As you may be aware, my fiancé and I ended our engagement last Wednesday after being together for more than eight years. And while it was mostly my decision, I’ll be honest here: there are moments when I feel like I’m actually dying from the pain.
Which inevitably leads that little voice in my head—maybe you know that voice; the voice of instant gratification, trying to lead us down the path of least resistance, even if it is not the best option—to start whispering at me. “Why did you even break up, then? You could get back together. You probably will anyway, so why waste all of this time?”
And I have to shut that voice up by reminding myself of why I needed to end the relationship in the first place.
I was nineteen when Pup and I got together. We weren’t friends first; we knew each other for about a week and had been on two dates before becoming exclusively involved. I’d never really dated in the classic sense of the term. I think since I first started “dating”—seven years and four boyfriends—I’d been on four actual dates before meeting Pup. Up to that point, “dating” had always consisted of “I think you’re cute. Want to be my girlfriend?” “Okay,” so I was pretty much in the mindset of monogamous devotion from the beginning, because that was all I’d ever known.
This ended up not being a very great thing for me for a number of reasons:
- I’m panromantic (I identified as bisexual back then, though), but never had the opportunity to explore anything beyond hetero relationships. Being queer is a big part of who I am and I would have liked to have been able to explore that freely.
- Like I said, I’d never really dated, so I didn’t have that basis of “what I like in a partner” and “what I don’t like in a partner” to draw from in the relationship.
- I never learned how to exist with other people. I didn’t really know how to do things as part of a group, or even a pair. Pup and I ended up doing a lot of things next to each other rather than together because of this.
- I was still discovering myself. Growing and changing with someone is all well and good, but it’s a little easier (and I think probably more enjoyable) when you have something solid to base your own identity on first.
I want to talk about that last one, though.
After this experience, I am a firm believer: A person has to have at least some solid sense of emself before e can involve emself with another person. Without that beginning, that basis, e just flounders struggling to develop it with this other person. And maybe, as was my case, e develops in a way that is less authentic to emself and more in line with what will be most compatible to eir significant other.
As the person comes to realize eir own identity (as humans are wont to do in at least some small capacity over time, regardless of outside factors), conflict can arise in the relationship when e now believes something completely opposite of what e said previously. E starts realizing that maybe they aren’t as compatible as e first thought. This can go two ways:
- E blames emself. “Why am I so disagreeable? Why can’t I just let things go? Why do I have to have such strong opinions? I’m so wishy-washy. I used to think this other way. Maybe that was the right way and I’m just oversensitive/whiny/wrong/etc.”
- E blames eir partner. “How can e not understand how wrong that is? Why is e like this? I wish e would just realize that I’m right.”
This sort of situation leads to conflict and uncertainty in the relationship. Now, if the two people are well-adjusted humans, they can just sit down and have a conversation (or multiple conversations, more likely) about these issues. Maybe they figure out a way to work through them, or maybe they realize that they just aren’t compatible and go their separate ways, like adults (should) do.
But, if one of those people is unsure of emself, that might not be so easy. When the relationship is really the only self of identity e has, the thought of losing it goes beyond just simply mourning a lost relationship. The thought of starting from scratch without knowing who e really is can be outright terrifying. Humans want to feel like they know themselves and most people will hold onto something—even if it’s not working—to keep that feeling.
But that’s not healthy. And I don’t think it’s possible to really devote the kind of required attention to a relationship unless a person first has an understanding of who e is and what e wants. That is, after all, the basis of every bit of dating advice on the planet: know what you need and want from a relationship, which requires you to know what you need and want in your general life.
Which is where I am, right now. Trying to figure that all out.
Wish me luck.
I love you all.