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As my relationship of four years ended, the panic started to set in. Will I ever find someone who I connect with as much as we did? Why am I still trying to fight for something that is clearly not working? If I can't make this work, is love something I even deserve?
That last thought shocked me. When did I even start thinking that I wasn't worth love? I suppose, after four years of being told that I was a nuisance and unworthy of even being in that relationship, I started to believe it myself. It dawned on me that I had dedicated so much time into someone who never really thought I was good enough to begin with, and eventually I started to believe it too. I was so wrapped up in loving him and, getting him to love me, that I forgot how to love myself first.
It hadn't always been that way. When we first started dating, he made me feel adored... most of the time. In between being 4 hours late to pick me up for our second date, keeping me out later than I wanted to be, and complaining about his lack of wealth and status in his career, he would buy me flowers and write me sweet notes. I didn't see that he didn't really value my time, but that first year was a whirlwind; in three months he made an elaborate video to tell me that he loved me, at six months he got me a dog for Valentines Day, at nine months we moved in together.
It was back to back big decision after big decision, with not a lot of time for me to figure myself out (at 22). My life with him was all consuming, and soon I started to feel the backlash. Date nights stopped, unless they were with his friends, and when I wanted to go out "just us" it was "too expensive" and I was too "high maintenance." Suddenly, I was a nuisance that hindered his career, he wanted to go out and flirt with all the industry girls at events that he knew I couldn't attend cause I was working two jobs to cover bills.
Our relationship became more like a toxic environment. We would fight, then make up, be "ok" for a couple months, and then start again. Nothing was what I thought it would be like, and I was never more lonely. My best friends and family blatantly told that they disliked him, and how I was being treated, and I was too consumed with creating a future with him to see that he never intended for me to be there at all.
So, things ended. It was as messy and complicated as the entirety of our four year relationship. We moved out of our shared apartment, which he graciously let me take care of all the final bills for, and I was left with the thought; "If I can't make this work, do I even deserve love?" The thought that made me take a step back from feeling sorry about myself, and take a good look at what that relationship really was, toxic.
I started to work on myself. Because if you only love yourself 20% and someone comes along and loves you 30 percent, of course it's going to feel like they're worth your time. So my goal was to love myself 100 percent, every messy, neurotic little bit of me, and I had to seriously face myself.
I broke down all of my walls, even the ones where I didn't want to go, to the parts that made me "damaged," the parts that I hide from others. I had to learn to accept myself, and that is harder than it sounds. I found a support system in friends that were truly there for me, they helped me see the light and to nourish that. Don't get me wrong, that darkness is still there, we all have it, but we wouldn't be able to learn and grow as humans if we didn't.
Eight months after the breakup; I'm smiling and laughing more than I have in four years. I found happiness in myself, every damaged bit, and I built myself up on that. I moved my life forward, in ways that I never thought were possible. I learned that its okay to feel like you're stuck, but to admit when you're not happy and to work at removing the things in your life that make you feel that way.
Life is too short to be anything but that. So, find yourself first, love yourself first, and grow from there.