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“Sometimes good things fall apart so that even better things can fall together.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

It’s funny how we think we know someone—until we break up with them.

Suddenly, all of these qualities come out of the woodwork that we never suspected were there, and the person we thought we had loved with all of our heart suddenly becomes a stranger.

The reality is that no one changes the minute a relationship ends—but how we see them may.

For most relationships that don’t last, there is a clear beginning, middle and end. We meet, we spend time with one another getting to know each other, we have a fun relationship (or not), and then we begin to fall apart.

Yet the problem isn’t in how we end our relationships—but rather how we begin them that determines how well we know our partner.

In life, we are conditioned to only show the best parts of ourselves. Those glittering and beautiful aspects of our lives and hearts that we feel most proud of because someone somewhere told us that we were unlovable because of our dark, cobwebbed corners.

When we get into a new relationship, we showcase these beautiful aspects of ourselves, hoping that perhaps it will be enough for that special someone to want to take us home.

That’s not who we truly are.

Underneath those shiny parts, our authenticity beats—the reality of who we are. Our fears, our mistakes, our complications and our beliefs are the aspects that not only define who we are, but also whether someone is truly meant for us (or not).

We’re earthly creatures; we are human. None of us is flawless, despite the hashtag on the Instagram saying as much.

We’re raw, beautiful and perhaps just a little messy.

When we end a relationship, our true selves come out because we are no longer locking them in the basement, worried that our dirty secrets might get out that would tell the world who we really are.

The thing is, not all relationships that end are meant to be over.

Sometimes we need them to end in order to unearth a new level of intimacy and vulnerability that wouldn’t have been found if the walls protecting who we really are did not come crashing down.

There’s a difference if a relationship ends in bitter drama, or in love and friendship. Ideally, we can all reach that phase of healing. Sometimes, we truly are better off as friends, especially if there were unhealthy tendencies within the relationship.

But how a relationship ends speaks to how both people truly feel about one another.

When a relationship ends with fighting, yelling, manipulation or coercion, we must understand that those behaviors were all present before. It’s just that they weren’t really showing their true selves and we didn’t really want to see them either.

We’ve all taken that deep breath and shaken our heads, wondering how we stayed with someone as long as we did, curious as to why we didn’t see the writing on the wall long ago. It’s in those moments that we realize that perhaps our relationship was more of a projection than reality.

It was more about wanting someone to be the right person than actually taking the time to see if they were.

As heartbreaking as these moments can be, they can actually serve as sign posts that help us become clearer about where we want to go next. Realizing that someone was different than what we had anticipated or believed will help us not be afraid to show our real selves to a new prospective partner.

And baby, it’s all about keeping it 100.

As a wise friend once told me, we don’t understand anything until we’re able to see it through hindsight; perhaps the same is true for our relationships as well.

Sometimes we’re not able to see where we went wrong until we’re actually out of the situation.

However, there are rare times that we break up with someone and end up thinking they’re even more incredible than they were when we were actually with them. Sometimes we are guilty of hiding behind walls or keeping those unique qualities that make us amazing a secret because we’re too scared to truly let someone in.

It’s in those moments that we realize exactly what we have—not because we lost it, but because we realized we never could.

Yet for many of us, it’s not about why a relationship ends, but rather, who we become because of it. It’s not just about seeing our partner in a new light. It’s also about seeing ourselves and those aspects of our souls that we wished didn’t exist.

When a relationship ends,  we learn more not only about our partners but also about ourselves. We get to see how we deal with conflict, strife and disappoint. We get to see if there ever was a true friendship beneath it all.

With those relationships that didn’t have a solid foundation of friendship, it will likely end completely when the romantic relationship is over. But those that were built on true friendship often never miss a beat, even after a break up.

Because whether we are romantically tied to someone or not shouldn’t actually change how we interact with that person.

If we love and respect them, then we should treat them the same after a break up as we did during the relationship. Nothing, including offering help, should be contingent upon them meeting our needs romantically.

Maybe that’s how we really know, not just who our partners are, but what love is too.

“Tell me who you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” ~ Creole Proverb  

By Kate Rose for ElephantJorunal

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