Conducting a relationship after a bad relationship is surprisingly difficult.
It’s not like it’s right back to the drawing board, with a clean slate, walking off into a fresh sunset without a backwards glance. Or at least it shouldn’t be…
If you were doing stuff right, those roots went deep, and if you’re not vigilant they try and regrow in your freshly tilled field.
Which is not a euphemism. Fnrr.
If you’re doing the break-up bit right, you’ve been going over what went wrong, where, when, how, your part in it, the bits you did wrong, the bits done wrong to you – and trying to decide from there where your boundaries are now, what’s acceptable to you, what’s not, what you’d do differently, what you need to change, and what’s really important to you.
But putting that into practice in the field (tilled or otherwise) is much harder than I thought it would be.
I don’t know what’s a red flag, what’s a red herring, what’s me defending my new borders too robustly and failing to compromise, and what’s falling back into old grooves of just accepting stuff I shouldn’t to keep people happy.
I don’t know what’s giving enough of myself, and what’s giving up too much.
I’m not sure how much is true, new connection and how much is auto-stretching to replace that phantom limb that is a missing long term relationship, however it ended. From either side…
I can’t tell what’s the instant comfort of a kindred, and what are old habits dying hard.
I struggle with my confidence, that all the bad things I’ve ever been told are really true and how could anyone REALLY like me, torn between not wanting to seem needy and wanting to be the kind of person who can ask for reassurance from someone I care about when I need it.
I don’t know what are the fluttering ghosts of old pain and what are the butterflies of new hope.
I can’t tell when I’m overthinking, when I’m over sensitive – or when I’m listening and responding to a good instinct. I still don’t always believe I can trust them.
Some days I don’t quite know what’s love and what’s loneliness.
And it’s not just about dating and romance, either.
I didn’t realise how much each big, key relationship in your life affects all the others. Like having a baby, when that connection changes your dynamic with your partner, your own parents, and your friends with and without children…
Those central relationships can spread joy or rot throughout all your other attachments, and in the aftermath of one it means all of the others have to be re-explored, and re-written.
I have had to examine myself, my motivations and my values to build new bonds with my children as a solo me and as a trio, and with the family and friends I became isolated from while I battened down the hatches and denied everything, even to myself. It’s taken work.
The flip side is that now I get to start seeing and shaping those same relationships through a different light, with something opened up within me via a new one… I think.
Fortunately, OTHER days I realise I should get over myself, stop analysing everything to death, have fun, and just enjoy the wild hot monkey sex.