This article was written by Iris, Date Coach from Lunch Actually Academy Hong Kong
Many years ago, I broke up with the one I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was devastated.
For months later, every morning when I woke up, I remembered he was no longer in my life. I could feel the pain flowing through my veins, realising that he would never again be in my life. Before I knew it, the pain became a part of my life… it became a part of me.
Then, when I least expected it, I met a Prince Charming. He was everything I wanted – sweet, caring – and he did everything I wanted my ex to do for me. He was like my knight in shining armour, a superhero rescuing my broken self from misery.
However, it was like I was cursed. Things soon turned sour, and my heart broke again. Then I met another great guy, and things went well… until they didn’t again. History kept repeating itself, and I stayed in this miserable loop for a good few years.
Again and again, I thought I was out of the black hole of “being alone”, only to be abandoned back to it again.
Finally, after I broke up with the last Prince-That-Was-Not-Charming-After-All, I realised something was off about all my relationships. I told myself I had to do something about it, and I spent a year away from dating. I focused solely on my relationship with myself.
As time passed and I began to heal, I came to a startling realisation that I should have come to a long time ago.
The Prince Charmings were never the problem in my relationships – I was.
All these years of dating, I had repeated the same patterns in my relationships without even realising it. Much to my astonishment, I realised that had never fully moved on from my first heartbreak – I was unconsciously looking for a substitute of my ex.
All the men I dated shared extremely similar attributes to each other. I had thought they were just “my type”, but it wasn’t about that. I was actually trying to “fix” my relationship all those years ago.
Instead of dealing with my emotional baggage from my heartbreak, I tried to continue the unfinished story I had with my ex with another guy. I hoped that things would work out THIS time, but of course, they didn’t.
Whenever I inevitably experienced heartbreak again, all my piled-up negative emotions that I ignored burst out again like a nuclear bomb. It was not the most recent ex who hurt me again – I myself chose to be hurt by my first ex over and over again, even though he was no longer in my life.
After spending a lot of time alone, I finally came to understand that all my problems in love came about because of one reason only – I did not love myself enough.
If love is an ocean, I never tried to learn how to swim. I had no confidence I would be able to swim on my own, and I was always looking for a float to sustain myself. Whenever I lost a float, I would feel as though I was drowning, and then I would desperately search for another float.
Jumping from float to float, I never learned to enjoy swimming. It was not until I stopped actively looking for a float that I realised I had another option in this ocean. I could LEARN how to swim on my own. Much to my surprise and relief, when I knew how to swim, I realised I could enjoy the ocean with or without a float.
My lack of self-love caused me to play the victim when it came to dating. I wanted to be the damsel in distress, to have someone come and rescue me, to love me, and to heal me. After too many years, I eventually understood that there is no such thing as a superhero, knight, prince charming, or anything like that.
I was my own hero; in romantic love, no one is ever fully responsible for someone else’s happiness. I learned I did not need anyone else to “rescue” me from my loneliness. I learned that all the things that I yearned for from others – love, happiness, validation – could also be found within myself.
It was love for myself that attracts love from others, and happiness in myself that would attract more happiness. I finally learned that if I was a flower, I had to dig deep with my roots to find water, instead of hoping someone would come along to water me with love and affection. It was only when I fully bloomed that people were attracted to my self-confidence.
Right now, I am relieved to know that I am not “cursed”. I am thankful to have realised that history will only keep repeating itself until I learned how to change myself.
Self-love is a lifelong lesson, and something that I fight to do every day. It is not easy, but it is the only gateway to true happiness and more love. I feel a deep faith that at the end of the day, everything will be all right as long as I continue to bloom.
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