I was devastated when John broke up with me after a year of dating. Our demise wasn't easy to classify. We hadn't stopped loving each other or grown bored. The things that brought us together were still stronger than all the annoyances that came up later. But we were stuck.
When you really care for someone at 16, everyone reminds you how young you are. When it happens at 26, everyone reminds you how not-that-young-anymore you are. John and I weren't ready to take any big next steps, no matter how age-appropriate they might be. John told me that he wanted to focus on his career and self-actualization, and that he worried he was codependent. But John wasn’t just talking about himself. He was talking about me, too.
When two serial monogamists quit each other, it's not pretty. John and I spent months trying to get each other back, though never at the same time. I tried standup comedy, took a trapeze class, and changed careers — all while listening to angry breakup music. Months later, I decided to try dating again.
Remember, I hadn't ever spent more than a few weeks on my own. I'd just bounced from relationship to relationship. The singles scene was a sobering reality: it certainly wasn’t the land of plenty that I'd experienced in high school. I went on so many bad dates. Sometimes there was no chemistry. Sometimes we didn't speak the same language (literally and figuratively). Sometimes I got treated the way I used to treat boys in high school — disposable.
I was a serial monogamist who was suddenly single and trying to figure out what I really was looking for after all. But how could I really have known who I am if I'd never really let myself be independent? I had always been wrapped up and somehow defined by a relationship — in a perpetual rebound state. Then I met my match in John — the mirror — who broke up with me and finally forced me to reevaluate my dating patterns. Before John (and our breakup), being a girlfriend was a huge part of my identity. I neglected other aspects of myself, because boyfriends consumed so much of my time and energy.
John's decision to ultimately make a clean break forced me to look inside myself. I probably would have kept falling back into his arms if he hadn't cut the cord. Once I was alone with no desire to be with anyone else, I saw that love — and the pursuit of it — was an addiction for me. In the first weeks, I found myself lonely and unable to imagine the rest of my life. But I stuck it out and then once I snapped out of it, something amazing happened: for the first time, I was able to imagine my future without someone else in the picture.
I started to focus on rediscovering me.
Does that mean I'd given up on love? Of course not. But instead of always looking outside of myself for fulfillment, I learned to turn my search inward. Ultimately, I want a partner and a person who makes me a better version of myself. It would take a lot of time and effort to find someone special again, I knew. But when I did find him, I'd finally understand his worth.
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