A gentle reminder for those battling the ghosts of lost (and left) lovers: arm yourself with yourself. 

I ended it and the taste of strength on my tongue was bitter, a foreign, acquired taste. We were together for nearly three years and the end felt diplomatic. Agreeable, mutual. We’d had conversations like this before, teetering there on the edge, close to collapse. My teary tirade would meet his exasperation, often absent of any clear emotion. Most conversations ended with us back where we started: holding on for the sake of holding on. But this night, the night that I ended it, there was more logic than emotion. A few days out from my twenty-fifth birthday, I was finally clear on my desires and needs. Our partnership fell short and I was tired of missing the mark. This painful revelation was enough to steady my shaky voice: “If you can’t agree to this, we can’t continue.” To which he responded, “Well, I can’t do that for you.” 

When we ended the call, I stared at the ceiling for a while. My unmet needs and the fragments of our relationship lingered on the pillow next to me. His scent no longer. His voice no longer. Us, no longer. It’s been a year since the breakup. I’m older and maybe a bit wiser. I recognize now that I’d built my “dream” house on a foundation co-constructed with my previous partner. When we split up, the house was emptied of laughter and joy and purpose. The love was still there, like the screws keeping the floorboards intact, but love isn’t enough to make a house a home. For months, I toyed with the idea of putting the house up for sale. Maybe leaving the keys in the front door and walking away forever. The house that we built was suddenly too much house for just one person. I wondered what I should fill it with after he was gone.

Me. I had to fill it with me. It hasn’t been easy – the inevitable rediscovery that happens after a breakup – but it’s been beautiful. I’ve learned so much and the lessons have come one after the other like a line of dominos hitting the table. What have I learned in the year since my breakup?

  1. 1. Self-security is the destination and the journey will feel incredibly lonely at times

  2. I have so much work to do… to really feel like who I am is enough; to build a life so full that it takes up space he once occupied. I’m not there yet, but that’s okay. I’m close. I’ve found passion projects that bring me joy and leaning into them brings me a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  3. 2. Settling for less than what I know I deserve is a hindrance to my healing

  4. Cognitive dissonance is a bih when I’m trying to live my life with intention. I deserve love that is more than enough, not just enough. I deserve love that brings more than it takes. I’ve let situationships sail and returned to the shore of myself time and time again. I can do this.

  5. 3. It’s okay to have male friends

  6. Every single, attractive, educated man is not my king. Even if we vibe. Even if we can go out on things that feel like dates. Pursuing a platonic relationship built on shared interest and a desire to connect is how I heal. Re-establishing relationships for the sake of community is how I’ve always found peace. Start there and stay there.

  7. 4. He was great, but the relationship wasn’t perfect

  8. Idealizing him and our relationship isn’t the road to go down, sis. We had legitimate, unresolved problems that led to the end of our relationship. There is no need to rewrite history, even when it’s painful to revisit. It simply is what it is.

  9. 5. He didn’t speak my love language, but I’m fluent in it

  10. I can speak my love language better than anyone else, so I do. Spending quality time with myself and affirming my strengths are central to my self-care and healing.

It may be difficult to find the road back to yourself after a breakup but when you do, stop and smell the roses along the way.

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