I’ve Ended More Relationships In My 40s Than All My Other Years Combined

I was fully aware I hung onto relationships that I shouldn’t, and I hated the way I was feeling.

I’ve Ended More Relationships In My 40s Than All My Other Years Combined.
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I have given way too many people the benefit of the doubt and too many second chances. I have pushed my feelings aside to make others feel comfortable and keep tensions low. I have repeated this pattern ever since I was a kid. But something shifted in my mid-forties — for the better.

A friend sent me an article about kids who grew up with particularly difficult parents, like narcissists or alcoholics, and how they often learn early to try to keep the peace at home as a defense mechanism. Being triggered by unpredictable behaviors of their caregivers, they become the kid who calms everyone down, the peacemaker.

After reading, my first thought was, That’s me. My second thought was, Ouch.

I was aware that I did this, but I never let myself think about it too much. I also thought I was really good at hiding it and no one else really noticed.

Not long after that, another friend, someone I’ve known for over 30 years, told me that I was “loyal to a fault.” And she was right. The fact that two of my truest friends brought this to my attention was a wake-up call and made me want to do something about it. I was fully aware I hung onto relationships that I shouldn’t, and I hated the way I was feeling.

Sometimes, my anxiety about various relationships can be so bad I have felt physically sick. There have been many times I’ve been so stressed about spending time with someone that I’ve broken out into a rash or hives, or I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of dread so bad it made me want to fall asleep. And it wasn’t until I started letting go of these relationships in my forties that I realized they’d been causing me actual physical ailments.

I was in a relationship with a man who wasn’t good for me. I didn’t trust him and not only did I know it, my body knew it. When I ended our relationship, my sleep improved and so much of that crippling anxiety melted away. I was friends with a woman for a few years, and she treated me like a friend of convenience. We only got together if her schedule was completely clear. Even then, she’d often run late or cancel. I’m not sure why I put up with that for so long, because it did make me feel crappy. So I ended it. I told her the truth, too — I said it didn’t feel like a good friendship for me. I fought the urge to over explain or justify her behavior, too. I was just done. We’re all busy, but some people think their time is a lot more valuable than yours.

I used to think I had to attend every single family get-together. I have a strained relationship with my mother and, for the most part, I was only attending these gatherings so the rest of my family wouldn’t notice the tension between us.

I decided I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m allowed to say I’m not going to be there without giving an excuse or a justification.

Since breaking free from the relationships that weren't working out, I’ve allowed room in my life for healthier bonds. I now know a lot earlier when someone isn’t for me, and I’m not afraid to decline invitations. I’d rather be alone on my sofa doing something I enjoy — or nothing! — instead of white-knuckling it through a friendship or relationship that fills me with dread.

The relationship I’m most passionate about, the one that I need to tend to first, is the relationship with myself. That comes first. And if someone isn’t a good fit in my life, there’s nothing wrong with letting it go instead of twisting myself into a pretzel to try and make things right for them.

It took me a long time to realize this about myself and while I wish I’d learned this lesson soon because I’ve never been happier, I think I needed to wait until I was ready to stop worrying about how I was making everyone else feel, and focus on the way I was feeling.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.