprocal relationship. If you are giving out affection, sacrificing your time, and prioritising the other person, they'd better be doing the same in return. If not, you have to ask yourself what you are actually getting out of the relationship. Sometimes we cling to what is comfortable, even if it doesn't actually bring us comfort anymore. Such is life.
Yes, being maddeningly in love is the real deal. It's great to be madly in love, but that's maybe more a product of the short term honeymoon phase. It hasn't yet necessarily proven itself against the toils and tribulations of, well, life and each other. As human beings, we're all kind of a mess. But we know that and we move on. Mostly.
When you are madly in love you want the world to know
You make it Facebook official and start tagging each other in memes to self-indulgently demonstrate your love for each other. And clutter up everyone else's Facebook feed in so doing. No, I'm not bitter. Never! But the issue here, once you peel away the layers of saccharine-cute puppy videos, there's not much to it. Less of a meaning or inside joke – really just playing to the stereotype of what they think couples should be doing.
There's nothing wrong with this stage – every relationship goes through it to get to the next stage. But those on the outside recognise that there is more depth to seek from one another than this stage of want, particularly because it isn't clear to the partners necessarily what it actually is that the other wants. You may know broadly that you want to be loved, or exclusive, but who doesn't? With time and communication, you approach the level of emotional maturity in relationships that reaches the threshold of being maddeningly in love.
When you are self-sufficient and learn more about yourself every day
But anyway, as I write this in the throngs of Singleton, thinking back on all the relationships of past, present, and rom-com, I have a final statement. The key difference between the two types of need and want in the relationship.
In the stages of needing each other, you also come to realise that you need to prioritise yourself too. Probably even above the other person. And they would agree and do the same. Ultimate maturity in relationships isn't just getting married and committing to each other, it's making sure that you are both communicating what you need. For yourself and the relationship. The trick to a happy and fulfilling, maddeningly loving relationship? Know yourself as best you can. Know what you want. Find your person. And stick to it. Don't worry about the other people around you. They just haven't heard the song yet.
It's never too late to realise what you need. If you never knew where you stood in a relationship and it took breaking up for you to realise that, then so be it.
Insist upon clarity, Have the conversation
Even if it's awkward, you both deserve to know where you are and what the relationship might become.
Don't waste each other's time. That's so 2012.