We always hear that “healing isn’t linear,” but what exactly does that mean? Is healing while in a relationship possible or are we kidding ourselves?
I’ve been seeing so many tweets either talking about how dating someone while you’re not completely healed is the worst thing you can do OR that being with someone can actually help you heal better. The reality is, the answer is not black or white as social media like Twitter often makes it seem. Is healing while in a relationship possible?
I don’t think these takes are necessarily wrong or right, I just think there’s a middle ground that they’re missing. Let me explain.
Since my breakup around Feb. 2019, I’ve been single BUT there was a time where I very much so was mingling. I had me a little roster so to speak. Essentially, It was just three of four guys who I’d go out on dates with and we’d chit chat. However, the issue at hand was that I wasn’t over my ex yet for a variety of reasons. Naturally though, when you’re going through a breakup you just want to get over it as quickly as possible. Trust me, I know how much it sucks to go through months on end with your heart in the pit of your stomach and a constant knot in the back of your throat.
I wanted to get rid of that feeling so I convinced myself for a while that it did go away. So I dated. And I dated. And I dated.
Then December hit and I realized, “Dang girl, you’re not over it.” Dating was a distraction. It made me feel like I was over it even though I wasn’t completely over it. So, I spilled my guts in a letter to myself, cried a bit and then hopped on my flight back home to Trinidad. The real healing for my breakup occurred alone, between December and March. I still connected with people through friendship and flings but once I identified the problem, I was able to work towards addressing it and really letting go.
Some relationships are just collateral damage on your healing journey
Healing while in a relationship can happen but it doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is going to last. The relationship could be there to reveal those lessons to you. Like I said, you can’t work on the problem if you don’t even know you have it. Honestly, I think that’s the case with most people. We have all these issues but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re aware of them.
In order for me to get over my ex, I had to reconcile the fact that I still loved him. I wasn’t in love with him but I had love for him. After the breakup, I kept mulling over feelings of loss, guilt, failure, and depression. I craved the intimacy that I thought I lost. Bitterness kept me from getting over him. There’s a fine line between love and hate for a reason. Once I confronted that, I was able to release those feelings.
Healing while in a relationship might be messy but life is messy and healing doesn’t happen overnight.
Dating people made me realize that I wasn’t ready to get into another relationship. I never actually wanted to commit to any of the people I dated. Craving intimacy made me jump back into the game a little too early. On the flipside though, I also realized things I wanted in a relationship that I didn’t have in my last one like being wined and dined, and going on fun dates. It was important for me to experience since I never had that before. I still am grateful to those sweet guys for giving me those experiences in a time when I need them the most. Plus my roster had me eating good I’m not gonna lie.
Even though those interactions weren’t built to last, they still were important for me to create. They helped me understand what I actually missed. When I let go of the bitterness and accepted the fact that I still loved him, I moved on.
Healing and growth never stop
Since March, I’ve been over my ex, but that doesn’t mean I’m free and clear when it comes to my relationship issues. As I wrote about before, I realized that I had codependency issues back in May. In addition to codependent behaviors, I also struggle with trust issues and a dismissive avoidant attachment style. Since I expect people to leave, I don’t put in effort to make them stay or I put in too much effort. Currently, my goal lies in mastering the middle ground. As my mother very aptly stated the other day, I basically push people away to prevent them from getting close and seeing me.
I know. I’m the biggest teen movie stereotype when it comes to my emotions.
Anyways, point is, I didn’t realize the depth of these issues until I started chit chatting to a few people this summer. Those interactions made me understand that my emotions are too in flux right now for me to be able to actually connect with anybody, fundamentally because I don’t trust people outside of my family and close friends. What I really want right now are free food and cuddles. No label though.
And that’s fine. But I wouldn’t have realized that unless I was confronted with people trying to give me relationship energy that I clearly did not want and could not reciprocate.
Healing while in a relationship really depends on what type of relationship
I’m not the authority on relationships by any means but I would be remiss not to point out the fact that my healing occurred either when I was single, casually dating or in a situationship.
For those of you who don’t know, a situationship is basically when you’re in a relationship but without the title.
Isn’t that just dating you ask? Nope my friend. You see, dating has intention. Figuring out whether or not you want to be with a person for real. Situationships tend to just be about vibing indefinitely without any hope of commitment. You also might not actually be going out on dates in situationships. It really depends. Either way, situationships can either be where potential relationships go to die or they can actually become something. Usually though, for most people, it’s a way to get intimacy without all the responsibility of a title.
Why would you do that you ask?
At least that’s what it is for me lol but chile anyways, back to what I was saying.
Healing while in a relationship gets more difficult if the relationship is serious
Throughout my post breakup process, I really only engaged with people on a superficial level with no commitment or strings attached. That in and of itself was freeing. I was open to exploring and it prevented me from dumping the weight of my emotions onto someone else. I knew that they weren’t my partner and I maintained that emotional boundary.
In serious relationships, that line can blur. Some people look to their partners as their emotional salves. The Vicks VapoRub for their love lives. Then they wonder why things still aren’t working and tend to look for places outside of themselves to place blame instead of identifying issues and working towards solving them.
For example: It’s one thing to be codependent, recognize those behaviors and actively try to combat them with the support of your partner and another to completely embroil your relationship in those behaviors without any hope of growth or change.
Healing stops when you focus all your energy on another person at the expense of yourself
You can’t run from your issues and you definitely cannot run from yourself. You can try but it won’t work. At the end of the day, problems can only be dealt with once they are faced. Until then, they’ll just keep being an issue.
The type of relationship and the nature of that relationship impacts your healing journey. Healing while in a relationship is possible but success comes when you’re intentional.
After all, the definition of love I operate on and will always reference is “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
If you’re in your relationship because you think it’ll be the solution to all of your issues, you’re probably hurting yourself more than helping. It also could be affecting the nature of your relationship as well as the wellbeing of the other person(s). Ultimately, the biggest things you need to watch for when it comes to relationships is setting a solid foundation based on trust, honesty, mutual responsibility, and respect.
If you’re experiencing unhealthy behaviors from you or your partner(s) like possession, control, manipulation, gaslighting, lack of communication, it could be time to reevaluate why you’re in that relationship and whether or not you should stay.
Caring for yourself teaches you a lot about how you can care for others. Give yourself time to do that.
Healing while in a relationship can happen whether that’s friendship, dating, situationships, or relationships. It just depends on how aware you are of the behaviors that are holding you back. You can’t keep doing the same things and expecting a different result.
Before entering a new relationship of any kind, I challenge you to reflect and try to objectively understand your previous relationship. I know it can be easy to think that you weren’t the main issue and maybe it was all on your ex and that’s why it didn’t work but, you need to be able to recognize your faults too no matter how big or small.
Your issues don’t define you
I saw this tweet a while ago and it always gives me encouragement. You are always growing and evolving. Just because you have a certain issue now, doesn’t mean that you will always have that issue. With work, time and discipline, you will grow.
While I had codependency issues in May, I can say that since I’ve identified them, they play a small/nonexistent role in my life now. Currently, I’m dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum with being way too detached from people. Everything in moderation. I’m working towards balance.
It’s okay to be uncomfortable being alone
Right now, I’m stuck in a limbo. Since I don’t have a desire to connect with anyone romantically and I’m craving my alone time, I’m in a weird place of wanting cuddles but not wanting to expend any emotional energy to get them. So, I choose myself. At the end of the day, you have to face your shadows.
This past weekend, I had a depressive spiral. I felt down in the dumps and just worthless. It happens. Life isn’t always a basket of roses. You stumble. Sometimes it can feel like you took two steps forward and five steps back. I get it. But what’s important is that you get up, dust yourself off, put one foot in front the other and try again.
I know I’m beautiful, intelligent, resilient and deserving of all the love I desire. I especially know that while I may want other people to see these things in me, I must first see them in myself. Sometimes I forget a couple of them but on those days, I let myself cry and rest. I ball myself up until I feel better.
My goal is to get better at self soothing. Healing while in a relationship was never my goal but there definitely are times when I’m experiencing anxiety for example where I wish I had someone to comfort me. That’s valid. But I want to get better at comforting myself.
I kept expecting the love I desired from everyone else but I failed to give it to myself. It’s understandable to want a relationship. We live 80 or 90 years on this planet if we’re lucky and we at least want to find someone, or a group of people who make us feel understood, especially on a romantic and intimate level outside of just friendship. Connection is important. But, the connection with yourself is just as important.
Date yourself…even if you’re dating another person
I realized that my emotional energy has been sucked because I’ve been growing. Being an only child, I thought I knew myself pretty well but, I knew teenage Solange, I don’t know 20 something year old Solange. And I really want to meet her. I want to know what she wants. What makes her tick. And maybe, after I know all of that, I can finally find someone who I’d want to share that Solange with. It’s all a process. But it can be so beautiful if you let it be.
I’ve enjoyed taking myself on walks, watching the sunset, curling up with a good book, watching my favorite movies, trying new foods, coloring. Journaling definitely is the hardest though because that’s where I get to know myself in my rawest form. All of these things and more have helped me understand who I am a little bit better. After all, I got nine more years in this decade to go and so many more lessons whether I’m with someone or not. The lessons never stop coming. You just have to be open to learning them.
In conclusion: Life is complicated
Relationships of any kind can be messy and that’s okay. Life keeps going. You never know who you’re going to meet, when or which stage of your growth process you’ll be at. All I can say though, whether you are in a relationship or not, anytime you put yourself first, everything else tends to fall in place.
It’s hard though. We learn to give so much of ourselves to other people that we forget to put ourselves and our needs on our lists of things to do. But once you start prioritizing you, getting to know yourself on the most intimate level, all of the relationships in your life will benefit because, most importantly, the one with yourself will be flourishing.