Break-ups suck. And they probably suck more and more the longer you’ve been in a relationship. Whether you’re the one ending it or you’re the one getting dumped, after years of being together, there is heartbreak involved in both. How can someone who has been such a big part of your life suddenly leave it? And how do you know you’re making the right decision? The truth is, you don’t. But sometimes the best thing to do is to make the decision and then see how you feel about it. No matter what, life experiences are good. You can learn from your mistakes, your relationships, and your partners. Here’s what I learned after ending a 3 year relationship:
1. It feels good to be in love
Okay, that’s obvious. But more than that, it feels good to have a life partner– someone you know will be there for you during anything. Whether that be when you are stressed about work, decide you want to change your career, plan a vacation together, or just have someone to chill and eat pizza with. Life is hard and it’s comforting to know you’re never really alone when you have that person by your side. Ending the relationship can sometimes mean losing your best friend, too, and that’s a hard thing to deal with.
2. Living together changes things
While at first the thought of spending every night in the same bed can sound exciting and fun, you have to be able to be okay with the fact that the excitement of spending the night together could go away. Living together will show you quite quickly how clean/organized your partner is, how they share (closet space, food, etc.), how to manage money together, and perhaps most importantly, how you feel about each other after you find out all these things.
3. It’s crazy how comfortable you can get with someone
You get naked with this person. You tell them things that you wouldn’t tell anyone else. In fact, you tell them everything. You eat as much complimentary bread as you want before the meal comes because you know they won’t judge you. I haven’t experienced this personally, but I know some couples who pop each others’ pimples or even poop while the other person is in the bathroom (no judgement).
4. What you’re looking for in a relationship
After ending a long term relationship, you have the unique ability to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. In every relationship there is good and bad; there were things that you probably loved about your relationship and things that always needed work. You find out things about yourself: Do you get too jealous? Do you not always say what you mean? Do you have trust issues? And you find out things you need in a partner: Do they need to be a good communicator? Do they need to been driven? More outdoorsy? Less like a college frat boy?
5. You gain (and lose) a second family
When you’re with someone for many years, part of getting to know them is getting to know their family. If you’re lucky, it will feel natural and being around them will help you understand your partner even better. But this has it’s ups and downs. Loving a new family is great during the relationship, but if the relationship ends, this can be one of the hardest parts because instead of losing one person, you’re losing these people who you’ve grown deep relationships with as well.
6. You literally don’t know how to date again
What’s this thing called Tinder?? And how the hell do you small talk, yet alone flirt? Going from someone who knows literally everything about you, to going on dates and answering questions like “so where did you go to college?” can be intimidating. Especially if your LTR was with someone from high school or college…you have a lot of learning to do. But when you’re up for it, I’m sure there will be plenty of people ready to help you learn how to date.
7. It’s okay to end it
Just because you spent X number of years with this person, it doesn’t mean you wasted any time. As mentioned above, you probably learned a lot about yourself. Forming a connection with someone is always good. Strong emotions are always good. If something doesn’t feel right, you don’t need to feel stuck in a relationship just because you’ve been in it for a long time. By all means, work on it, if you feel like you can. But if it feels like it’s come to it’s natural end, that’s okay too. Hopefully it can end in a healthy way and you can always remember the good times you had together.