Ten years ago my understanding of relationships was quite different than it is today. I was convinced that love is something that just happens to us, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, and that it is always worth fighting for a relationship. After experiencing a breakup last year, I realized again that love can hurt enormously and that sometimes we have to give up on the people we love.
No one can take away your pain. But you can adjust the way of coping with emotional pain when love and relationships become harmful. You have the power to shape your relationships preventively in a way that they become as healthy as possible. The pain of rejection or a break-up is hurtful enough. Allow yourself to avoid unnecessary pain as an act of self-love. Here are the 5 pieces of advice I’d give my 18-year-old self:
1. Don’t rush into relationships but decide actively for your commitment
When I was younger I rushed into relationships and almost-relationships. When I got along with a guy and he showed interest in me I mostly decided to give it a try.
Even if my feeling told me from the beginning that things happened too fast or that he pushed me away every time I felt too safe in the relationship, I thought that I was the problem and hid my feelings.
That led to a power shift. My feelings became dependent on the way he treated me.
When the relationship became worse I didn’t decide to let it go but I waited until he broke up, because it was more important to me to keep on trying than to save me and my mental health from mental abuse.
In my last romantic relationship, something important happened. Even if the relationship didn’t last, I decided actively to be in it from the beginning.
When we broke up I had the feeling that I made the right decision to be with him, but it was also right to end it in order to save myself from more pain when our connection became toxic.
This active commitment led to the result that I felt more in control over my own life and my feelings. Hence the heartache became less painful because I was a part of the decisions being made.
2. Search for professional help when you suffer from heartache
I will never forget my first breakup. It hurt so much that I cried unpredictably in front of friends, colleagues and strangers. No one was able to take away the pain.
I bungled multiple exams and partied relentlessly. I wallowed in self-pity and thought that these things “always“ happened to me (even if it was my first break-up) and that no-one will ever love me.
These thoughts may be typical after a break-up and you should give yourself time and permission to feel all the feelings that come to you. But in order to get back to life after a reasonable time, it can truly help to search for a good therapist after (or even before) a breakup.
Your healing process accelerates because you get a more rational view of your situation sooner.
I’m convinced that breakups or heartaches, in general, can be serious conditions. Take your pain seriously because it’s not “only“ a heartache! You may be experiencing a personal crisis or depression.
I had the luck to find a coach who was specialized in breakups, she helped me to get back to life very quickly. You are not alone in this either!
3. Be consistent about your boundaries!
This one is quite hard for me as I sometimes don’t know where my boundaries are until they are being crossed. And it’s still a learning process for me.
What I’ve learned: Usually you can trust your gut feeling when you’re not sure if you’re overreacting. Take a deep breath and sleep on it for one night but don’t hide your feelings when it comes to your personal boundaries.
If you let someone cross them constantly it will lower your self-esteem and you’ll feel less and less in control over your life.
After two long relationships and a few dates during the last ten years, my boundaries emerged more and more. And this is a good thing! I definitely know what I don’t want in a relationship.
“THE MOST EXCITING, CHALLENGING, AND SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIP OF ALL IS THE ONE YOU HAVE WITH YOURSELF.” (Carrie Bradshaw | Sex and the City)
Ten years ago I didn’t even think about what I needed in a romantic relationship which led to a total breakdown after the first break-up as I gave up everything that was important to me.
Stick by your boundaries and protect yourself! You are worth it and your values have legitimacy.
4. Know what it’s like to be alone
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When I look back on the last ten years I’ve almost always been in a relationship or some kind of dating thing. That’s why loneliness hit me so hard when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend last year. After having a short liaison with another man shortly after the break-up, I’m single now and the loneliness is getting less and less.
For the first time in my life, I truly know what it’s like to be alone and that’s quite empowering. Yes, I can build up a shelf on my own, drive 10 hours by car to get to my auntie in Italy, or cook delicious meals just for myself.
If you know that you can do everything on your own and that you have great friends behind you, you will never be afraid of being single anymore. You will enjoy the time you spend with yourself and appreciate your single life more than a bad relationship. This knowledge will spare you a lot of pain in the future.
5. Let go of (social) expectations
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Almost everyone in my environment is getting married or pregnant. I’ve always wanted to be a young mum and when my last relationship went well I was constantly listening to podcasts about pregnancy or watching Youtube tutorials on how to raise confident and happy children.
Many friends and family members told me that I’m so good with children and that I have a natural talent to make them feel safe and calm in my presence.
When I was thirteen years old, my aunt told me that I definitely have to be a mother one day. During my studies, I worked as a part-time Nanny for a one-year-old girl and I had several babysitting jobs. Now I’m a school teacher and I definitely feel happy with many children around me.
Not only my family and friend’s affirmations led to the fact that I definitely wanted to have children before my 30th birthday but also social expectations and recommendations.
I know that there is a higher risk of miscarriage or disability when you are over 35 but I still know so many women in my surrounding who became mothers later and they (and their children) are as happy as younger mothers.
There are a lot of advantages for mothers over 35. They may be financially settled, know what they want in a partnership and had more time in the past to make experiences on their own.
And besides: you don’t have to prove anything to anyone! Let go of your own expectations and don’t feel bad when you think that everyone is moving on but you. Because it’s not true! You are destined for something else at the moment and your actions can be as life-changing and beautiful as being pregnant or getting married. There’s so much more to life!
So stop hurting yourself with your expectations towards your love life and don’t try to please the people around you just because they think you should be someone else in this time of your life.
Implement these 5 behaviors to prevent unnecessary pain in your love life:
1. Decide actively for your relationships.
2. Search for professional help rather sooner than later because your feelings have legitimacy.
3. Be consistent about your boundaries and don’t be afraid to communicate them.
4. Know what it’s like to be alone. The time you spend with yourself is precious.
5. Let go of your expectations and the expectations society is having from you.
You are worthy of love! Take care of yourself!
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Ali KarimiBoroujeni on Unsplash.com