I’ve come to learn, that the other side of loving, is letting go. Which, for me, was always a problem. For many years I clung, anxiously, maniacally even, to failed romances, as though they were rafts out at sea. I refused to let them go. I couldn’t deal with having given so much, only to end up with nothing but crumbs from their tables. I’d become a starving mouse, seeking nourishment where I thought I could find it and continually failing to do so. How desperate we become though, when we cannot process our losses with the same enthusiasm we count our gains.

Somewhere along the lines though, something changed and whilst I can’t really pinpoint the precise moment or reason that it did, I couldn’t be more thankful. Where once there was unrelenting pain and anger, now there is simply this feeling of gratitude and empathy, this odd lightness that only comes with understanding something and being able to let it the fuck go.

A friend once said to me, that they’d never known anyone, besides myself, who was friends with so many of their exes and at the time, I was quite surprised and yet, thinking about it, neither really do I. In fact, prior to the past few years, I would never have imagined hanging out with someone I’d previously been romantically linked with. My wild Leonian heart would have been so butt hurt, that I would have either been trying very unsuccessfully to rekindle the flame or angrily burning them to the ground…metaphorically speaking.

Fast-forward to the present day though and I’m not just hanging out with my exes, but we’re all doing group hangs! I’m not even kidding when I say that it’s not unusual for me to look around the room and see at least two of my last loves deep in conversation. It’s also not unusual for me to be on speed-dial when they’re having a relationship crisis of their own with someone altogether new. The latter of which is what has cemented for me the beauty of release.

So much hurt goes down in a relationship. It’s unfortunately inevitable and however much you try, it’s somewhat unavoidable to a degree. Sure, no one sets out to hurt someone, (unless they’re a sociopath) but even when trying our best, sometimes it just happens, because, ultimately, we don’t enter into relationships with clean slates. Not even our first foray into dating gets a reprieve from the backpack of emotional detritus we carry around. And it’s precisely this baggage, which gains in weight over the course of many years and lovers, that ends up hurting both others and ultimately, ourselves.

Befriending my defunct partners has given me so much clarity, into not only myself and my patterns, but also into them and theirs. When you’re first dating someone, you sweep over their cracks with wide-eyed romantic visions and when shit hits the fan, suddenly all the cracks become caverns and you demonise them to within an inch of themselves, so as to somehow make sense of why it hurts so God damned much! And often, when you can’t find resolve, you banish them to the blocked list and they become nothing but a shit-ex anecdote that you regale to yourself when you lament being single and still searching.

Yet, there’s this new thing I’ve discovered once you get past the burning effigies part: you stop seeing them as the person that hurt you and start seeing them once again as simply just a person. With, like you, feelings and their own bog of emotional bullshit that they’re wading through. And suddenly, all the pain and anguish that they put you through, ceases to be about you, because in truth, a lot of it really isn’t. Which, of course, is initially really hard to get past when there’s a blockade of negative feelings, like resentment and disappointment. We want someone to blame, we want someone to take responsibility for the way in which they’ve made us feel, intentional or otherwise. Yet, annoying as it is, we actually need to do that for ourselves first and that release, not only serves us, but it serves to make space for the other person too.

I’m not saying that I’m on best friend terms with all of my exes, but I am at peace with them all. Even the ones who made me suicidal at times, with their lies, betrayals and exit strategies. It’s fair to say I’ve gone through enough heart-shattering disappointments with this lot to see me sob myself to sleep for weeks, if not months. But even still, I have such gratitude for all of it and for them. Our post-coitus relationship has allowed me to truly get to know them without the rose-tinted, oxytocin-induced blinders on. And as a result, they’ve shown me more honesty and vulnerability in our platonic relationship than they ever did in our romantic one.

Listening to a man you once wept over, lose his shit in an anxious breakdown over a girl he just met, is nothing short of fucking beautiful, let me tell you! It’s almost like the oddest form of recompense, seeing for the first time, that he too is an emotional wrecking ball, desperately seeking to be loved and fucking it up due to a deeply entrenched need to self-protect. I have truly never known anything more releasing than that and the more I’ve experienced it, the more I’ve come to understand my own history, habits and patterns and the more forgiving I’ve become.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And sometimes, we really don’t know, we’re just doing the best we can with the understanding of ourselves that we have. The lack of which is often what causes the maelstrom to begin with. “People can only meet you at the depth with which they have met themselves.” It’s a fruitless endeavour to seek answers and closure from the ones that have hurt you, because their hurting you is purely indicative of where they’re currently at with themselves, not with you. So, the only way to let it go is to accept it and understand it, as best you can, because that’s what helps yourself to grow and that’s taking responsibility.