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Sex + Relationships

My Trip to Italy Led Me to Choose Self-Love over My SO

Being in a loving relationship with someone can be one of the most beautiful feelings and experiences out there. In the beginning, everything seems to be balanced and you are entirely devoted. However, as time progresses, issues within the relationship may surface. Problem-solving through responsible and open communication is normal and healthy for any relationship because it demonstrates a process of mutual understanding. 

Yet, on some occasions, we may remain in unhappy and problematic relationships despite knowing, deep down, that it is not right for us. It takes great courage to move on, and that is what happened to me. 

July of 2019 was a month of great awakenings and deep realizations in my life. It was the month that I decided to love myself and walk away from an unhappy relationship. Here is my story:

Two weeks before departure

I was two weeks away from leaving for Italy to study Italian. It was a difficult decision because, in terms of distance and communication, I was worried about my relationship, but I really wanted to go. I’ve always had a keen sense for adventure and travel, and I was in no disposition to miss this opportunity.

So, two weeks before my departure, I was spending time with my Significant Other (SO). We had finished exercising at the gym and I asked him if he could walk me to my car, to which he resisted but ultimately ended up taking me. As we walked to the car, I joked about his early hesitation and laziness to walk with me and a sarcastic comment along the lines of: “Oh, you didn’t want to take me because you don’t love me anymore,” slipped through, along with some laughter and a slight punch on the arm. My SO didn’t laugh. It was the complete opposite. He covered his eyes with his hand and he immediately broke into sobs, followed by a request to talk.

As we were sitting in the car, he blurted out a bunch of things that caught me completely off-guard. In summary, he explained: “I don’t know what is going on, but I’m not motivated to give you any physical or verbal affection. What I have given you recently enough has been out of cordiality and mere routine. I appreciate you and care for you, but I don’t know if I love you or if I should be with you anymore.” This broke me down; I did not see this coming. I thought the relationship was fine, and to feel I was being thrown away just like that was devastating. Of course, I did what many girls would have done at that moment: deny it.

For those two weeks, I became my own relationship therapist and gave out every possible and “reasonable” diagnosis to the situation, all of which he listened to, but he remained unsure. Among the reasons I came up with at the time was the following thought: “In our relationship, we barely took the time to be affectionate with one another. This became our normal and now we are struggling because of it, we just need to be more loving to one another just like at the beginning. And hey, you were never the romantic type in the first place, which makes matters worse, but it also makes more sense, too.” 

This obviously makes no sense to me now. A person that really loves you doesn’t need to separate time to give you a hug or a kiss, they just do it. But of course, I was in denial, so it made all the sense in the world to me at the time.

Slowly, we tried to fix the relationship before my departure, but those two weeks passed by and I was already saying goodbye. Just before I left, we agreed that the distance would determine what would happen with the relationship, but ultimately, the distance determined what happened to me.


airplane view
Photo by Ross Parmly on Unsplash


When in Italy  

When I arrived in Italy, I remember missing my SO, but also feeling raw about him. However, I was convinced that the distance was the cornerstone to fix the relationship. I pathetically thought that, when we were apart from one another, my SO was going to realize that he really wanted me in his life and that everything he had said before was just a phase. We were going to continue our loving relationship because we had been apart. Boy, was I wrong.

I didn’t enjoy much of the first week because I was anxious about the relationship and I went on the trip without really knowing anyone there. Shortly after, I made friends, but I still felt emptiness everywhere I went. I was mostly eager for my SO to text or call me, but he barely did. 

I started to get angry and decided to wait for him to start the daily conversation. He didn’t. I was already in my second week in Italy, with only one call and a few rare text messages from him. I was aware that we had a six-hour time difference, but my three other roommates talked with their SO’s daily. Their partners had part-time jobs to deal with, too! 

Comparing yourself to others is not wise, but I couldn’t help contrast their experience with mine. One night, during the second week, I decided that I wasn’t going to feel let down any longer. I was constantly trying to find what I did wrong during the relationship to make him feel that way, when I knew I hadn’t done anything. Not that I was perfect, but I always tried to give my very best. 

I impulsively texted him one day I knew he was available,  and briefly told him: “I’ve been waiting all day for you to write me back. It’s been hours. I know you’re free. Here, it’s already time for me to go to sleep, you know this. Why haven’t you tried to communicate? I don’t feel like I deserve this kind of rejection, I haven’t done anything wrong.” To which he replied: “I’m really sorry. I was with my friends. I know you feel like this, and it’s all my fault. I’m just rethinking whether I really miss you or not.”

Afterward, I asked him to only text me when he genuinely felt that he missed me, but time passed, and he didn’t text me back. I was pissed, and felt that it was all over. I then rethought the relationship and tried to understand my true feelings for him.

I remembered how I never felt like a priority to him, which we talked about plenty of times, but not much was ever done about it. I remember how the relationship was one-sided, I was always the one to reach out for his affection and attention. Thinking about it, I was usually disappointed and unhappy, though I lied to myself constantly. Lastly, my family did not approve of him, maybe because they could see all of these things and I did not. 

I then concluded that I was a person worthy of true love and that I deserve better. Great realization! However, while all this was going on, I was meeting somebody else…


Spencer Davis
Spencer Davis / Unsplash


The awakening

I met a boy from the trip that was also studying abroad, and we became friends. Just that: friends; that was my only intention, and it basically stayed like that during the rest of the trip. He was a fun person to be with. Normally, I spent time with him along with other girls that I befriended. Yet, as the days progressed, I started to notice these weird feelings. 

For example, when I was alone, I got excited after he came out of nowhere to join me. When somebody else came along, I would get a little frustrated, and soon enough, everything that he did was mesmerizing to me. I noticed everything that he did and unconsciously followed him with my eyes. Ultimately, I was happy every time I was with him.

There was an undeniable chemistry between us, even when we were in a group, and people noticed. Others commented on how I was playing with his feelings because I had somebody back home, and they told him about it…Some of those people were the girls I hung out with. Later on, I found out that they both liked him, so that explains it.

It was a ridiculously difficult situation to be in. I remember the night I realized I had fallen in love with him. Weeks had passed since I arrived in Italy, and I was undeniably attracted to him. It felt amazing, but horrible at the same time because I felt like a cheater. He felt confused because he had also felt the chemistry that we had, but was discouraged when he remembered that I already had somebody. By that time, I had a couple of things in my mind: First, that I didn’t deserve the unhappy relationship I was in. Second, I was in love with this new boy, and third, what the heck was I supposed to do? 

Amidst the situation, guess who finally decided to write back? He said: “I want to know what’s going on in your life. I’m sorry for being a jerk. You must have felt horrible.” 

At first, I thought it was nice that he came to his senses, but it didn’t convince me. It was weird to be faced with what I initially wanted at the beginning of the trip and to reject it. A lot can change in a person in a matter of weeks and even days! I wrote back and accepted his apology, but I didn’t write back as often, and I only approached him in a friendly manner. That moment, I realized that I found something that I lost during my relationship: a sense of self-worth and self-love.


two different people's arms reach out in front of the St. Louis arch, their pointer finger and middle fingers coming together to make a heart
Jennifer Burk | Unsplash



I realized that walking away from that relationship was a courageous step towards loving myself. The majority of the time spent in that relationship, I was dependent on the affection and attention that I didn’t receive, not necessarily because he couldn’t give it to me, but because I didn’t give it to myself. Walking away and saying “I deserve true love and firstly from myself” was such an awakening.

Shortly after returning, I talked to him and ended the relationship. I gave him my reasons: “I didn’t feel appreciated, it was one sided and my family wasn’t really digging it.” He took it well. We had a pretty healthy breakup and moved on.

As for the boy I met in Italy: we met up with each other back home. He was an hour away, but we managed. I also thought he deserved an explanation, so I did.

Today, he fills my days with endless wonders, and he lets me know I am loved with the simplest of gestures. I feel appreciated with just a tender gaze, he showers me with affection, and I do the same for him. Big plus: my family adores him. But most importantly, I learned, and I feel the urge to share that: we can’t give what we don’t have. We must learn to love ourselves first to love someone back.

Claudia Colon is majoring in English Literature in the University of Puerto Rico (Rio Piedras Campus). She is the Vice President of HC at UPR and an Editorial Assistant for Sargasso Journal. She is an aspiring writer and editor who spends her free time reading, writing fiction, dancing, watching anime and playing Animal Crossing! Her article content centers in mental health awareness and relationships.
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