Breaking Up Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To My Relationship
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
I met my partner in 2015 while in undergrad at Prairie View A&M University. We both were in the band program and hit it off as friends before eventually realizing we had feelings for each other. Everything (for the most part) went great in the earlier years of our relationship. We spent a lot of time together and supported each other through school while I finished up my Bachelor's degree and he pursued his Master's.
A lot of people admired our relationship and assumed we'd be together forever. A few months before we both were scheduled to graduate, he received a great job offer in his field that would require him to relocate to another state. At the time it seemed like a given - of course I'd be going with him. I was pretty sure in the early stages of our relationship that I could see myself with him for the rest of my life.
Then shit started hitting the fan.
Ahead of our scheduled graduation, some logistical issues came up that prevented him from completing his thesis on schedule. His graduation was postponed, and ultimately so was his job offer. Issues kept coming up that forced him to have to wait until December to graduate which affected the progress of his new job and relocation each time. He was working at a temporary job that made him extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with his life.
On the other end, I was having difficulty finding a job. After having a great final year of undergrad I was having a difficult time transitioning, figuring out who I was and what to do next. I actually had never had a secure vision of what I wanted post-grad and began to realize that I'd been going a long with his life plans because I had none of my own. This made me feel very insecure and lost. Ultimately, it led to a lot of disagreements and unhappiness between us.
The thought of my relationship not being the long-term happy ending I'd imagined made me sick to my stomach. Looking back now, I realize that this was my naivety. As a woman in her early twenties (at the time) OF COURSE I didn't know what was next. I hadn't DONE anything. I knew something had to change, not because of him or anything he'd done to hurt me but because I had to figure out who I was. Here I was, being offered the prospect of a stable life with someone who (without-a-doubt) was going to be very successful, and I had nothing to offer him in return.
I made the very difficult decision of ending our relationship in the Fall of 2017.
Our break up hurt, to say the least. Not only was I breaking the heart of a man who loved me unconditionally, but I was also breaking my own. In the first few weeks following the break-up, I lived with my sorority sister just a few hours away from him. This proved to be difficult, because we both still had very real feelings for each other. When my sister brought up the idea of me moving in with her, I didn't hesitate. Within a week I was living halfway across the country. At this point, not only had I broken his heart by breaking up with him. I added "salt" to the wound by moving away at the spur of the moment. Between his feelings of abandonment and heartbreak, and the depression and confusion I felt about everything that had happened I just knew we would never recover.
I began to accept that whenever both of our hearts healed, we'd be moving on with our lives and away from each other.
Within a month after my move I started grad school. Being accepted to one of the top programs in my field in the country was the only highlight I had to hold on to. It was my first step at creating some sort of life for myself. A few months after starting grad school I secured a decent job (my first job with benefits!), purchased my first car, and signed the lease on my first apartment. These accomplishments might feel small to some, but they were huge to me.
While in my relationship I saw these things differently: we would've signed the lease on an apartment, that he would probably be paying the rent for. I probably wouldn't have continued school because I'd feel comfortable with his assistance. I would have had a car that he may have helped me buy. While I would've graciously accepted his help (because I knew it would have come from a loving place) being able to work for each of those things and make them happen on my own gave me a larger sense of pride, independence, and autonomy. This is the life I knew I was supposed to have, because it was teaching me important lessons that I may have skipped out on had I chosen my relationship.
As I mentioned earlier, the initial days of our break up made me feel like we wouldn't connect as much once I moved. In the beginning, it was very difficult. The unresolved anger and confusion was hard to overcome. In any other break up, I've gone the typical route of separating myself completely from an ex and cutting off communication for the sake of moving on. This one was different.
On my first day of graduate school I felt immense pride, excitement, and anxiety. The only person I could think to call was him. When I interviewed for my new job, he texted me to wish me luck. When I began searching for my new car, I called him for advice on which cars to consider. For every big step, despite my desire to do things independently, there still came moments where I just wanted to share the excitement with my best friend.
He was my best friend.
The distance I thought would develop between us never came. We spoke almost every day and began developing the friendship we'd never had when we were a couple. We were able to see each other from new eyes and develop respect for each other's individual struggles and identities. Above all, the distance we had from each other allowed us to develop and care for ourselves in ways we may have neglected had we been hyper-focused on caring for the other person. During that time I missed him dearly, although I kept it to myself. I remember one night I got up and headed out to go get some food in my pajamas (something we'd done often as a couple.) For some reason I couldn't understand, I broke down crying in my car.
In that moment realized that although I was proud of the independence I'd found and the life I'd built; I didn't want it if it meant I couldn't share it with him.
After almost a year a part, he received his clearance and official starting date for the dream job he'd received an offer the year before. Before moving to his new home he decided he'd come visit me. The moment I saw him my stomach started a full Simone Biles-esque gymnastics floor routine. A year apart had changed nothing, despite how hard I'd tried to convince myself that it had. The longer we were together, the more I realized that I was still very much in love with him. Still, I knew that there were consequences for our previous break up. No matter what I felt, there was still an entire human being on the other side of my decision. His heart had been broken. It was his turn to move on with his life now and do his own thing. Just as he had let me move on with mine despite his pain, I was willing to do the same for him.
When the conversation came I prepared myself to be disappointed and to accept the reality that we wouldn't reconcile. Instead, the conversation ended with our mutual decision to start our life together in a new state. That conversation happened a year ago.
Stephen and I are now living together in Arizona with our four-legged kiddo Dash. In many ways our relationship is similar to the way it was before our breakup, but it's also seen some significant changes. We have a higher level of respect for each other after being able to see each other live independently. We both understand the value of having aspects of our lives that are separate of our relationship. We prioritize communication and have learned to "check-in" with each other mentally to make sure that no one harbors resentment or feels unheard. He's made significant effort to push me toward my goals and allows me room to grow free of any stereotypical obligations. I'm personally challenging myself to be more affectionate, intentional, and appreciative of the man he is (while allowing him to "care" for me in a way that doesn't make me feel dependent.)
Reconciliation wasn't easy. Tons of people had lots to say, especially about my role in our break-up. I was accused of gold-digging, cheating, being ungrateful and everything else under the sun. As a result, I dealt with a ton of anxiety about what people would think about me "changing my mind" without understanding the journey. Although it was painful, I now know that it was necessary. I wouldn't have learned the value of "US" had I not separated myself and seen my own value. He also went on a journey of his own and was able to start his life here without feeling the pressure to "take care" of someone. Many people argue that couples should stick together through absolutely everything in order for their relationship's survival.
For us, breaking up was the best thing that could have ever happened to our relationship.