Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu
Healthy relationships bring fundamental gifts; namely, they bolster our sense of security. Even if we don’t realize it at the time, having someone else to cheer us on through life’s ups and downs is a confidence-booster. Perhaps the toughest adjustment for the newly single (especially following a long-term relationship) is dealing with the unexpected voids that show up in different areas once the other person is no longer around to fill them.
Without a continuous source of external validation and reassurance from a loving partner, we may find ourselves more prone to insecurity and self-doubt. If this happens, taking time to reflect on the areas where we have perhaps been relying too heavily on the other person can offer valuable insight. This process of self-discovery leads us on the path to growth and healing after a love lost. From there, we are faced with the task of embracing some necessary growing pains – redesigning aspects of who we are and how we live in order to feel complete and whole on our own.
Although typically viewed as a negative trait, any meaningful relationship is bound to involve some level of co-dependence. Choosing to share your living space, day-to-day responsibilities, financial obligations, intimate feelings and personal ambitions with another person means inviting them to become an integral part of your life plan. Unless you live completely separate lives, there’s a good chance that the other person was impacting the means by which you operated through life. Not just financial means – anything from remembering to pay the bills or go grocery shopping, to having someone who compliments you and offers a shoulder to cry on. Any of these benefits could be temporarily stripped away as a relationship comes to a close.
Sometimes just the idea of no longer being part of a couple can be difficult to get used to. In itself, being paired-up makes social events, like double dates or having someone to spend Valentine’s Day with, comfortable, familiar and easy. It can feel strange hanging out with friends or attending family events alone when we previously did those things with our partner. Unfortunately, isolating ourselves from the company of others can only work to exacerbate feelings of loneliness during a time when connecting with others might be especially needed.
Of course, it’s not all roses. Even the best examples of human relationships inevitably contain negative aspects along with positive ones. If one partner is controlling, demanding or needy, the other partner might feel a bit lost without the old dynamics they had become accustomed to. Feeling like we are no longer needed or wondering what to do with a newfound sense of freedom can be confusing and unsettling, even when we realize deep down that these changes could be viewed as positive.
It may seem like a no-brainer to say goodbye to a romantic relationship that has held us back or caused us harm. Unfortunately, the lines between good and bad relationships are often blurred and overlapping. While we may understand the long-term benefits of severing a particular partnership, we may also miss the positive attributes it afforded us, including the perceived security of having someone else around. Missing the positive aspects, while acknowledging the negative ones, can be a confusing position to be in. If you’re not sure whether to grieve a loss or celebrate it, perhaps you need to do both. Mourn the good parts as you wave goodbye to the negatives.
Beyond the daily adjustments that are involved with becoming single, ending a relationship also means letting go of previously-held dreams of a happy future together. Most people don’t enter into relationships expecting them to end through death, divorce or a break-up. The beginning of a relationship is usually filled with hopes for a “happily ever after.” Accepting that things didn’t turn out the way we had anticipated can be one of the hardest things to come to terms with. Re-envisioning your future without that other person can bring up feelings of uncertainty, despair, anger or disappointment.
Finding a new normal after the end of a long-term relationship can seem overwhelming. Responsibilities that you once shared are now yours alone. Dependencies you may have developed are no longer held up on the other end. These shifts can seem to throw life off balance and require us to call on inner strengths or seek new support systems to regain a sense of stability.
With the right partner, we are encouraged to take on challenges and embrace growth in areas we might have been felt hesitant about on our own. As the opening quote states, receiving love gives us strength and the act of giving love provides us with courage. This truth makes the ending of relationships notably difficult, even if we are ultimately better off as a result of the end or loss of the relationship.
When good relationships are ended by unfortunate circumstances, rather than by personal choice, the pain of the loss runs especially deep. Whether the ending of our relationship was not mutually agreed upon, or it resulted from an untimely illness or death, it’s not unusual to feel short-changed or emotionally handicapped as a result. Our sense of self is developed in part by our surroundings, including the people who we are closest to. Reassembling the pieces of a broken heart is not a simple fix. It requires a comprehensive and ongoing assessment of our individual well-being. Even if we are in a solid relationship, Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to examine the role of love in our life. Take a step back and consider how your relationship impacts your sense of self.
Although change always requires an adjustment period (and usually some extra effort), it’s important to remember that there is love to be found all around us. Love does not only exist in the realm of romantic relationships. We can love our home, our community, our family, our pets, our passion projects and even, ourselves. Finding love in new places will never replace the love that’s been lost, but it can help fill our hearts with new joy. Instead of jumping into another romantic relationship too quickly or feeling helplessly alone, we can embrace love from another direction. A different love can give us the strength to stand upon solid ground again. Next, we can begin to walk forward.
There are no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart. Occasions like Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult when we are grieving the end of a relationship, whether it was a positive one, a negative one or something in-between. As with all forms of grief and loss, it is important to take action towards our healing process, rather than relying on the old adage that “time heals all wounds.” Without properly addressing our feelings and making peace with our new circumstances, we cannot fully accept our situation…let alone move forward from it.