Last summer I left my boyfriend of nearly five years. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. As we grew and matured alongside one another I noticed more how different we were. Ultimately, I concluded that I would rather be alone than be with someone who was so different from me. I realize how selfish that may sound. But my leaving was the right decision for both of us.
Here are a few things I have learned from my relationship with him. These lessons will certainly inform my future relationships, should I have any.
It’s okay to disagree on things, but you should ensure that long-term goals align.
My fellow knew that I wasn’t keen of marriage (too colonial and patriarchal for my taste) and didn’t want kids. But he often minimized these differences and said it was “just a phase” I was going through. I don’t (entirely) blame him for thinking this way. After all, when we first got together, we were both in college learning who we were and how to interact with the world. We failed to have “the talk” that most new couples have, which ensures they agree on the big stuff such as their political stance, religion, views on marriage, having a family, etc.
Moving forward, I acknowledge that “the talk” isn’t optional. I haven’t been on a date like this myself, but I like to think that a first or second date is an opportune time for this discussion. May as well get it out of the way before anyone is in too deep, right?
It isn’t selfish to want freedom.
I didn’t go out to bars much during our relationship, in large part due to his tendency to worry. Imagine trying to go out and have fun with your friends while your favorite person in the world is sitting at home, stewing with worry and anger. No one is going to enjoy themselves under those circumstances. And it felt selfish to want to do things independently. He expressed concern for my safety going out alone with friends. I ended up resenting him for holding me back and causing me to miss out. What’s more, I have come to disagree with that line of thinking in general. The idea that a female is in constant need of protection and can’t go out alone normalizes violence against women and perpetuates rape culture.
Now I know that it is perfectly acceptable to go out without your significant other. And it is healthy to have a life outside of your intimate relationship. If your partner discourages these behaviors, it may be worth delving deeper into the intricacies of the relationship and discovering if it really serves you.
Ultimately, I came to feel that if I am to commit myself to one single person for the rest of my life, that person must be vegan. Is it completely mad that I don’t care how crazy that sounds?
I didn’t wake up and decide this overnight. I noticed small changes in myself. I started to feel more sensitive to the smell of meat cooking. It distressed me that my home smelled like that. And despite his willingness to eat vegan with me on occasion, which I was thankful for, I started to think about all the meals I ate alone. Our groceries were so different that it was hard to fathom sharing that bill at some point in the future.
More importantly, I have grown into someone whose philosophical choices are central to my being. “Vegan” does not merely describe the food that I eat. Vegan is my life and soul. And I believe that if I aim to find total fulfillment in a committed relationship, it will have to be with a person who shares that same sentiment.
Luckily for me, I quite enjoy being alone. Living alone during the current pandemic has affirmed to me I thrive as a single woman. I love sharing my bed with my dog and two cats in lieu of another person. I love that all the food in my refrigerator is plant-based. I love that I never have to listen to television shows or news that put me in a sour mood. I love that I can do whatever I want whenever I want. I dream of moving somewhere warmer and love knowing I am free to do that, no strings attached. (Except to my furry children, and of course they go where I go.)
To quote Oscar Wilde, “To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development.”
I don’t regret my relationship with my ex. In fact, I still care for him deeply. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not been for my time with him, and for that I am grateful.
Have you learned any profound lessons from a past love?
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Photo: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash