How I found strength after my 10-year relationship ended abruptly

  • My ex and I were high school sweethearts. We dated for 10 years, moved to two cities together, and talked about getting married.
  • In August 2021 my ex suddenly said he should end the relationship to be alone. He said that he did not know if he could marry.
  • After a year and a half, I’ve learned how to practice self-compassion, ask for help, and find gratitude after grieving.

When my ex boyfriend sat me down to break up with me in August 2021, I didn’t realize it was happening. He had to sit with me again the next day to make sure I understood. He needed to move on, on his own, without me.

We dated for 10 years, starting in junior year of high school. All that time, we talked about getting married and moving to two different cities together. Sure, the pandemic put a strain on our relationship, but I thought it was par for the course. I imagined we could get through anything together because I loved him, our love, and the memories we shared. I loved how much more our high school friendship became, how we grew up together, and how it felt like he was the first guy who really wanted to get to know me. For him, I knew that wasn’t enough.

For a few months, I could barely eat or go a day without crying. It felt like my world had collapsed and I was left alone to know what to do with the rubble.

A year and a half later, after bouts of intense sadness, anger, and confusion, I found closure. It’s something an earlier version of myself could never have imagined.

My single husband hasn’t erased 10 years of adorable birthdays, road trips, and nights cuddling up in front of the TV. But in embracing this unexpected time in my life, I found a strength I didn’t realize I had until I made it through. To do this, I practiced self-compassion and relied heavily on my friends, even when I was embarrassed about how lost I felt. Finally, she finds acceptance and gratitude for a situation in which Julia’s ex could only find evidence of her inability to love.

I had to practice a lot of self-compassion, but it wasn’t easy at first

As I mourned my relationship and the plans and mutual friendships that came with it, I wondered if I had gone wrong somewhere or missed obvious red flags. Since I’ve written about relationships for a living, I’ve known that rumination is my brain’s natural, albeit unproductive, defense mechanism. It was easy to see how I was hurting myself, but it took practice to get myself out of it.

I sat with myself in silence for about two hours each day and realized that there was nothing I would regret or do wrong. But, if I had been honest about everything, my relationship wasn’t perfect and in some ways, I would have settled down. We haven’t seen the world or the meaning of life the same way. We may never have.

Some days I would focus on settling down, replaying in my head a memory of the time I should have realized my ex and I were growing apart. It took practice, but I realized that self-compassion, rather than self-examination, is the easiest way to overcome uncertainty.

I decided to give myself a blessing instead of ruminating on what was going on because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. It took time, but I eventually knew why I made the decisions I made: because I valued our relationship and companionship enough to keep trying. The more I remind myself of that, the more I find closure.

My breakup became a reminder of the strong support system I had built over the years

While dating my ex, he became my best friend, as is often the case. At times, I felt like he was the only person in my life who understood my truth and how to support me emotionally and physically. But when he left, I got so many reminders of the other healthy and healing relationships I had built over the past 10 years.

My friends crowded around me, visiting from out of town and crashing on my couch, keeping me busy, and cuddling late-night texting during the new era of being single. My parents bought me a new mattress, one he hadn’t slept on, and took me out to dinner. My brother rolled my knuckles and listened to me hollering.

I lost love from one person, but I was also reminded that I had so much more to go on.

I knew I had forgiven my ex when I felt so grateful to him

I have spent a lot of time feeling confused, angry, frustrated, and disappointed with my ex. I missed him and saddened the memories we wouldn’t make together after sharing so many wonderful memories.

But that day, as I sat in traffic in the city we moved in together, I only felt grateful. I moved here for him, but without him I found a home. A place that makes me feel welcome and comfortable – even without him by my side. I know more about myself now then I did before the breakup, and I’m better because of it. I can admit that now.

Through all of these experiences, I have come to realize how strong and resilient I am. It has not been an easy year and a half. It was full of hard truths and uncomfortable growth.

I’ve been on awkward first dates, but also beautiful ones. I’ve said no to men who didn’t feel right to me, a few ghosted me, and one who rejected me in the face. Every night I spent crying in bed because I felt lonely, I had a moment when I felt heard and cherished by the people who mattered most to me. Then, when I had no expectations and only trusted myself, I met someone new and we fell in love.

Now that 2022 is over, I can appreciate what I gained though: the knowledge that I will carry on, no matter what.

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