I know what you’re going to say. (Well, unless you agree with me at the outset—then I’ll be very surprised.) You’re going to tell me I’m wrong, that it is romantic, and that sometimes you don’t really appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.
That probably makes you feel better about some of your past choices, but you’re wrong. If you didn’t really appreciate it, you didn’t really deserve it.
If you were so quick to reverse your decision to break up, then maybe you didn’t really think it through in the first place, and that’s a thoughtless act that shows a lack of appreciation for yourself and your partner.
Way back in high school, I decided that I would always think hard before ending a relationship, and I would never, ever go back. Not in those weak moments when I only remembered the happy times. Not in those lonely times when I just longed for someone, anyone to be with. Never.
Instead, I clung to the knowledge that the break-up hadn’t been in vain—I had not impulsively ended the relationship, but instead felt and reasoned my way to the decision, so I knew it was the right thing to do. Sure enough, a few weeks later I would start to remember the sad times, the annoying times, the boring and unsatisfying times, the angry times, and all those other times that weren’t happy times…and I knew I had made the right decision.
I’m going to guess that a lot of people don’t ever give themselves that space to practise such thoughts. I’m going to guess that a lot of couples get back together because people are too scared to be alone. We’re told time and again—in the media, by our families, everywhere—that being alone is the worst thing that could happen to us, the very definition of ‘failing at life’. I think being in an unfulfilling relationship is worse.
If you couldn’t see what your partner brought to your life until they were gone, perhaps you should ask yourself why you were so blind. I don’t mean that in a blameful way. It’s an important question, because if you don’t appreciate someone for exactly who they are, and exactly where they fit in your life, then you both deserve something better.
I’ve been in that boat myself, with a kind man who treated me well. When I realised I wasn’t appreciating all he brought to my life, I spent some time beating myself up over it, and thought long and hard about what I could do to fix it. Then I jumped overboard. He deserved better, and so did I: I deserved to be a person who could appreciate someone completely. I wasn’t that person yet, so I set off to become her.
My travels were dark and violent. I suffered greatly. Strengthening my ability to love made me vulnerable to those who craved appreciation and gave none in return. Those are the hardest people to leave, because they break you down and leave you doubting your own logic.
But I achieved what I set out to do—I finally appreciated what he had given me. I also appreciated that it was in the past, and that the experience had changed us both for the better. I had no regrets about leaving; I only regretted the pain it caused him at the time. My consolation was knowing it minimised the pain we’d have both felt long-term.
We are taught from a young age that ending a relationship equals failure, but that’s just as untrue as the lie about being alone. Ending a relationship that we don’t appreciate frees both parties for relationships that can satisfy us completely.
Now I’m finally at a point in my life where I appreciate someone fully, and I feel fully appreciated by him. The thought of losing him from my life makes me feel physically ill, but the thought of callously throwing away such a wonderful relationship and then reinstating it is far, far worse: I will never let our relationship deteriorate to the point where we don’t appreciate what we have.