Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a holiday centered around love, but it is also one of the biggest break up days of the year. Let’s face it, breakups suck no matter what end of it you’re on and ending the relationship with your first love leaves a bigger impact than most. But there is a lot we can learn from our first real heartbreak. I was in a relationship with a boy I was convinced was “the one” for 3 years in high school. I was sure that we would be those high school sweethearts that stood the test of time, but looking back I notice a lot of warning signs that we were not made for each other. My senior year of high school we had the brief phone conversation where we agreed that maybe one day we could be friends, and just like that I was single for the first time in years.
At first it was devastating. So many thoughts ran through my head: what did I do wrong? Why wasn’t I enough? Will I ever be in love again? But I realized after a day or so of wallowing in my self-pity that I would be all right. I learned a lot about myself in my time overcoming my heart break, one major thing being that it did not take as long to get over as I thought it would. In fact, it was kind of a relief. There was no more pressure to be the girl that my ex wanted. I never felt like I was enough for him anyways, and that is the first lesson you will learn after spending some time alone. You are enough. After relying on another person for your happiness it is vital that you take some time to get to know yourself. You are not the same person that you were before you began that relationship and you will not be the same person after you end the relationship. So, it is necessary to rediscover who you are now and embrace your new self. You need to learn to create your own happiness and enjoy your time to yourself.
Moving on is hard, but picking at wounds won’t help you heal. The most beneficial thing I did after my breakup was mute my ex on all social media. I did not unfollow or unfriend him because I did not want him to have the satisfaction of knowing that his existence was bothering me. I also blocked his number so I couldn’t text him. The biggest mistake I made post-breakup was sitting alone at prom crying and texting him that I missed him. All I could think about that night was how much more fun I would have been having with him so I made myself more miserable by attempting to contact someone who wanted nothing to do with me. After that I decided I would make sure I couldn’t text him for a while. It was such a relief to know that I couldn’t contact him even if I tried because I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself again in a moment of weakness. It is also liberating to get rid of anything that reminds you of them because the memories attached to these things can haunt you. You don’t necessarily have to throw it away, but at least pack it up until the wound isn’t so fresh. If you try to cling to old memories it just makes moving on more difficult.
Your friends are your lifeline after a breakup. My friends were the best distraction, they got me out of the house and kept me laughing when I felt like crying. I tried to keep how much I was hurting hidden from them, but they can always tell. So, there is no use trying to hide it, you might as well let them help you through it.
The heartache doesn’t last forever. Eventually you’ll be able to think back on your time with that person and there won’t be an ache in your chest any longer. Maybe you’ll look back on it with fondness or maybe you’ll be like me and question why you spent so long with someone who wasn’t good for you. But either way, you will be okay. And it is possible to be friends with your ex despite what some people will try to tell you. Granted, this friendship will be different from any other you have experienced and there may still be some leftover feelings (whether good or bad).
You will also learn that there is a difference between loving a person and loving the idea of being with a person. I loved the idea of being in a relationship. As young girls many of us read stories about young people who fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together. My parents were high school sweethearts and I wanted that love story for myself (it turns out it didn’t work out for my parents either). Sometimes when you are with someone you want to be with them so badly that you will ignore the fact that you don’t actually love them so much as you love being in a relationship. This was hard for me to realize until after my relationship had ended and I thought back on how I felt when I was with my ex.
Personally, the most important thing I learned from my first major breakup is how I want to be treated. Reflecting on a past relationship can teach you a lot. I learned that I was with a guy who was condescending and who would put me down to build himself up. Now I know what I deserve and what I will no longer put up with. I think breakups are essential to our growth as people capable of love. I think that if you look back on your past relationships and how they ended you can learn a lot about yourself.
I also figured out how to love someone fully without being afraid. When I met the right person later in life I had already had my heart broken so I knew that, yes, it does hurt when it ends but it is possible to move on. Overcoming my first heartbreak allowed me to give myself fully to someone who I truly love without fear. I am glad that I suffered through this time in my life because I learned what I want from a relationship and how to treat my partner.