The sun is barely peaking over the horizon and I’ve been awake in my bed for hours: slowly wearing off the effects of three ZzzQuils, while wondering if I’m really going to break up with someone I like. A lot.
The details of why I’ll have to spare, because I’m not really sure how I feel about them. (Though, I am confident future articles will fill in the picture.) But I do know, unlike some breakups in my history, that the impending one is not my fault. At all.
And that feels really, really good to say.
Even though we’ve only been dating for a year, it feels like the past thirty-three years have prepared me for this moment. The moment where I can finally look at a situation with full confidence and say someone else’s poor decisions are not a reflection of the woman I am. This is not my fuck up.
In my previous relationships, I couldn’t do this. I would have put my brain in an emotional vise, wondering if I wasn’t attractive enough, or smart enough, or successful enough, or too crazy, irresponsible, unreliable or needy. I’ve known hundreds of women to do the same, as if we’re sociologically programmed to sift through our own closet of flaws first, rather than instinctively and confidently knowing that we aren’t to blame.
My mentor and friend, famed illustrator Louis Mitchell, once told me this: You have to let the bad stay bad. If something hurt you, say it hurt you. Don’t accept something you don’t like.
Sometimes in relationship conflicts, we sweep our pain under the rug and suffer indefinitely. However, according to Louis, we shouldn’t accept anything that hurts us, but rather put that shit right on the table. Let your partner see that it’s there, pulsating in pain and understand that it’s not cool to you.
In doing so, a true moment of healing really presents itself. Your partner can either take responsibility for their actions and move the pain off the table themselves. Or they can stand there, shrug their shoulders and say something eloquent like “I dunno what you want me to do,” forcing the bitter realization that this person might not be able to support your heart like you need (and deserve). Because, let’s face it — no matter what the situation is, if you want a relationship bad enough, you’ll move heaven and earth to keep it.
And so Louis is right — it’s actually infinitely better to let the bad thing be a bad thing. When we learn how to say the words, this is about them and not about me, we get reconnected to the dreams we have for a relationship and the things we know we deserve and have earned. And by letting the other person take on the blame for their actions, and then allowing them to make up for it, you let them show just how much you mean to them and see if it measures up to your standards. It is the only real way to move forward, making it 100 times easier to forgive, heal up and move on.
And if they can’t do it, then dasvidaniya! It’s a short life and the world is sweet and abundant. Ditch the blame game and spend your days healing faster, so you can move on to something or someone much better suited for your needs. I know that’s what I’ll be doing if I have to. And that option, rather than staying in a relationship where my pain isn’t met with compassion and earnest effort, sounds pretty good to me.