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The Art of Loving Yourself: advice from the newly single

Sometimes being the one to break your own heart is the greatest gift you can give yourself - the most important act of self-love. Self-care isn't always chamomile tea and bath bombs. Love isn’t always about what feels good right now. Oftentimes love hurts. And it’s not because you did something wrong. It’s because you did something right.

I recently ended a three year relationship. Like, very recently. Like, two weeks ago recently. Like, I still love him recently. But I wanted to write this while it was still fresh because I want to be able to say, “Yes, it hurts like hell. It feels like I’ve ripped my heart out of my chest and there’s this big gaping wound that I don’t how to stitch up. But I don’t regret it.”

I was going to marry him. It felt right to marry him because I loved him with all my heart. I see now that that’s exactly what the problem was. I gave him all of my heart and I didn’t save any of it for me. I got lost in the relationship and I got lost in loving him. There were moments when I looked in the mirror and it felt like I was staring at a stranger. There was no love in my eyes… because my heart was with him.

Piece by piece, I gave him my whole heart. I gave him my time, until I couldn’t find time for myself anymore. I gave him my encouragement, until I didn’t know how to encourage myself. I gave him my energy, until taking care of myself was exhausting. I know that love involves sacrifice, but I didn’t know where to stop. I would break off pieces of my heart to give to him. I would watch him grow because of it and think that this was good. But all the while I began to feel smaller and smaller. I kept reminding myself of all the things that I enjoyed doing and all the things that I deserved to give myself. I had to remind myself because none of it came naturally anymore. My heart just wasn’t in it.

The thing is when you love someone and you want to be with them, you give up things thinking it’s only temporarily. You think, “Oh, I’ll find a place for it later”. You think, “I’ll just focus on this part of the relationship for a bit and then I’ll have time to focus on myself”. And maybe that works out for some people… when the relationship is right. But I found that there just wasn’t enough space for all of me. I realised that some of the things that I had given up I shouldn’t have. Some of those things were too important to me and giving them up meant that I wasn’t showing myself enough love.

I tried to bring them back. I tried to squeeze them into the relationship - shifting something here, wiggling something there. But with all the squeezing and shifting and wiggling, eventually my gut said, “It should be easier than this”. It took some time though, before I actually broke up with him. My heart didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want to believe that I could love someone so much who wasn’t right for me. My head thought about how complicated and difficult actually leaving him would be and I didn’t want to go through it. But my gut kept nagging and eventually I listened and did what I needed to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy without him. Not yet. I was happy with him a lot of the time. But cake makes me happy. That doesn’t mean I can live on cake. Health is better than superficial joy.

I know I’m in a healthier space now. I knew I had made the right decision when I felt those lost parts of myself begin to show up again. I’ve been much more satisfied with the art I’ve been making. The ideas seem to be coming together more easily. I used to write poetry, but I had hardly written anything I really liked since I started dating him. A few days ago, however, this came spilling out of me. I didn’t have to try. It just flowed:

I know I made the right decision even though hurts. If you’re in a similar situation, I’d like to encourage you to show yourself the love you deserve. You’re not a terrible person for breaking someone’s heart. You don’t have to feel guilty about doing what’s best for you. You are the most important person in your life. I know it’s so very painful. I know it’s difficult to think about how much pain they may be in. But time heals the pain of loss. Endings are a necessary part of the cycle of things. And ultimately, it will be best for both of you. You just have to trust that they will eventually come to understand this too.

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