When a relationship ends, the first thing you do is mentally go through all the reasons it didn’t work out and what could have been done better.
When my particular relationship ended last week, I found myself doing just this.
Could I have been more affectionate? Found a better perspective on the situation? Settled for less needs than I was asking for?
And you know what I decided? I would not have changed my actions toward him in any way.
Really, I wouldn’t. Being 23 and now having approximately five relationships under my belt, I sort of-generally-basically know how I want to function in a relationship, and I can say with confidence I stayed true to that over my last year of romance. I’m pretty much the dating expert [insert there’s-no-way-in-hell-that’s-true head shake here].
However, there is one thing I wish I had done differently in my relationship, something I even recognized at the time but couldn’t seem to ever really overcome:
I wish I had cared less about what people thought of it.
My now ex-boyfriend and I had a great relationship. We had a good foundation of friendship, healthy boundaries, similar values, things we enjoyed doing together, etc. Despite this, I was often overwhelmed with worry about how others perceived us.
I wanted to be a couple people knew and loved. I wanted others to see us as this beautiful unit – two people who were so obviously in love and clearly belonged together. I wanted to be admired, I wanted to set a relationship precedent for others to aspire to.
I know how it sounds. It sounds desperately self-focused. But everybody wants this a little bit, right? We want our romantic relationships to be known in this way and we want a love that stands out in the world. We want to know that we are not alone in thinking our relationship is beautiful.
However, what this focus did to me was completely take away from what was happening right in front of me, which was in fact a healthy and good relationship. There were times when I became so preoccupied with trying to please others that I missed out on the world my ex and I enjoyed together and held ownership over.
Still, I believe there is value in knowing how trusted friends and family view your compatibility with another person. And looking back, I see now my desire for the approval of others came from personal insecurities I held within the relationship over the last few months. But putting so much energy toward trying to live up to this standard I created and thought others held over me made me forget the gift our romance was.
The truth is, I will never have control over how others view any relationship I’m in, even if it’s one that blows Jack and Rose and Noah and Allie and Beauty and the Beast and Hans Solo and Leia out of the water (although poor Jack will never leave the water, will he?). The only thing I have a say in is how I see my relationship.
Now thrown back into single life and thus the dating world, I am grateful to be armed with the experience of another relationship. Maybe by the time I’m in another I actually will be a dating expert [insert face palm here].