If we think we’re the only ones who will be affected in the relationship, we’re naive.
If we date them when we’re not ready, we will break them in little ways that tear through every layer of their hearts.
You see, while they’ll get us one step closer to happiness and healing, we’ll take them further away from theirs. And it won’t be intentional. We’re not bad people; we’re just not ready.
It won’t be apparent at first while in the frenzy of blooming hearts rushing toward happiness. That feels infectious and exciting. Both of us will be caught up in the newness of it all, meeting each other’s friends, and exploring one another’s bodies.
But for unhealed hearts, there’s a limit to that.
When real intimacy begins to grow, the kind that bonds two people, we’ll start to feel an ache in our hearts. We’ll think about our ex—the good times and the bad. All the unhealed, unfelt sludge will rise to the surface and confuse us, tangling our hearts. We won’t mean to, but we’ll begin to judge them and find the many ways they don’t measure up. We’ll see our incompatibility, and we’ll pull back.
We might think it’s them or that something is wrong with our relationship. They’ll begin to believe it too. They’ll feel confused, uncertain, and doubt themselves; they won’t know what they did wrong. We won’t be able to offer any real reason because there really was no catalyst. Then their uncertainty will make it clear that we are right; it is them. And even though the relationship has held so much promise, it is not quite right.
What we don’t know is that it’s normal for unhealed hearts to feel that way. It’s normal for those hearts to be limited in their ability to open then sabotage a relationship when it begins to feel too real, too close, as soon as it touches the wounds. We’ll feel as though we’ve gone too far, too fast, and grow anxious and unready for the journey.
But we won’t be able to pinpoint exactly what it is. It’ll be hard to decipher, so most likely we’ll just find fault with them and move on. Yet, if we dig deeper, we’ll see that it’s a natural part of grieving big losses.
The shame of it is that even though we won’t mean to, jumping into a relationship before we’re ready will provoke trust issues in the other person. Not just with us, but they will begin to doubt others too, even those who might be available to love them as they need to be loved. They’ll begin to doubt themselves. They’ll doubt their judgment and intuition. We’ll convince them that they are the issue, that they aren’t quite right, that they aren’t able to make us forget our ex.
Then at night, we curl up with our pain while they curl up with us. But their job isn’t to heal us. That’s a lot of pressure to put on something so fragile. It’ll leave them torn, filled with self-doubt and disappointment. It will talk to all the wounded places inside them, reminding them that they’re not enough. They’ll be faced with all the times they failed, and they’ll wonder if they’re just unlovable. Although it may not feel right, they’ll eventually believe us.
Along with breaking their heart, we’ll break their optimism. They, who believed in love, will go through a period of sadness, a vague sadness for an almost relationship, one where only they showed up. One they will struggle to grieve because we’ll treat their sadness, along with their heart, as something not that precious.
We won’t find the energy to truly end it. We’ll show their last text as “read.” We’ll walk away and call them our friend. We’ll act like a friend, too, well-intended, yet that’ll make them feel even worse. How can they miss someone who’s missing someone else?
While we have been escaping the pain that haunts our quietest moments, their heart has been receiving us, opening to the relationship. When we have ended that chapter on “read,” it’ll feel to them like we don’t care, even though we most likely do. But our heart has been through so many battles that it won’t have the strength to endure this one—so it won’t.
We’ll protect ourselves by leaving and probably won’t know to apologize or close things gently when we do. We’ll be so wrapped up in ourselves that we will have to tread carefully on our way out. We probably won’t even realize the hurt we have caused by healing ourselves at their expense. It’s not really our fault; we haven’t done it on purpose. We just weren’t ready for a new relationship, and we may not have even been able to see that at the time.
But now, we can see it, so if we consciously decide to take more from another than we can give, we should know that we’ll hurt them. Yes, they will move on because they’re resilient, but they’ll be left with the deepest hurt. It’s the kind of hurt that demands someone to abandon hope, often in the middle of the page before they are ready, without any real closure or concrete ending. It’s the kind of hurt that inflicts solitary pain; they’re forced to hold within them all of this hurt to heal on their own because they were our escape—and we were their beginning.
It’ll leave an imprint on their heart, one that wonders what could have been. What if they’d met us later when we were further along in our healing, closer to where we are now—a place that would be open to the beautiful love they had to give us if only they’d been given a chance?
This is the part they’ll grapple with the most because we’re not bad people, not in the obvious way—just unhealed ones. So, they stayed longer than they probably should have, and they contemplated the compatibility more than they wanted, yet they may never find an answer. They’ll never know “why” because “almost” relationships aren’t real relationships.
“Almost” isn’t a place where healthy can bloom.
But “almost” is a place that will leave a scar because “almost” is a hurt that can’t be neatly classified. What they do know is they’d rather be alone than “almost” loved or “almost” chosen. And they know that if that “almost” someone can’t do that, then they deserve to discover someone who can.
I hope that we don’t decide to date before we’re ready, and I hope we’ll find the courage to weather our pain in solitude. To sit alone with our sadness—acknowledging the abandonment, the hurt—and fully heal before starting something new.
We’ll know when it’s time because we’ll have gone weeks, maybe months, without our ex crossing our mind, without fighting them over text messages because we’ll see that all the energy we put into fighting them is actually our way of staying connected to them. It’s us, settling for scraps of their attention, the same kind we’ll ask others to accept until our heart is ready to move on.
We’ll be ready when we no longer feel the urge to move on, to overcome, or to get over it because we’ll no longer need to. Our heart will suddenly feel settled and content.
Until that time, it’s normal for the pain to get so big and the loneliness so loud that we’ll feel the need to escape it. Being alone is hard. It’s hard to choose feeling our pain rather than escaping it by running into someone else’s arms. In fact, it actually goes against the standard advice to fill our schedule and busy ourselves with others so we can forget the one we want to be with.
But I hope we won’t because that one heartbreak we have experienced can lead to five others of our own creation because we just weren’t ready.