How I Found Strength After My 10-Year Relationship Suddenly Ended

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  • My ex and I were high school sweethearts. We dated for 10 years, moved to two cities together, and talked about marriage.
  • In August 2021, my ex suddenly said he had to end the relationship to be alone. He said he didn’t know if he could ever get married.
  • A year and a half later, I’ve learned how to practice self-compassion, ask for help, and find gratitude after grief.

When my ex-boyfriend sat me down to break up with me in August 2021, I didn’t realize it was happening. He had to sit me down again the next day to make sure I understood. He needed to move on, alone, without me.

We dated for 10 years, starting during our junior year of high school. Throughout that time, we talked about marriage and moved to two different cities together. Sure, the pandemic put a strain on our relationship, but I thought it was par for the course. I imagined we could get through anything together because I loved him, our love, and the memories we shared. I loved how our high school friendship became so much more, how we grew up together, and how he felt like the first man who really wanted to know me. For him, I learned, that wasn’t enough. 

For a few months, I could barely eat or go a day without crying. It felt like my world had collapsed and I was left alone to figure out what to do with the rubble.

A year and a half later, after bouts of extreme sadness, anger, and confusion, I’ve found closure. It’s something an earlier version of myself couldn’t have imagined.

My singledom hasn’t erased 10 years of loving birthdays, road trips, and nights cuddling in front of the television. But in embracing this unexpected time in my life, I’ve found a strength I didn’t realize I had until I made it through. To do this, I practiced self-compassion and leaned on my friends hard, even when I felt embarrassed by how lost I felt. Finally, I found acceptance and gratitude for a situation, where a previous Julia would’ve only found proof of her unlovability.

I’ve had to practice lots of self-compassion, but it wasn’t easy at first

As I grieved my relationship and the plans and mutual friendships that came with it, I wondered if I went wrong somewhere or missed obvious red flags. Since I write about relationships for a living, I knew ruminating was my mind’s natural defense mechanism, albeit an unproductive one. It was easy to see how I was hurting myself, but it took practice to pull myself out of it.

I sat with myself in silence for a couple of hours almost every day and realized there was nothing I regretted, or did wrong. But, if I was being honest about everything, my relationship wasn’t perfect and in ways, I’d settled. We didn’t see the world, or the meaning of life, in the same way. Maybe we never did.

Some days I fixated on the settling, replaying in my head a memory of a time when I should’ve realized my ex and I were growing apart. It’s taken practice, but I’ve realized self-compassion, rather than self-scrutiny, is the easiest way through uncertainty.

I decided to give myself grace instead of ruminating over the what-ifs because if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. It took time, but eventually I knew why I’d made the decisions I had: Because I valued our connection and companionship enough to keep trying. The more I reminded myself of that, the more I found closure.

My breakup became a reminder of the strong support system I’ve built over the years

While dating my ex, he became my best friend, as is often the case. At times, I felt like he was the only person in my life who understood the true me and how to support me emotionally and physically. But when he left, I received so many reminders of the other healthy and healing relationships I’ve built over the last 10 years.

My friends rallied around me, visiting from out of town and crashing on my couch, keeping me busy, and embracing late-night texts during my new single era. My parents bought me a new mattress, one he hadn’t slept on, and took me out to dinner. My brother rolled me joints and listened to me rant.

I lost love from one person, but I was also reminded I have plenty to keep going.

I knew I’d forgiven my ex when I could feel gratitude for him

I’ve spent a lot of time feeling confused, angry, frustrated, and disappointed by my ex. I’ve missed him and I’ve grieved the memories we won’t make together after sharing in so many great ones.

But the other day, when I was sitting in traffic in the city we moved to together, I only felt gratitude. I moved here for him, but without him I found a home. A place that makes me feel welcomed and comforted — even without him by my side. I know more about myself now then I did before the breakup, and I’m better because of it. I can admit that now. 

Through all of these experiences, I’ve realized just how strong and resilient I am. It hasn’t been an easy year and a half; it’s been one full of difficult truths and uncomfortable growth.

I’ve been on awkward first dates, but lovely ones, too. I’ve said no to men who didn’t feel right for me, got ghosted by a few, and rejected to my face by one. For every night I spent crying in bed because I felt alone, I had a moment where I felt heard and cherished by the people who matter to me most. Then, when I had no expectations and only trust in myself, I met someone new and we fell in love.

Now that 2022 is over, I can appreciate what I’ve gained in spite of it: The knowledge I will keep going, no matter what.



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