Last Thanksgiving, I slept in my childhood bed for the last time. In the morning, I would put my suitcase in the trunk and drive from my small hometown in Connecticut to a beachfront town in South Carolina. And I did so with the boy I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with.
Spoiler alert: things didn't work out that way. And that's OK.
After over a decade of friendship, and almost a year and a half of being in a relationship, it took two full weeks for us to break up. It was by far the most painful breakup I've ever experienced, and here's what I learned from it.
You are just as valuable single as you are with a partner.
1. In order for a relationship to work, it requires both people to make constant effort
If only one person in the relationship is putting in an effort, no matter how much they are doing so, the relationship isn't going to work. Both parties have to want to be together and care enough to make a deliberate effort every day.
This may become harder to do if you find yourself in a relationship "rut" where you feel so comfortable with your partner you no longer feel the need to make an effort. You may even feel bored now that the honeymoon phase has passed. That is the time where effort becomes even more important than it was before.
Relationships take work! They're unfortunately not all fun and games.
2. Don't keep big secrets from your partner
While I don't find it necessary to share every single thing about yourself with your partner if you don't want to, I don't think partners should hide big secrets from each other. When I found out that my boyfriend at the time had been keeping huge secrets from me, and my trust in him was shattered.
It was very painful to realize that he had deliberately hidden things from me. And without trust, it is very hard to have a relationship. In order to build and maintain trust, be as honest as possible.
3. Never place control over your happiness in the hands of someone else
Despite being given this advice before, I got so caught up in my relationship that I forgot to cultivate my own happiness outside of that relationship.
Never give up your ability to make yourself happy, with or without a partner. And never depend on someone else to make you happy!
4. Sometimes, people simply find someone else
We have all allowed our eyes to wander from time to time, and may even develop little crushes that we never act on. I learned that it is entirely possible for people to simply fall out of love with their partner, and begin to fall for someone new. So long as there is no cheating involved, there is nothing wrong with that.
The heart wants what it wants. And I am a firm believer that if it's meant to be, it will be. The same goes for if it's not meant to be, it won't.
5. Keep your stuff separate
Because I thought we were going to be together forever, I didn't hesitate when he suggested we put both of our names on bills. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, it made the breakup even more painful because we had to separate our names. It's complicated, unnecessary and I advise against it.
Keep as much as possible in your own name in order to maintain your independence on paper.
6. Maintain your independence in real life too
If all of your friends are also friends with your boyfriend or girlfriend, things can go south really quickly in the event of a breakup. When breakups happen, friends often feel pressured to take sides, and often do so. And if everyone picks the side you're not on, you may find yourself feeling sad and alone.
So my advice is this: make sure you have friends and support outside of those shared with your boyfriend or girlfriend. While it is wonderful to share your life with someone, that doesn't mean you should share every last aspect of life with that person. Even if you think they will never leave you, life guarantees nothing and humans are notoriously unpredictable.
7. You are just as valuable and worth it alone as you are with someone else.
Ladies, having a man doesn't make you any more valuable or any more of a woman. You are just as strong and beautiful alone as you are with someone else. Your value doesn't decrease because you were broken up with it. In fact, it will make you stronger.
When I was actually going through this breakup, it felt like the end of the world. And just like my closest friends and family told me, it's not the end of the world, it just feels that way right now.
As Taylor Swift has said herself, in her song "Fifteen," "I've found time can heal most anything, and you might just find who you're supposed to be."