If life would just stick to the Disney plan that we have all been weened and nurtured on; we would all be 60 chapters deep into a euphoric storybook love affair. Happily ever after would protect us from ever feeling the slice from shards of a broken heart. Alas, and maybe gratefully, we are human. We forget that we or not just thinking or feeling; but feeling thinkers which is the essence of being a human. We fall, we attach, we get hurt and many times we stay entrenched in that hurt. Like any other vice or addiction; love and the hope of love has the power to inflict deep wounds and cause us to self-destruct. The cost of the human heart can be hefty and we all must know our betting threshold and when to fold on happily ever after. The usual relationship waxes and wanes do not make a bad relationship. Those are needed challenges that encourage growth and bonding.
A bad relationship is one that robs you of joy, is hostile and one-sided. It takes from you and refuses to reciprocate. You would think this would be an easy union to walk away from, but they are the hardest from which to detach.
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Knowing when to fold on happily ever after
There are obvious signs: lying, cheating, abuse, emotional starvation and unavailability. We all know those are dangerous and will hurt us. What about the not so obvious like slow growing loneliness, a widening gap of connection and intimacy, a nagging lack of security or feeling unseen and heard by your partner? Those signs are hard to see and even harder to feel and admit. They don’t scream “run!” but they follow you around making you increasingly aware that something is amiss. You grow uncomfortable, begin to feel devalued, alone when you’re together and less than. Here is when you need to have a honest talk with yourself. Remind your heart that relationships require love, care and intention from you both. If one of you is consistently refusing to show up then the relationship is just existing from habit. It’s time to go. There are some circumstances that make leaving arduous, however, most exits need you only to get out of your own way. There is much more resolve needed to let go than to hold on. More courage needed to feel and be vulnerable. Let go and love yourself the way you were always meant to be.
Don’t skip the messy middle
Unwrapping yourself from someone you love is self inflicted pain at it’s sharpest. Regardless of the toxicity of the relationship it’s going to hurt. Bigly. Love makes us cling fiercely and justify unreasonable behavior. We will knowingly angle the truth in order to give ourselves an out from leaning into the healing process. Give your heart time to catch up with what your brain already understands. You know you need to leave the space but your heart keeps pulling you in and resisting healing. Or worse, pushing you fear first into finding a replacement source for comfort and affection. Acknowledge the pain. Allow yourself the tears. Sit with lonely a bit and let your heart catch up. Don’t unpack and live in that space by giving yourself a few scheduled check points to assess your healing. When your heart and head can shake hands in agreement that your are healed then you are ready to move on. That said, don’t date and seek another relationship until you are fully healed.
Moving On From Happily Ever After
Understand that is is highly unfair and cruel to pursue a new person until you have processed, let go and healed. It is unacceptable to inflict your pain, carry your ex-baggage forward and use someone to fill the space in your life. You can’t be open, vulnerable and enforce your boundaries if you have not learned how to be alone and fully purged your heartbreak. If you are dating again because you are lonely, desperately want love or need an ego boost; stop now. You have no right to say you are available and entangle another’s heart when you are not ready. Heal from what hurt you or you will bleed on someone that did not cut you.
Knowing you are ready means you have grown to be comfortable alone and you have successfully completed an extended time of radio silence from all ex-communication. They might cross your mind but it’s not on the daily, obsessive or pain inducing. You don’t pine for them, stalk their social media, drive by their house, check in on them via friends, etc. You’ve taken focused time out to enhance your mental, emotional and physical health. You have reengaged with hobbies, refocused on your job and have started saying yes to time with your family and friends. You are generally in a good mood, hopeful about your future and your smile meets yours eyes again. Most importantly, you have learned from your relationship, accepted your part in the break up and have intentionally made changes to your behavior and boundaries. Only then are your open and ready to give and receive love again.