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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#86: Processing

According to science, the challenge of a breakup is that we have to re-wire our brain with neural pathways to stop thinking about our former person, the experiences we had with them, and the future we planned with them. We established these connections within our brain in the first place to make our thinking patterns easier - Forgive my (timely) excel analogy, but these patterns are a thought-model. I invest the energy to build an excel model at the outset of a project, so that I can make update to the data or refer back to it without starting from scratch. Unless I consciously update the formulas, the data will be connected in the same way. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to update neural pathways that invoke emotions than it is to update financial data. (Actually, I think that’s a good thing. I hope that I don’t have to update my emotions as many times or as rapidly as I update company financial plans...)

I learned the hard way both at work and otherwise, that the best way to fully understand a model is to take it apart, understand the data, and re-build it to suit my use-case. The current model is my most recent relationship, and the use-case is my life.

I spent the majority of last week as you’d expect - Cry, attempt to rationalize, cry, sleep, repeat. With a fun Saturday night for Halloween, thanks to friends and new friends. The tears are for the best as I “feel my feelings,” so please don’t feel bad. I’d rather process the hurt now so that I can learn and move forward than whatever the other option is. Feeling my feelings gives me the chance to reflect on the series of events that lead me here, especially my contribution to the situation. In the spirit of full disclosure, I wrote 2-3 posts weekend that will absolutely not make it out of the drafts. They weren’t as calm and collected as this one, and have no place on the internet – As much as I push the boundary already. I’m okay with that, given I’ve shared most of this with my manager.

It’s no secret that I thought this relationship would go the distance. We share the same life goals, I had all the feels, and find him attractive. If I were to dig up my old posts, I would’ve described him exactly. Regardless of the outcome, I’m grateful that I found such a unicorn after the 100+ coffee dates over the years. At the very least, I proved that unicorns do exist. The saying goes that when you know, you know. I was confident that I knew after the 4th or 5th date, but I kept that a secret for the next 5 months to avoid sounding crazy or getting over-excited and ruining it for myself. With the effort that I spent being “chill” on the outside, I didn’t give myself a chance to be excited in the way that I always wanted to be. When the relationship initially started going South, my confidence didn’t waiver. Relationships are difficult, and that we had things to work through, just like everyone else. I started to wonder if we were right for each other within the last month of dating, when we spent little time together in person, and most of our text conversations were arguments about the lack of time we spent together.

I was determined to avoid a repeat of past mistakes such as dating someone who didn’t align with my values, putting in too much effort at the wrong time, getting ghosted and/or cheated on, etc. I was so determined not to repeat these mistakes that I made a new one. In working so diligently to avoid these mistakes, I brought them as baggage into the relationship. I don’t agree that it was my fault for choosing to date the type of person who cheats on me, but he’s correct that it wasn’t fair to punish him for someone else’s mistakes. Nobody is perfect, but I chose to date him because we were aligned where it mattered most, and I looked forward to figuring out the rest. It wasn’t intuitive for me to understand the meaning of his actions or words due to our opposite communication styles. I was so hyper-vigilant in avoiding past mistakes that I often prevented myself from believing him, and expected him to convince me otherwise. By the time I grasped this disconnect in communication and proposed a solution, the damage was done. He was often frustrated that I didn’t trust him, but it was that I didn’t trust myself. I learned that I can trust myself that I’ve learned from the past enough to educate my decisions, but I need to let go of the corresponding emotions to the same degree that I let go of the people who caused such pain. Which is entirely. As much as it sucks that I’m starting over, it’s for the best that I get the chance to genuinely be excited.

The relationship in its framework wasn’t sustainable. Neural pathways were established, and we were stuck in a pattern of fighting and misunderstanding. At the very least, I’m both grateful and proud of myself that I take ownership of my contributions to our issues. In the last 2 months, I worked more hours, and had more visibility than ever before. Such responsibility is stressful on its own, before layering in the pressure to perform so that I can advance quickly in my career. Being that hindsight is 20/20, I didn’t realize toll that I allowed such stress and pressure to take on my life, including friendships, emotions, romantic relationship. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I self-destructed. Rather than taking a calm approach to identify a solution, I let frustration and anger get the best of me. As I became more frustrated, I pushed him away more and more – to include rejecting his effort to show up when it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It didn’t matter if there was room for compromise or not, because I wasn’t willing to listen. The harder I pushed him away, the easier it was to convince myself that he wasn’t there, until he wasn’t.

Long before we started dating, I let myself become overwhelmed by stress, leading to an unfair emotional burden on everyone around me, especially him. I instinctively told him that he didn’t get the best version of me, and that I’m “not generally like this,” although that’s not a fair statement. As my career responsibilities have continued to increase, I allowed myself to become overwhelmed, and shrunk into a robotic version of myself. The break-up was a much-needed wake-up call for me to be human again. With the intermittent exception of physical health, I prioritized work above all else until it became the default. I chose to dedicate any spare energy to work rather than investing in friendships or hobbies. As my friendships and personal life sustained the damage, I threw myself into work even more and perpetuated the cycle. After living like this for an extended period of time, I assumed that this is what life would be. Although this may be who I have been, I refuse to be this person any longer. My career will always be a priority, but humans have careers – not robots. (More on that later.)

I take full responsibility for my actions that lead to the end of the relationship, with the understanding that that it takes two people for a relationship to fail. It’s not my place to share someone else’s shortcomings. My career advanced leaps and bounds during this relationship, and I’ve learned so much about myself in the time since it ended, including that I shouldn’t go another 6-8 months before examining my contribution to any relationship, including the relationship with myself. I have so, so much more to say in the weeks and months to come. For now, I’m grateful that I finally feel comfortable saying that L is for Learning.

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