I’m starting a totally new chapter of my life…there’s a lot of excitement that comes with that, but also a lot of discomfort. I’ve been thinking a lot about new beginnings, first chapters and honeymoon phases, and about the ways those so-called ‘fresh starts’ can often seem a bit stale, particularly when it comes to new romantic relationships past a certain age. Thankfully, one of the things I’ve learned over the last year or so is that we are all far more powerful than we might think when it comes to cultivating our own excitement for our own journeys. These are my reflections on how I’ve begun to freshen up those fresh starts.
The phrase “honeymoon phase” exists for a reason: the beginning of a new relationship should be all about chemistry, attraction, excitement and anticipation for the future. It’s supposed to feel magical. Most of us have baggage, of course, and I, personally, believe that you can’t ever put all of it down and move forward in a new relationship without it. That’s just not how the human experience works: we don’t, we can’t, just decide to walk away from things that have happened to us, things we’ve witnessed or things we’ve learned about – those things are all part of who we are, for better or worse. I do think, though, that what usually makes the beginning of a romantic relationship so incredible and exciting is the way that most of us just sort of naturally allow the anticipation, chemistry and attraction so overwhelmingly present at the beginning of something, to mitigate the leftover anxiety or fear we feel from whatever break up or crappy situation we’ve left behind.
I don’t think I’m a “hopeless romantic,” really, but throughout my adult life, whenever I’ve entered a new relationship (romantic or otherwise), I’ve always just sort of defaulted to a really, genuinely hopeful state. I tend to think that things will work out (which I’m sure is the result of a million things – big and little – that have shaped my life since before I could remember), but I started to notice that, after my relationship and break up with The Pilot (a bit more on him here), the excitement and hopefulness that I’d always felt when I met someone new was replaced with startlingly intense (and plain old obnoxious) levels of anxiety – fear, almost – that left me in a constant state of wondering whether I’d be abandoned for hours, days or even permanently, for no apparent reason.
I started to notice that the excitement I’d always felt when I met someone new was replaced with anxiety that left me in constant state of wondering whether I’d be abandoned for hours, days or even permanently, for no apparent reason.
It’s completely natural to wonder whether someone you’ve just met has feelings for you, ‘likes’ you, wants to date you . . . it’s normal to ask yourself (and your girlfriends) “where is this going?” or “will he text me back?” In the first few weeks of a new romantic encounter, it’s typical to get butterflies when you wonder about where something might be going. What’s not normal is getting a few months into a new “relationship” and still wondering if the person you’re dating will call you back or show up for a date. It’s not natural or even remotely standard to spend all day waiting for a phone call that doesn’t come only to finally go to bed at 10 (but stay up until midnight, checking your phone every 10 minutes), at which point you get some (shitty, restless) sleep before giving up and getting out of bed, frustrated and confused, so that you can go downstairs to begin a ritual of laundry, errands, and working out designed to keep your mind off the one, singular thing you’re fixated on. That’s not just baggage…that’s friggin’ cargo, my friends, and it isn’t the result of normal ‘honeymoon’ phase anxieties like missed calls or rescheduled dates. It’s the result of experiencing a litany of ridiculous situations that make you question your value, self-respect and sanity (especially when you allow yourself to experience them for an embarrassingly long amount of time).
It’s the result of allowing someone to treat you horribly (read: kick you out of their house at half past 1 in the middle of a snowstorm, with no car and no ride home, for disagreeing with them during a conversation, for example), because they’ve promised they’ll change (again and again), and you’ve convinced yourself they mean it (again and again…and again). Said simply, it’s the ongoing emotional whiplash you get when you invest your time and feelings in someone or something that has no chance of ever providing you with a stable source of validation or support. You might want to relax and enjoy the excitement of a new beginning, but the ghosts of relationships past is still very much a part of your present, jerking you around and making it impossible for you to relax.
You might want to relax and enjoy the excitement of a new beginning, but the ghosts of relationships past is still very much a part of your present, jerking you around and making it impossible for you to relax.
What I’ve learned is this (and this is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s one of those things that I didn’t get until I got): baggage is always there – that ghost doesn’t just magically go away (I’d hoped for a long time that it would just up and vanish) and unfortunately it has an uncanny ability to take up residence in the darkest attic of our minds despite our best intentions, but it shouldn’t cripple you. When you have baggage that weighs more than you do – so that you can’t possibly move forward carrying it – that’s when a beginning is no longer exciting, no longer kinetic. That’s when I think you have to reclaim your beginning so that it has nothing to do with another person – or whether they call you, or text you or value you. I think you have to start over without placing your most precious emotional investment in someone who could abuse it or take it from you with no intention of delivering a return. I believe that it’s probably fairly easy – and pretty natural – to lose the magic of a new beginning from time to time, but I think it would be damn near impossible to lose it forever if you’re willing to believe that the magic usually found in a new relationship with someone else can be an even more powerful force when you figure out a way to create it for yourself.
You have to reclaim your beginning so that it has nothing to do with another person – or whether they call you, or text you or value you. You have to start over without placing your most precious emotional investment in someone who could abuse it or take it from you with no intention of delivering a return.
If you can do that – be your own force for excitement and anticipation and validation in your life…if you can build your own honeymoon phase with your new job, your new passions, your new friends, your adventures – then you will become that much more capable of walking away from those relationships or situations that threaten the happiness you’ve built for yourself. As human beings, we’re inclined to preserve what we create. With that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to create situations and relationships for yourself that make you feel safe, happy and valuable? The ability to create those circumstances, sometimes out of thin air – now that’s magic.