When I was younger, I used to be terrified of breaking up with someone. The agony of it. The dread that you could no longer call or talk to or see that person. Touch them. The feeling that you’d rather die than live with the pain of that hole in your life one second longer.
It’s ironic that we often feel that way even when stuck in really bad relationships. Surely to break from those people would be a relief. But, like I wrote about on my advice column this week, you’re often just sticking around out of fear and love and a hope that person might change. And a terror that breaking up with that person would just topple you.
And sure, it might. It might tip your whole world upside down and leave you a shaking, crying mess who’s unable to function for a little while. But the pain, the ferocious pain and surprise and sadness at losing someone you treasured (even if he or she wasn’t all that good for you anyway) can also completely transform you. For the better.
Okay, so I’m not saying you want to go around getting your heart pulverised on a regular basis, but if it happens embrace it and learn from what it has to teach you. Which is a damn lot.
Perhaps most importantly, it teaches you to get better – so much better – at knowing what you want and asking for it. Eventually, you get so good at it that you spot red flags before they even pop up, and you either deal with them or walk. It teaches you to never, ever let bad behaviour slide without a discussion and a resolution. And if there’s no discussion or resolution, you walk.
Best of all, it teaches you that you’re stronger than you think. That you can survive crippling emotional pain and rise from the ashes of it. Maybe not today, or for a good while, but eventually – yes. You can be okay. And maybe even better than okay. You realise it’s true, that old saying, that what doesn’t kill you makes you a strong, fearless badass who’ll never take crap from anyone ever again.
This plays out in research, too. According to researchers Ty Tashiro and Patricia Frazier, authors of the study “I’ll Never Be In A Relationship Like That Again”: Personal Growth Following Romantic Relationship Breakups, people who go through break-ups experience huge personal growth. They get more confident. Happier. Independent. Enjoy new closeness with friends and family.
And you realise if the worst happened again – that you fell in love and it went sour – that it would suck, it would hurt, it would possibly send you spiralling for a while. But you’d deal. And that makes you fearless, and strong and resolute in the kinds of people you want to date, and love, and maybe even spend a lifetime with.
Do you agree that break-ups make you stronger? Or that most of us go through one big awful break-up that teaches you SO much about yourself and about other people and about life in general?