Two summers ago, I was in a relationship that spanned seven long years.
We had a house together. We had a mortgage together. We even had a cat together.
We had a whole future planned out, too.
But the thing is, neither of us were happy.
I went back and forth in my head about ending things, wondering if I deserved better, but not wanting to risk it and be on my own again.
He did me a favor (no sarcasm!) and ended things out of the blue one day.
I’ll be honest, I crumbled.
But then I discovered some pretty shocking things about myself and my past – things I’ll never forget that have shaped the person I am today!
Here’s my story of how ending a dead-end relationship changed my life forever.
Here’s everything I learned…
Heartbreak is one of the most painful things you’ll ever experience
First things first, let’s not underestimate the pain of heartbreak – especially as an adult when you think you’ve found the person you’re going to spend forever with.
Psychologist, Guy Winch, often talks about how the emotional pain of heartbreak activates the same response in the brain as physical pain.
Which means heartbreak is just as painful as someone punching you in the nose over and over – if not worse!
So all in all, heartbreak totally sucks.
I know firsthand just how much it sucks. When it happened, I wanted to hide away in bed. I wanted to cry all the time.
When I thought about the future, I felt sick.
But the first thing I learned was…
Being single is often viewed as a bad and lonely thing, but there’s so much beauty in it
As a woman in my late twenties, I frowned upon others my age and older who were “still” single.
I thought they didn’t have their lives figured out yet. I thought they weren’t as far along as I was in life. I even thought there might be something wrong with them!
Basically, I thought being on your own was the worst thing in the world.
Why? Because I loved being in a relationship!
Who doesn’t want someone to come home to every day? Someone to tell you they love you all the time? Someone to be your go-to, no matter what?
I was also scared of being on my own – a truth I didn’t realize until it ended.
I can see now how foolish my beliefs were. When I became single again, I had a whole new respect for my single friends.
They did everything by themselves. They made all decisions by themselves.
They created a life for themselves every day, and it was totally their own.
Even though they cared for other people, they looked after themselves, first and foremost. They were selfish sometimes, but they were allowed to be!
It led them to become the person they truly wanted to be.
They were alone. But they weren’t lonely.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks badly about singlehood when you’re in a committed, long-term relationship, especially if it’s your first one.
The thing is…
Singlehood opens up your whole world, no matter your age
I know I was only in my twenties, but I thought my life was set in stone.
I was going to move to a bigger house with him one day, start a family, cut down on work, and grow old with this person by my side.
I felt like my days of trying new things, coming up with new ideas, and reinventing myself were behind me. After all, why did I need to change?
He liked me, I liked me, and we liked our life together (at least, so I thought).
When that relationship ended, my whole world came crumbling down. Everything was lost – not just this person, but the entire future I had planned in my head.
It took a while to see past that loss. But when I did, I realized that my world didn’t end.
It opened up.
Suddenly I could do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone I liked.
I didn’t have to live in that town. I didn’t have to start a family one day. I didn’t have to get married. Hell, I didn’t even have to live in a house!
My future was my own to recreate. It didn’t matter what my age was, I felt young again. I felt like anything in the world was in reach again.
And I realized…
It’s better to be single and happy than in a relationship and unhappy
It’s cliché, right? But it’s true!
I only realized just how true it was when I became single again.
Remember when I said being single is sometimes viewed as a bad thing?
When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it really can feel that way.
It can feel like relationships are the be-all and end-all of life. It especially feels this way if you were never happy being single before.
But honestly, being single was the best time of my life. I’m not saying that because I did anything crazy, either!
It was because I found happiness again being on my own – true happiness, too.
A happiness I (very quickly) realized I never had in my relationship.
It pains me to admit it, but neither of us were really living back then. It took breaking up for us to see that and for our lives to restart…
Feeling alone is a scary but powerful emotion
I’m going to tell you the truth here: when you break up with someone, you feel desperately alone – and it’s terrifying!
Of course, you’re not alone. You probably have loads of people in your life who care about you.
You might not be ready to hear this yet, but you’ll have loads of people in your future who will definitely care about you, too!
But still, when the break up happens, even if you initiate it, you’ll feel so, so alone.
You’ll feel it on the first night without them. You’ll feel it the first weekend without them. You’ll feel it on your first birthday, family dinner, holiday, etc. with them not by your side.
You’ll keep feeling it all the time, too. Like when you get sick. Or when you have no weekend plans. Or when yet another failed date happens or a situationship ends…
But feeling alone is a powerful emotion. It makes you realize…
You really can get through anything on your own, and come out better for it on the other side
When the loneliness strikes, you either sink or swim.
You can either sit at home and wallow in self-pity, begging them to take you back (no judgment, I’ve been there!).
Or you can tell yourself that you can get through this, get outside, and keep pushing on (and then come home and wallow in self-pity!).
What did I do? I did the latter – and in honesty, I thrived!
I came out of a shell I never knew I was living in. I started listening to Audiobooks. I started running.
I started seeing my dad more often and calling my brothers once a week. I looked up fun things to do online and booked dates to do them with my friends.
I even went to some things alone.
I discovered powerful quotes, videos, and stories online that stuck with me.
I sold my house. I moved back home. I went on a solo holiday (highly recommended!). I bought a new place to live – somewhere I could entirely call my own.
I made new friends and I cut out old, toxic friends. I reached out to even older friends and rekindled, what’s now, fantastic friendships with them.
I found new hobbies and had new conversations with strangers.
I started dating and discovered what I really wanted in a relationship in the future.
I stopped dating and chose to be single for a while.
I discovered things about my past and my relationship that were glaringly obvious, but I could never see back then.
Most importantly, I got through the heartbreak and the trauma.
And I came out on the other side confident, completely transformed, and genuinely happy!
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, my breakup was the worst thing to happen to me in my twenties.
But it really was the best thing, too – for reasons I never expected!
If you had told me two summers ago that my life would end up the way it is now, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Hell, I wouldn’t have even wanted it!
I wanted things to stay the way things were, even though I wasn’t happy. I wanted to wait for things to get better. I wanted to stay in that relationship. I wanted him.
But now, I couldn’t feel more different!
I know how much more I’m capable of. I know what I deserve. I know what I want.
I don’t feel like I’m too old or too late to start again – and I’ll never feel that way, no matter what the future holds for me.
I also met my soulmate totally unexpectedly – a person I never knew I could live life so happily with!
A life I never would’ve had if he hadn’t had the strength to end it.
My only regret?
I wish I’d taken the leap to end that relationship myself first, rather than waiting so long for him to do it for us…