When someone leaves you or a relationship ends, we can have a tendency to look at the person that left us and the relationship through rose-tinted glasses. When someone is unavailable to us, it often makes us want them all the more. We yearn to be back in the relationship and may desperately bargain and plead with the person to love us again.
When we love someone, our brains encounter the chemical, dopamine. We would also see increases of dopamine if we were to consume drugs or alcohol. It is addictive and when we experience a break up, the intense feelings of pain and longing are not dissimilar to withdrawal from a drug. Add to that mix rejection, nostalgia, longing and fear and it becomes a recipe for disaster. It can make the relationship appear as faultless and perfect, something you need back at all cost.
We can especially feel powerless and desperate when the person we love refuses to love us back. Refuses to try to save the relationship. This is how I felt in my situation, until I came to a realisation which gave me my first glimpse of empowerment. It gave me a brief moment of sanity and clarity amongst the tidal waves of grief and the whirlwind of panic.
The realisation was that I had been seeing my partner through a distorted lens, it was called heart-break. I needed to shift to a different lens. One with a special new filter on it called reality.
Within the first month of my husband ending our marriage, I went to see a counsellor at Relate and was asked to describe my relationship. At the time I was in utter shock and experiencing the early stages of grief. I longed to have my husband back and I described our marriage as almost a fairytale. I had clearly however subconsciously hinted at traces of problems beneath the surface of things. The issues of control my husband had over me quickly became apparent.
This unlocked something in me, I think they call it the truth. I went home and made a list of all the negative things about my relationship and also a list of positive things. I truly believed that the positive list would be huge and the negative list would be tiny. I started to write the positives, there were some but actually not as many as I thought there would be. Then onto the negatives. I wrote a few, then some more, then a couple more, then several more. The list covered three sheets of paper!
I had forced myself to confront the reality of the relationship I had been in. I had been with my husband from the age of 18 and I guess sometimes we grow alongside bad habits and come to accept and ignore them as the norm but I didn’t have to do that anymore.
When you love someone you of course learn to love their quirks too but when I looked at the list, there were major important things lacking from our relationship and in the way I was treated.
In acknowledging that this wasn’t the perfect relationship I had been longing to get back into, it unlocked a sense of reality in me and a realisation that the relationship I had lost perhaps wasn’t as great as I had told myself it was. It gave me a very brief moment of empowerment and control. I was now aware of the pitfalls of that relationship and knew instinctively that these will be things that I will never compromise on again.
When the rose-tinted glasses fall away, you will gain a new perspective on your relationship. That’s not to say that you didn’t have a great relationship, you may well have done but recognising that it wasn’t perfect will give you a shot of reality and is an important tool when coping with heart-break.