Jessica was born and raised as a nomad, with such places she temporarily called home that included Gladstone, Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, London, UK, and now New York City. After getting a BA in English Language and Literature with a minor in writing, she also received an MA in English Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of London, Queen Mary. She works full-time in the higher education sector and keeps a blog in her spare time.
For more life stories please visit her blog ‘Sequins and Bobby Pins’ at www.sequinsandbobbypins.com or follow her on twitter @mastersje
After several failed relationships and thus far a successful one, I think that love means multiple things. Love means acceptance of one another, but more importantly, acceptance of yourself. Love means encouragement to be a better person.
Unsuccessful relationships for me have been ones where I thought that I could change someone to be a better person, or a more attractive person physically or mentally.
There were times where I would date ‘projects’ and decide that it was up to me to ‘save’ them. It never worked out because I discovered, I was the one drowning as well. I never realized that I needed to save myself. The relationships floundered because we were both drowning in our own issues and thought we could and needed to help the other person.
Using partners as therapists can also take a toll on relationships. I used to do that before I met my current partner. Just because someone says that they love you for you, doesn’t mean that they can handle being with you and also cure you of your darkest thoughts. I went through relationship after relationship without realizing the burden I was putting on my partner by not going to see a therapist.
I think that after every relationship ended, I always thought and obsessed over how I was a failure and what I could have done to save it. I also was in denial and would tell myself that they couldn’t handle me, good or bad, than they weren’t right for me. I think the most liberating thing is after a long and painful end to a relationship, taking stock in the things that you like and self-discovery—who you are individually, and not defined by another, is the best cure to find someone perfect for you.
I will argue though that it isn’t until a traumatic breakup that you ever really get to know yourself. Many people think that they know themselves or that they can discover self-love whilst in a relationship, but I do not think that it is actually possible. If you are in a relationship, you are altering yourself to be loved by someone else. This is not self-love. Even after a relationship ends (and usually you are not the one ending it), there will be a certain length of time where you think that you are ‘self-discovering’ or developing ‘self-love,’ but again you are only changing to get the person back. There’s a desperate moment (or few months) after the breakup where you do things that you would never do, but you will only have self-love if you discover that it doesn’t matter what your ex will think of the new you.
I don’t think (though this is just my opinion) that self-love is letting something go. I think that is more ‘selfish’. Don’t misunderstand me, being ‘selfish’ is important and sometimes necessary in a relationship.I do think that there are moments in a relationship with someone who isn’t helping themselves, where you have to be selfish and think about the toll that the bad relationship is taking on YOU. Selfishness can lead to self-love, but again, I do not think that you can self-love until you are truly alone and do not have a relationship to hide behind.
Make a list of all the things that you like(d) to do by yourself or a list of things that someone, in order to be with you, would need to do with you. Sometimes it is even easier to make this list if you think of all of the things you used to love before your relationship or all of the things that your former partner wouldn’t do with you. This really helped me get over a former partner, and also find the motivation to get to know myself.
Self-love will lead you to a better relationship because you finally know yourself and love or accept yourself. And each failed relationship is really a learning experience. You also will discover what doesn’t work for you. Creating a list will help you get over those weak moments when you think you want someone back who wasn’t right for you. They are out there waiting for you to love yourself, and I honestly believe that.
One final thought, know that you do not need to fight your demons alone. See a therapist, or talk to someone who is not biased about your issues. By doing this, you will have a better relationship with someone when you are ready. Self-love often develops when you realize that you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, nor do you have to dump it into an otherwise happy relationship.