Humans of William and Mary is collaborating with Health Outreach Peer Educators to facilitate a discussion about relationships through the The Red Flag Campaign W&M. The Red Flag Campaign is a national campaign to raise awareness of healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors. This interview is part of that series. For more information, please follow the Red Flag Campaign W&M.
Could you describe a relationship you’ve had in your life? Something that’s been on your mind recently.
Well actually, I just broke up with my boyfriend.
What was that experience like for you?
That was my first relationship that I had been in, so the ending of it came as a shock to me. I didn’t realize how unhealthy the relationship was until it ended, and I was able to look back in retrospect and see the red flags in the relationship, but I didn’t realize that until after. I had separated my heart from my mind. Before I was very much thinking with my heart like, “Oh my gosh, he’s the best guy ever” but I realized afterwards that he had some behaviors that were definitely a little more troubling that I chose to blatantly ignore at the time because I was so enamored with, so in love with this guy.
How long were you guys together?
For six months, so it was a significant amount of time. He was one of my childhood best friends, so I knew him for a really long time, but what’s interesting is when you get into a relationship and you get to know this other side of someone. I felt like I got to know him in a different way. When you’re in a relationship you experience all of the emotions on the spectrum [with this person] whether that’s anger or jealousy or elation or just pure joy, you experience it all. In a relationship, you’re in an incredibly vulnerable place, trying to navigate all of these different emotions that you typically don’t experience in a friendship.
If you don’t mind me asking, what were some of the red flags in your relationship?
He didn’t have any filter. He would say things like, “I don’t think I can marry you” or “I think I need space from you” or things like this that were a little bit odd. Like, why are you telling that? We’re only 20 years old; why are you telling me that you can’t marry me? Both of us put a lot pressure on the relationship, thinking that it had to work out, but no it really didn’t. We were just trying to get to know each other better. He almost wanted to put up these emotional boundaries saying, “We can’t share everything with each other.” That became stifling or suffocating because I felt like I couldn’t express the way the I felt. It also didn’t help that we were long distance too.
That’s really hard. Emotions are so tough.
Yeah, I would say it was more of emotional red flags. It was never any type of physical red flags.
Emotions can be just as scary, though.
Yeah, because when you’re in a relationship, you’re very emotionally vulnerable and when that’s not reciprocated, that can be really, really painful.
Of course. So what do you think you’ve taken from this experience? Is it pretty fresh to you?
It just happened three weeks ago, so it’s pretty fresh, but I am realizing that I am worthy of connection, and the fact that he wasn’t willing to stick it out doesn’t say anything about me as a person. I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s given me a lot of clarity about the things that I want to be involved in, the people that matter to me. People here have just shown up in huge ways these past weeks, helping me deal with it. I’ve also started going to the counseling center which has been super helpful for me as well. I’ve started group therapy. I’m realizing that I need to be able to take care of myself, and that I am worthy. Focusing on the idea that I am worthy, not the mentality that I am no enough.
That’s really, really important. Do you think you’ve come to terms with it by now, or are you still working towards that?
I think that I’m still working towards that, since it is super new. I’m learning that in order for me to move on, I have to forgive him first. Because if I don’t forgive him, then that’s me trying to take control of the situation, and to be able to move on, I have to just release it. The first step is really being able to truly forgive him in order to move forward. I’m in that stage where I’m still processing that it’s really over. It just hit me this morning in econometrics. I was like, “Wow, it’s really, really, really over.” That initial shock is still there.
Do you think that you’re ever going to be friends with him again, just because you knew each other for so long, or is this the end of that friendship?
I think for now, no. I need to create that space. For instance, I was on Instagram the other day and he had posted a story, and I was like, “You know what? I just do not want to see this.” So I unfriended him, and unfollowed him. I just need space. I’m not completely closing the door on a friendship in the future, but for now, I need that space in order to process it. It’s raging emotions of anger and sadness and hope that it will work out, but I need to remind myself that no, it’s not going to. The first week after he broke up with me, I had my friend change my password on Instagram and Facebook because I was did not need to be comparing my life to other people’s and thinking about how horrible my life is. I needed time to just be able to focus on me, and it was so great. Now I’m back on instagram, and I hate it. I shouldn’t be, but I am.
That was a really smart and brave thing to do. Knowing that you needed to separate yourself.
Yeah, because I know me, and it’s weird because when you’re on Facebook and you’re friends with your ex, you have this false sense of connection to them, knowing what’s going on in their life, but they’ve never really told you that. I don’t want to know what he’s doing, who’s he’s hanging out with. I just need to be focusing on myself. Having that separation is good. I hate Facebook and Instagram. I’ve deleted and deactivated so many times, but I always go back to it. I have Self Control on my computer, so I don’t go on.
I’m the same way. I had a long-term boyfriend in high school and we’ve been broken up for almost two years now, but every once in awhile I still watch his snapchat story, and I’m like, “You’re a vegetarian now? You were the biggest meat lover, I don’t understand this.” It’s so weird to see how much people change, and you get a very false sense of how much change has actually happened.
Exactly. Instead of having that personal relationship. I was so much happier without social media. I should delete it again honestly.
Yeah, it’s a struggle sometimes. So one of the things I like to ask people towards the end of an interview is what is one piece of advice that you would give to the William and Mary community about relationships, or not about relationships, whatever is on your mind these days?
I think that connection is something that is so important and foundational to who we are as humans. It’s interesting that when we feel most lonely, it’s when it involves connection with people. If you think about it, you go to a party and you don’t know anyone there and you feel very disconnected, that’s when you feel the most lonely. Like when you feel like you’re not connected to your friends or your family or your boyfriend or your significant other, that’s when you’re most lonely. Students need to realize that connections are the most important things. Yeah, grades are important, but those connections with people are the most invaluable thing. Just because one relationship went bad doesn’t mean that you need to completely cut yourself off from every other type of relationship. People are messy, life is messy, so relationships are going to be messy too, but it’s worth it in the end because when you’re going to have those connections with someone, it’s beautiful.