Written by: Jeffery Craig
I have always admired couples and friends who have stuck together for long periods of time. The history they have built together, the memories they have shared, and the struggles that they have endured together serve as a testament of their bond. I used to believe that the longer you spent with a person, the stronger that bond was. I used to believe that long term relationships were a sign of strength and growth.
But I wondered are long-term friendships always good for a person? Do romantic relationships that last a long time indicate higher satisfaction? Is staying connected with certain people in our life always what’s best for us and our life?
Four years ago, I ended a relationship with someone I had committed over six years of my life to. She was my first lover, my best friend, and my support. At least, in the beginning that’s the way she was. Since the breakup, I haven’t talked to her. I don’t plan to talk to her. Although we did not end on bad terms, I came to a realization that my relationship with her was a chapter of my life that was over and I needed to move on.
Although I was finally able to burn that bridge of my life, it took me longer than it should have to light that bridge on fire.
Our relationship went south around the second or third year together. Yes, I said the second or third year. I was with her for six years! As I said, it took me a while to start the fire that would burn this bridge.
I knew I was in a relationship with someone who was not going to help me in becoming the best version of myself, yet I did nothing about it for years. There were many reasons as to why I did nothing. I was afraid of being alone. I thought I could change her into a happier person. I was afraid to fail at something so many people admired about me. Most of all, I believed that this relationship is what I deserved.
I thought I was free after the relationship ended, however, shortly after the breakup, I found myself in the same situation. This time, it was with a friend.
After the breakup, a college friend invited me to move to Huntington Beach, California with him. Once I was there, he went on to teach me the ways of pickup. The beginning of everything was a blast. We would do everything together. He was like a brother to me. But as time passed, things slowly began to change.
I began rediscovering who I was, which had not yet happened since my breakup. This new found sense of self would often conflict with the lifestyle my friend and I had been living. Many times, I desperately wanted to say no, but I always gave in for my friend. I was his partner in crime. I couldn’t leave him behind, could I?
Soon, the inner conflict between who I was and the life I was living became too much. We began fighting with one another, often times in front of others. Spending time with one another became a chore instead of something enjoyable.
Soon enough, we both had enough of each other and that relationship came to an end as well. Once again, it took much longer to end than it should have. I was fearful that I would be all alone. I had hope I could change him into living a different lifestyle. I was afraid what other friends would think of me after walking away. Most importantly, I believed this was a friendship I deserved.
Now you may be thinking what all this has to do with burning bridges. Well, after finally being free of these relationships, I spent time on my own. I looked within myself, within my past and saw numerous situations and relationships that I held on to for far too long. I saw that some of the most miserable parts of my life were surrounded by fear of ending a friendship or relationship with someone. I was able to look within, and make peace with this pattern of behavior.
By becoming more self-aware of my behaviors in relationships, I have gained clarity on the importance of burning bridges. Where I used to believe that only bad could come from ending a relationship, I now understand the importance of cutting ties when it no longer serves me.
Now, everyone’s situation is different I understand that, but through my experience, I found four negative patterns of thoughts that had prevented me from burning the bridges of relationships that didn’t serve me.
- I was afraid of being alone
Many of us hold onto relationships simply out of fear of being alone. This is a sad and terrible thought to have. In our relationships, we become used to always having someone there. It becomes comfortable, reassuring.
We assume that being alone is a bad thing. Our society has taught us that if we are alone, it must mean that we are undesirable by others, that we are unworthy of love.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being alone is actually good for our personal development. By spending time alone, we can become better aquainted with who we are. We discover new interests and ignite our creativity. Alone time can help clear our minds, engage in healthy activities, and pursue our passions.
Furthermore, the thought of being alone after burning one bridge is simply ridiculous. There are over 7 billion people in the world. There is not only one bridge out there. Being alone is a choice. By finding the strength to burn bridges we are allowed the opportunity to find new ones.
- I thought I could change the other person
This is a belief that many of us are guilty of. In the beginning of a relationship, we seem to view the other person as perfect. Over time, we start to discover aspects of them that we don’t like. We begin assuming that this is a problem that should be corrected. We blame this aspect of the person for the cause of conflict in the relationship. We assume that if we could just change this one thing, the whole relationship would be what it used to be and all would be well.
First, we cannot change another person. We are all responsible for changing ourselves. It happens within. By assuming we can change a person, we put ourselves above them, which creates another problem. By attempting to change a person, we create conflict.
By trying to change someone, we also create an unrealistic expectation of the relationship. We believe that if we could solve this one dilemma, everything would fall into place. This is not how relationships work. There are numerous factors that play into conflict in a relationship and fixing one problem would simply bring awareness to another.
Finally, the problem is not the need of changing someone to improve a relationship, but the need of acceptance. If we cannot change a person, the only other choices are to accept them as who they are or walk away. By accepting someone for their flaws, it empowers both people and strengthens the bonds. However, we all have our deal breakers. There is nothing wrong with walking away if the relationship does not serve us.
- I was afraid of what others would think of me
Many of us stay in relationships simply because we don’t know how those around us would react. We become so concerned about pleasing those around us, that we forget about what truly matters to us.
Sure, some people will be disappointed. Some will choose a side, but at the end of the day, those who really matter most will be by our side no matter what happens.
We cannot allow ourselves to be miserable simply to please others. We have to do what is best for us. Those who care about us want us to be happy.
I lost some friends by ending relationships, but they weren’t true friends. Sometimes, it takes an event like a breakup to show us who our true friends are.
There is a bigger problem here though. We are ignoring our own needs and focusing on the needs of others. In many cases, this is considered virtuous, however, when it comes to personal relationships, this is a problem. It is imperative that we acknowledge ourselves over the opinions of others. How will we ever be happy if our decisions depend on others? By taking charge of our own life and making decision for ourselves, we become empowered and free to make the choices that make us happy human beings.
Also, most people could care less about what bridges we burn. As long as it’s not theirs, they are not too concerned. Plus, let’s face it. They are probably so wrapped up in their own lives, that they don’t have time to hold an opinion.
- This is what I deserve
This thought is the most common and most damaging when it comes to ending a relationship. We believe that for some reason, we deserve unhappiness. We think that we are not good enough of a person to get anything better than what we have. We settle. We believe we are unworthy of what else is out there. We voluntarily sit in a prison cell with an open door.
This results from low self-image. But the truth is, we ALL deserve happiness. Everyone deserves to have meaningful, and loving relationships. In fact, we need them. They play a crucial role in in our development. They aid us in becoming the best version of who we are as a person.
By denying ourselves the opportunity for happy and fulfilling relationships with others, we are depriving ourselves of living a truly meaningful life.
It took a long time to gain clarity on my relationships. I have spent a lot of time enduring pain when I didn’t have to. I let my fears rule my decision instead of my heart. I now realize that being alone isn’t so bad, the only person I can change is myself, and that my real friends will stick around. I deserve to have loving and meaningful relationships that make me a better person, just like everyone else.
I used to believe all bridges led to great destinations. Through life lessons and introspection, I have come to find that some destinations are not meant for us. I have learned that instead of struggling to keep some bridges in tact, it is better to just light a match and let it burn. It is by burning the bridges that don’t serve us that we become free to cross the bridges we deserve.