I realized last night that I haven’t had to defend myself from inappropriate blame for over two and a half years. Coming off a four day vacation during which I actually rested and had fun, it occurred to me that I am really and truly not the person I used to be.
Vacation time used to be for cleaning the house, or visiting my partner’s family (and being “on” all the time), or for a brief respite from work-related burnout that never really worked, because nothing in that cycle was sustainable.
Relationships are on my mind, because I think I’m in one that will actually last the rest of my life. A lot of people in my life are going through relationship stuff too, so lots of thoughts and lessons have been swirling around my brain.
Trauma does not correspond to length of relationship
I’ve been in a few relationships that really messed with my head. But the most annoying thing about it is that a “situationship” partner I knew for only six months has had a lasting traumatic impact on me, rivaling the nearly seven year abusive relationship I left in 2018. How could someone I knew for so short a time have so deeply harmed and scarred me emotionally?
My theory is that most of the trauma around this person is my own shame. Having been through such a traumatic relationship and breakup, I thought I was immune to ever falling into another one. But I did. And it’s valid.
It’s okay to be super fucked up over someone you only knew for a short time.
On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t hold much trauma from my first marriage, even though he once threatened to hit me during an argument, he financially abused me, and he idolized his shitty, racist dad. Plus, I am 73% sure he cheated on me. Despite all that, I barely remember this marriage even happened.
So, whether you went through some deep shit and it didn’t mess you up, or you went through a relatively minimal amount of shit and it really affected you, the truth is… trauma and relationship length do not correlate. From an amateur psychology perspective, this is because being able to process and contextualize your trauma is a big part of what gets stored in the body for some super fun PTSD and what you can acknowledge and shelve as a fully processed memory.
Fast or slow doesn’t mean anything for sure
Sometimes we fall in love fast, and other times we take it slow. Unfortunately, shitty relationships can happen in either scenario. There is no ideal speed at which you can approach a relationship that will make it breakup-proof, pain-proof, or asshole-proof.
I met my current partner and within a couple of weeks of talking, we had a first date. Within a couple weeks of that, we said “I love you.” Nearly three years in, we own a house together and plan to be together for the long haul.
My abuser and I also said “I love you” within a couple weeks. That one didn’t end so well.
I’ve had slow burns also burn into horrific fireballs of emotion and rage.
My first husband wouldn’t say he loved me until we’d been together for six months. He proposed at two years, and we married at the three year mark. It was slow and steady, right on track with the classic relationship escalator, and didn’t mean anything important about our relationship’s health or longevity.
Moral of the story: Speed means nothing, so do what you want.
You’re going to grieve even if you hate their guts
One of the worst parts of a breakup, in my experience, has been the grieving process. Even though I was 100% done and never wanted to see him again, leaving my abuser was agonizingly painful. I had to let go of the “happily ever after” I thought I had found. I had to let go of my dream of being a mom. I had to let go of my mother in law, of our cats, of everything I knew. Simultaneously, the timeframe in which I left this marriage was the same time my stepfather died and I had final contact with my mother. Within months, I had also had final contact with my father.
So not only was I grieving and losing my marriage and a future I had planned for, I also lost my family.
It was all my choice. And it was the right choice. But it still hurt, and I still had to grieve.
Grief when you still love them is kinda worse
And if you don’t hate their guts? It’s even worse. Grieving the loss of a relationship with someone you love deeply but you know it’s not the right fit is one of the worst feelings. I have a few relationships like this (interestingly, my relationships with women and femmes usually go this route, while I tend to date men until I’m ready to explode with rage).
Breaking up with someone you’re totally over is one thing. You know they were never and could never have been who you needed them to be. But the ones you really really wish it could work out with are extremely hard to handle. It hurts. Because you can see the potential for it all to be okay, and you have to walk away anyway. You deserve better, but you want them to be better.
I don’t know who to credit, because I’ve only ever seen it as a plain text meme without attribution, but this quote comes to mind:
“I don’t carry any hate in my heart. If I loved you before, I still got love for you. Stay away from me though.”
That’s how I feel about relationships that need to end for the health of one or more parties. The boundary needs to be set, but it still sucks.
Want more from me?
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Also, tell me what other life lessons you’ve learned from breakups. I might be on this kick for a while.