Crazy here again.
I wanted to write a companion piece to the tale of the pitiful planet I used to call home. Just some kind of loose script detailing the steps that propelled me in a positive direction.
So, with a nod to Paul Simon and that damn song that’s stuck like a samskara in my skull, here are my tips for freeing yourself from love that’s started to curdle.
1. Consider a shrink, Tink.
I know, you want to do it yourself. But therapy can be great if you ruminate 24-7. My therapist told me to close my eyes and visualize my relationship. Tears flowed as I described a brick wall that reached all the way to the sky. I could see no top or way around. I wanted someone to carry me to the other side but of course, the whole point was doing it on my own.
She never told me I should leave the guy—that would have scared me away—only listened as I slowly began to scale that wall, first mentally and then through my actions. Now, I see the wisdom of her methods and remember her with gratitude.
2. Let some peeps go, Snow.
Some of my friends at the time really liked the guy who wasn’t good for me. Why? Let’s be generous and say he had charisma. He looked good on paper. He knew how to flatter and flirt. My friends missed my hints that I was dying inside because they were under his spell.
Other friends, a little older and wiser, really listened and encouraged me to listen to myself. Their support strengthened me, one tiny but critical bit at a time.
3. Hop on a plane, Jane.
To get out of the relationship, I had to move out of our shared space. Actually, I had to move out of our shared state. I headed to graduate school in one direction while he followed a career path in another. When he moved my way a year later, I was strong enough to resist falling back into familiar patterns.
I knew living together was a bad idea. Still, I ignored my instincts and the advice of an aunt who shared her own cautionary tale. It’s harder to extract yourself from a relationship after you’ve started playing house. I didn’t want to hear it either. But it’s true.
4. Get your own place, Grace.
I found my own apartment, really more of a room right off the highway. I sat on the floor because my used furniture sagged and stunk. My 8” TV got three fuzzy channels on a good day. But it was my place and my stuff. The days and nights I spent alone flew by although there were moments of deep grief and sadness.
Most of the time, I felt cozy and complete in my own home. It helped me reinvent myself as an individual rather than what felt like the inferior half of a couple. It helped me heal.
5. Go on a skate, Kate.
My new digs were in Denver so I could convene with my mountain gurus daily. I jogged on trails, skated on paved paths and reclaimed my physical and psychological strength. I focused on my studies and future. I needed that “selfish” time to feel nourished and strong. One relationship shouldn’t be your sole power source. Well, not unless it’s your relationship with yourself.
6. Try a new guy, Di.
I remember confiding in a professor that I wasn’t sure anyone other than my ex would ever want to go out with me. His look said I must be stupid, but I was sincere. The relationship which brought out the worst in me eviscerated my confidence. Maybe someone as dark and flawed as me deserved to suffer.
Gradually, I started to meet other men. Each offered a stepping stone on the path to healing. I dated a smart, but unreliable, fellow graduate student. Then, I went out with a nice guy who wasn’t the right guy. I still talked to my ex but my wings had begun to open.
Finally, I finished cutting the cord. Soon after, I met the man to whom I’m married today. A mutually supportive relationship replenished my spirit. More time alone would have been okay, too.
7. It could be hell, Belle… but all will be well.
If I made a road map to show the way out of my toxic relationship, it would be full of U-turns. For years after the end, I dreamed that I had been sucked back into the abyss and sat up sweating and terrified. The psychological pull remained, as with any addiction. When I felt bad about myself, I wanted a fix—even though I knew I’d feel much worse afterwards.
The whole process took longer than I hoped. I was often discouraged. And I had to continue to work on myself long after the last goodbye. I still do.
Some people seem born with the belief that they deserve health and happiness. Others—due to our genes and environment gumbo, I guess—have to build that resolve through excruciating experience.
But it’s okay. You’re okay. You can find a way over that wall.
Get yourself free.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed: Josie Huang
photo by: cambiodefractal