As sad as it may be, falling OUT of love often teaches us the most lessons. Falling IN love is where many of the great memories are made and “feel good” moments live, but falling out of love is where we are forced to grow, or at least consider the process of reflection and growth.
There’s so much emphasis on finding love and keeping your love in love with you – but it is equally important to inventory the lessons and pain points at the end. Without “rose colored glasses” to tint our view of another, we very well might see some things/attributes that we overlooked. Those red flags might be more apparent after time has passed and the “honeymoon stage” has faded into every day life.
When I have fallen out of love, sometimes by my choice and sometimes by theirs, I have found out a lot about myself.
- I am stronger than I thought – In those moments, dramatic as it may seem, it felt like I could just die. My heart hurt, my head was foggy, I just wanted to lay in bed all day long and I couldn’t eat. Eventually though, I have come out the other side and been no worse for the wear, and in fact many times I come out a little better.
- I placed too much value in someone else’s opinion of me – Not that we shouldn’t take our loved one’s opinions onboard or accept some feedback about places we could improve; however, I should never have taken so much stock in my (at the time) partner’s view of me. Regardless of if they loved me or not (and their reasons why), I should have not let my view of my OWN value or worth be diminished. With or without them, I am the same good (or not so good) person and that has NOTHING to do with them.
- No reason to stay, is a good reason to go – I often felt sort of trapped in a weird limbo, between feeling like “well nothing is THAT wrong” and “it’s not THAT bad” … but also knowing I wasn’t truly happy or flourishing. I was often letting things go or dulling my own shine so I could “meet them” at their level instead of asking them to rise to meet me at mine. Even if the relationship isn’t drama filled or teeming with anger/hostility/resentment or ugliness, that doesn’t mean a person isn’t allowed to feel like perhaps there’s something (or someone) else out there for them.
- Boundaries and Deal Breakers – After many (and I do mean many!) long term partnerships (including one marriage and various “live in” partners) I realized I wasn’t putting out clear boundaries and I wasn’t even sure of my own “deal breakers” or things that were (very likely) non-negotiable.
It took the dissolution of my first marriage (read about that here) for me to realize I had just let anything and everything be “ok” so as not to cause a disruption. I realized that financial security (and the abuse or betrayal of it) was something that made me beyond uncomfortable.
I realized after another long term relationship (actually two different times, apparently I needed to really reinforce the lesson) that I was not ok with “mothering” and feeling like I was effectively a parent and not a partner. I didn’t want to pick up/drop off my grown man partner at work every day. I didn’t want to bail them out of financial issues every year (or more) and cobble their lives back together for them. I didn’t want to teach them how to do basic things (like laundry or dishes) because they never took the time, as an ADULT, to learn.
I understood that some (not all) beliefs and values that I hold dear are worth prioritizing and not budging on. I can’t expect to build a life-long relationship with someone if the fundamental building blocks just don’t align at all. If he wanted children, I wasn’t the right partner. If he wanted a partner who looked a certain way and dressed a certain way, I again wasn’t the right one for them.
- Growth and change are OK – In most of those relationships, I can honestly attribute a lot of the demise into the simple fact that we were not the same people by the end of the relationship as we were in the beginning. Sometimes that was due to work, education, the military, friends and family or other, but no matter what you call it, we grew up and grew apart. It took a long time for me to understand this was normal and to release the guilt I kept feeling. I kept beating myself up and thinking that I was doing something wrong by evolving, instead of understanding that my own interests and desires are worth exploring.
Falling out of love is painful (for both sides) and uncomfortable, but I hope this can help you take inventory of the ways in which you have, or could grow.