a personal style blog by Lauren Pfieffer

Monday, January 17, 2022

On Moving On

I started therapy in May of last year after a really hard breakup.

They're all hard for different reasons, but I think this one hit in particular because it exposed a lot of patterns of mine that I realized if I didn't fix, I would continue to find myself in similar situations with similar results.

I can objectively look at all four of my relationships and see I wasn't my true self in any of them. There was a semblance of who I was, but a big part of me was always hidden away. Part consciously, part unconsciously. 

At the core of my personality I love to adore and please people. It makes me happy to see them happy, so what was pushing aside my desires every once in awhile going to hurt?

If it made them happy to watch an action movie instead of a retro film, that was ok. It was just compromising

If I chose to hang out all weekend at parties with their friends instead of my preferred one-on-one downtime, that was ok. I was just being a good girlfriend.

If they preferred me in something modern instead of a thrifted vintage look, that was ok. I was just making sure they found me attractive.

I would go months, sometimes years doing this. And a lot of times, I knew I was compromising a little too much. It gets to a point where it's gone on so long that you don't feel like they'll accept you if you aren't that person you've always been offering.

So. I started therapy to work through my "self-esteem problems," as my therapist shared with me, in one of our early sessions. We discussed a lot about why I was afraid to ask for things and what would be the worst case scenario if I did ask for them. 

That my partner would leave. 

Sometimes they did anyways.

But what could my relationships look like in the future if I wasn't afraid anymore that--
a) I was too much 
b) I was asking too much 
c) They were going to leave 

My relationships instead could be:
a) More fulfilling 
b) More freeing
c) More mutual 

Timing for life changes is never really what we expect. I'd been single for a year between my last two relationships, so I thought it would be at least that long this time. I wasn't interested in getting back on a dating app or even just putting myself out there for casual flings that summer. I was really just focused on re-finding myself again and utilizing all the time I'd spent in the relationship to nurture my own passions.

I had reconnected with an old friend from back home who had always somewhat been a missed connection over the last nine years. I met him with resistance to anything romantic, and I put up a wall that he continued to throw grapple hooks over to get up to the top. 

I figured I could use this as a test case of putting into practice what I was learning in therapy. I felt like I didn't really have a lot to lose by being open about what I wanted and what I liked. He knew who I was, so there was no need to impress. And we weren't in a relationship, so if he walked away, it was no harm no foul. I would go back to doing me.

It all came easily. There was no resistance to the things I wanted. They were usually even met with a mutual desire. It felt so freeing to relay my needs for once instead of stuffing them away. It wasn't even just my needs, but my emotions. I'd always been so afraid to express when something made me sad or angry or hurt -- I didn't want the other person to feel that way, too. Instead, I opened up the communication and was surprised when the conversations helped build a more solid, genuine understanding of him (and myself). 

There was a lot of guilt in starting something new not so long after the end of something else. I guess I hold myself to arbitrary "one year" rule because that's what I've determined is the appropriate time to heal and be in mourning to the general public (i.e. social media protocol). Again, leaning on the help of my therapist (shout out to V), we talked through how healing can look different from person to person and there is no appropriate "time period" to wait after a break up. I knew I was ready when I felt ready, and I think part of the reason I was able to move on within a half a year was not because there was a new partner in front of me, but really because I started putting my needs on the table *alongside* my partner's for the first time. 

This last weekend I shared the new relationship on le socials. I wanted to share a small, inimate moment that made me happy after months of hiding things. What should have felt happy just caused a lot of anxiety because of how others might take the post.

"She moved on so fast."
"Jumping to the next one I see."
"Did she ever really even care for that other guy?"
"He's so different from her last boyfriend."

I thought about particular people in my life who might see the post and what they might feel, and there was a lot of guilt alongside that anxiety for what they must think of me. 

I have to remind myself: I am not a bad person for moving on. I am not a bad person for starting something new.

Isn't that what we all want after a breakup? To be healed and forgive and carry on with the lessons that we learned? Why can't I just let myself have happiness and why am I SO concerned with how others perceive me?

I'm still not there yet in living my life freely without the fear of judgement, but it's something I want to work through in the next few months. A big win for me was even sharing at all, because historically I've kept all my partners off my social media. A second big win was not writing a dissertation justifying it to everyone so I can beat them to the punchline. I just shared a moment that made me happy - it can be that simple.

With much love,


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