With a lot of my previous partners, I could tell you exactly what went wrong and why we ended. But not with the most recent one. He was generous, loyal, caring, funny, kind, and honestly the list could go on – so why did I leave him? Well when I made that decision, I was immediately met with the question “what went wrong?”, but I just didn’t have an answer.
As you can expect, I had awkward conversations with people who asked if I had met someone else or I was told that I wasn’t thinking straight, but I was thinking straight. In fact, I was thinking with the most clarity I had felt for a long time.
I have always battled with my mental health and insecurities, and I had been feeling out of control of a lot of things in my life. So, when I was becoming overwhelmed with my anxieties, I knew that I needed space to work on myself.
Of course, I questioned if I was doing the right thing? I worried about the hurt it would cause him, our families, and even the hurt it would cause me.
But what I realised is that something doesn’t necessarily have to be “wrong” for you to leave a relationship, especially when it is to prioritise your own mental-health and wellbeing.
Simone Bose, a counsellor for the UK’s largest provider of relationship support ‘Relate’, says: “When you’re in a couple you tend to explore yourself within that couple and a lot of your choices are made because of that, but when you’re on your own you can actually ask yourself, “what do I want”?
“You can think with a lot more clarity because it’s not with any other person in mind but yourself and sometimes in life you need that. It doesn’t mean you don’t like that person, it might just be what you need right then.”
A study by Relate and dating agency E-Harmony, revealed what respondents’ thought were the positives of being single. The highest answer was independence, with 61% of British singles saying this was a positive thing, followed by time to focus on yourself (45%), time for hobbies (33%), and more time to spend with friends and family (30%).
“Sometimes you need to snap so you take the actions you need to take,” says Simone. “You can be in a lull and not realise and sometimes these things happen when you have a wakeup call.”
My “snap” came as I was nearing the end of university. The stress of deadlines, exams, graduation, finding a job, a place to live and being hit with the realisation that I didn’t really know where my life was heading. I knew that my partner could not fix me or my problems, that was only something only I could do.
Simone emphasises the importance of working on your personal well-being in order to maintain healthy romantic relationships. “Don’t expect a relationship to fix you, you have to work on yourself first. It’s one of those things where you either start to work on yourself within a relationship or to have that courage to be on your own.
“It can be scary but get support around you, people who care about you, because you can have love in lots of different ways. It’s not just romantic love, focus on other relationships.”
Relationships with friends and family can be key determinants of a person’s wellbeing. People who have strong social relationships are 50% more likely to survive life-threatening illnesses than people with weaker social relationships. In Relates study, those who reported very good friendships were significantly more likely than those with ‘average’ friendships to report feeling extremely or fairly happy, and less likely to report feeling fairly or extremely unhappy.
I was happy that I made the decision to walk away from something that most people would cling on to, sometimes at the expense of their own self-development. But I can understand why what I did may be difficult for some people.
All of our lives we are told that we need to get a job, meet “the one”, buy a home and have a family. Which is why we can feel the pressure to stay in relationships or constantly be searching for our next partner.
A third of those aged 18-34 said that they feel the pressure to find a relationship often or all the time. 47.94% of all respondents to Relates survey said, the biggest pressure they felt was to keep up with friends and social circles.
I think that many of us, myself included, can often make the mistake of basing a lot of our self-worth on whether we are sleeping with, dating, or in a relationship with someone. And when we’re not involved with anyone it can make us doubt ourselves.
But you will never feel good if you place all of your happiness onto another person.
“Our culture can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong”, Simone says. “There is a lot of social discourse around what you’re meant to do in your life. There is a route we subconsciously follow.
“But If you’re somebody who feels like you can’t function if you’re not in a relationship, maybe it’s a sign that you need to be on your own for a little while?”
For me, I saw no other way at that time but to end my relationship. It was heart breaking because it wasn’t because I didn’t love him, but I don’t regret it. Giving myself that space and time has helped me to heal and work out what I want. But you don’t always have to take the drastic steps I took.
“You can get self-worth from your relationship, you can grow from your relationship, you can learn about yourself and become a certain person from your relationship, you can be loving and empathetic and get a lot of self-worth from a relationship. But if you rely on it totally that’s not going to work,” Simone says.
“Don’t be scared to say to your partner, I need some space but it’s not because of you, and that’s what I have learnt to say in my relationship sometimes.”
Maybe the truth is that sometimes some of us need to be single, other times we just want space. For others a cuddle will solve it all. We are all human and entitled to feel what feel and to communicate how we feel. This is about deciding to put yourself first, which is a necessary step towards true happiness.