If you’re anything like me, you’ve been through quite a bit of pain in past relationships.
Sometimes they are partnerships, other times legal marriages, but many of us know the story of how this can go.
Whether it was relatively healthy, or a dynamic that was much more challenging, we can get out of a relationship and can sometimes be eager to move on to something new. Maybe we are lonely, maybe we felt alone for quite a while in our past relationship, so it is exciting for us to get out into the world to start dating again.
We tell ourselves that this time we are not going to settle.
We sometimes cannot wait to start exploring all that somebody new can have to offer to us and our lives, whether we are already thinking long-term, or are wanting something casual and playful.
Often we are not ready, even though we think that we are.
I have dated people who I do not feel were ready for a new relationship. I have been called the names of their previous partners (this one’s always fun). I have had conversations where it is pretty clear that the other person is reliving something—to the extent that I question to whom it is that they are actually speaking, because I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t actually me.
Conversely, we may have been hurt so badly that we are gripping the pain from our past in order to protect ourselves, so we have closed off to the possibility of anyone new coming into our lives.
I am not one who believes in timelines for most things of this nature. We are all different in the way that we process and heal, and setting a certain amount of time that holds true for everyone in this regard can be ignorant to a lot of factors.
There is a lot more to be taken into consideration, and this is a personal decision. When we find ourselves feeling that a new relationship is something that we want, these can serve as suggestive guidelines toward awareness in knowing whether this is healthy time for us to do so.
We have to let go, emotionally, of our last partner.
We almost always think that we have let go of our last partner if we feel we are ready to start dating again, no?
I believe that we want to believe this, but it is so important to check in with ourselves when it comes down to it.
How do we feel when we think of them? Angry? Depressed?
We maybe have even hardened to a degree and will not allow ourselves to see the relationship for what it was—the good and the difficult. This is an area where, to be truly healthy, means letting go of the other person, but with respect and integrity. Sometimes this is difficult for us to do because when we start to let ourselves feel even a part of what we felt for them in the beginning, it becomes too difficult.
It may feel easier at the time for us to minimize things, but suppressing the reality of what happened or downplaying it’s effect on us is not a productive way to proceed.
Any resentment, guilt, or other unprocessed emotions will likely come back up in our next relationship if we do not allow ourselves feel it, then let it go.
With some space, we allow ourselves to see our patterns for what they truly were and how we can be accountable our role in those patterns.
If you can look back at the patterns and cycles that took place in your last relationship, and truly acknowledge how your actions and behaviors played into this, this is a huge leap toward not having these same dynamics play out in most of your future relationships.
We all have the propensities to behave in certain ways in relationships. Are we always the “victim?” Do we struggle with anger or insecurity? Are we the ones who have trust issues—maybe even because we choose the type of partner who is not very trust-worthy?
Do we feel as if we need to be taken care of, or to take care of others in order to feel needed or useful? Do we have a tendency to withdraw, which then inclines our partner to feel the need to exert more effort or force interactions or a feeling of being connected?
Seeing what our patterns are and addressing them for ourselves allows us to make the necessary shifts needed before entering into the next relationship.
Doing this can be the key to their success.
We feel at ease and have found peace with (and do not fear) being alone.
This is the big one.
It is crucial to have stepped away from our past relationship enough to feel independent, and have also found a healthy way of existing without having to drown out or avoid feeling. We are not pining for intimacy, desperate for attention, or validation from anyone to heal our wounds. There is often pain that lingers after break-ups, and it is in looking at this pain directly where most of our healing can take place.
Pain is a teacher. It is information. If we step onto a nail, we have three choices: We can stop what we are doing and choose to look at the nail and to remove it; We can continue with what we are doing and pretend that nothing is hurting us, all the while drowning out the pain in whatever way is easiest; Or, we can continue forward with the nail in place, feeling as if we are a victim and allowing it to handicap us moving forward.
The same holds true for making healthy choices in relationships.
Choosing to deal with pain in a way that minimizes suffering and learning from it is the best manner in which to prevent these painful experiences from happening again.
Some wounds never fully heal, rather these can become scars which remind us of all that we have overcome, and in teaching us the contrast between what we want and what we do not for our relationships.
For this we can feel grateful—just as we have the option to be grateful for what was.
Instead of feeling either disdain, loss or grief, we can honor what everything that the relationship had been, but we need not cling to this. We can choose to see what happened as not being the right timing or the right fit, and opt to learn enough to grow toward something much more beautiful.
We can choose to respect our previous partner for being the person that they were despite any incompatibilities, which enables us to love and respect both ourselves and our future partner in a much healthier manner.
Again, there is no timeline for this; rather, it is both a feeling and a choice.
If we love ourselves enough to be honest and aware, vulnerable yet strong, and allow ourselves to feel in order to heal, this is the truly fertile soil which nourishes both the growth and the blossoming of all new relationships.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Brian Mann at Unsplash