What my ex taught me: A look back at my first relationship.
Technically my first relationship was when I was 16. We held hands on the school van, to and from school. But that ended in a couple of months. This blog is about my first real relationship that lasted about 2 and a half years and she was part of the reason I moved countries. I know right, holy shit, what a moron. And no, this article isn't going to bag my ex, she and I just figured out way too late that we are very different people with different values and goals for our future. She's a good human. But, here's what I have learned.
The Honeymoon/ Red Flag Phase
We love it don't we? Goo-y eyed, butterfly filled, and loved up emotions that we go through during the first stages of the relationship. But what we don't see, are the signs. Warning: I'm no expert on relationships and this blog is not about telling you not to get into one. This blog is about my personal learnings so it might help you during your different stages. So, let's get into it, shall we?
What we don't see during the honeymoon phase are the red flags. So the first thing I learned from my ex? Learn to see the red flags. As amazing as it is to embrace someone, talk to someone about your day, express physical intimacy, and just have someone who makes you feel a certain way, it's always good to acknowledge if there are red flags. Looking back, there was plenty for me. My first relationship was when I was 23. I did extremely well at my first job, that I decided to play it risky and leave. I joined a massive firm that was excited to have me on board as well.
I was in a pivotal transitional phase for myself. I never drank, smoked, or did drugs before in my life. So for me, hard work, discipline, and achievement were important. After going through years of bullying and playing Xbox till 5 am, I learnt about my mums struggles more and more. It was important for me to achieve so I could take care of my single mother. During this phase, I fell in love. And god was it amazing. My first kiss, first date, first time treating someone with so much love like I did her. WAIT! Trust me, this isn't a lovey-dovey blog. Love is beautiful, it really is. But I was so taken up by someone actually liking me for my looks and personality that I ignored the red flags. How can you identify red flags? Well, I'm glad you asked my friend, here is a few; She/He:
says something that makes you feel small - Talk to her/him about it, and if they don't understand or make an effort to, and change, GTFO
keeps trying to control your decisions
does not respect your boundaries
does not make time to remember the little things you love
has vastly different views of what their future looks like
there are more, but overall things that she/her constantly does with no empathy towards your feelings
Co-dependency does not work
I remember when the relationship was nearing the end of its life-cycle. I told her after an argument - "you make me feel insecure". And as I said it, I felt a moment of release, like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder. I realized that I didn't want to dress up and look 'societally accepted' all the time. I didn't want to have my future planned out completely. I didn't want unbelievable amounts of money with only having kids and looking after them as my life goal. I understood as I uttered that sentence, that there is more to life, and she doesn't see it the way I do. And as I look back now, it's with no fault of hers, she just had a different future with a different partner in mind. But what broke me, was trying to fit into this version of partner shoes that were not my style.
"Codependency is a behavioural condition in a relationship where one person enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity." - Thanks Wikipedia! I could have used this one before. I was unfortunately told over and over, that it's okay if I don't achieve in life, that she can be the breadwinner of the household. I was made to believe that I would amount to nothing because of my outlook of minimalism and still figuring out who I was, my values, and my potential.
I depended on her for validation. To the extent that the tiniest of words put me in a rut. I grew up being bullied for being thin and dark, told off by two women I had a crush on, and told by my family I would amount to nothing; to name a few. A good relationship has couples validating and complimenting each other because they truly love each other and want each to feel good and at their best. A great relationship is where both individuals are already confident in their own skin, so much so, that the partner adding on is a bonus.
You Can't Force Growth
My ex already had her dream partner, her dream life, wedding, written down. No literally, written down. Pinterest boards were full of beautiful simple wedding imagery that I genuinely maybe one day could be a part of. But what I didn't see soon enough, was the fact that I was being shaped and primed for the partner she always knew I could be. Not who I was at that moment.
I know that she would be proud of the man I am today, maybe not completely, but to a certain extent. But she was trying to fast-track what I knew I could already become, if not better. The problem? It made me feel like I was not enough every time I was reminded of her ideal future. I mean good on her right? I personally love a woman who knows what they want and how to get there. After seeing how much my mum struggles because she didn't have that guidance, I really respected that. But, one's goals for their future should not affect another's personal growth.
You either grow together, communicate, and compromise where necessary, or move on.
A Relationship Should Be as Easy as Breathing
Growing up without a father, I never got to see what love was like. At least from a South Asian perspective. But what I did learn from the people around me, stand-up comedy (Daniel Sloss), my friends, and my friends going through breakups; the person you're with should make you feel like a unicorn pooping rainbows and every day is sunshine.
I know, sounds absolutely ridiculous. But that's what relationships are. You're ridiculously in love with someone who adds to your already incredible life. Of course, there'll be arguments, there'll be bumps on the road, but relationships where you have trust in each other, compromise and understanding, you'll be able to work it out.
Being Single Isn't a Bad Thing
For all my South Asians who may be pressurized to get married or belittled for going through breakups, it's okay to be single. I have learnt a lot through my breakup and being single afterwards. There are 7 billion people on the planet, don't settle for anything less than what you deserve.
Trust me, there is more to life than spending time thinking about what ifs, could've been, should've been. I don't believe we ever truly move one. I believe that we get better at dealing with the past, dealing with emotions. When I see my ex on Tinder or a picture on Instagram, I smile and think, "I hope she's well and happy", not, "damn that relationship was bad". It comes down to growth, perspective, and knowing what you deserve.
I burnt a lot of the things that reminded me of my ex yesterday.
Very therapeutic, you should try it.