Why It's Really Possible For A Relationship To 'Save' You

by Zara Barrie

I used to be that detached girl standing outside the bar in a faux fur coat, cooly puffing on a cigarette.

I'd be gazing into the distance with chic, dead eyes and saying things like, "I will NOT be saved by any single person. I will only ever save myself, girl." I'm an incredibly stubborn, bull-headed, irritatingly defensive girl creature who rarely confesses to being wrong.

But in this case, babe, I was wrong.

I've grown up a bit, and I've realized that letting your partner in and allowing someone to teach you incredible, life-changing lessons about how to treat yourself is actually a beautiful, beautiful thing.

It only ever becomes dangerous if you allow the lesson to fade away the moment your time with that person ends.

My first serious relationship was a really positive, healthy one. And since there is no perfect time to fall in love (and the wise universe and the love gods don't give a flying fuck if you're ready or not), we met when I was in a dark place. A very dark place.

I was really struggling with substance abuse, blackouts, and all the rest of that fun stuff. I was self-medicating because I was sad.

There is no perfect time to be in a relationship, and the love gods don't give a flying fuck if you're ready or not.

Because I'm really good at hiding things, I tried to hide my substance abuse and sadness from her. But unlike the other people I'd dated, she saw right through that shit.

Not only that, she helped me confront it. She helped me break down why I was numbing myself into pure robot status.

And I'm not too proud to credit her with helping to save my life.

Would it have been better for me to have had this great, dramatic epiphany on my own? Maybe. But it didn't happen that way. I needed help from an outside entity because I wasn't able to see my destructive behavior in the thick of my emotional discontent.

And I'm so proud of myself for letting her in, because letting someone in and listening to loved ones when they tell you that you deserve to treat yourself better isn't an easy thing to do when you're a naturally guarded person like me.

Through her golden advice, I began to self-medicate a little bit less, and I began to confront the pain that was lurking underneath the pillowy clouds of pills.

She and I broke up after about a year. I feared I would go back to my old ways once she left, and sadly, I did for a little bit. I associated my healthier life with her, so when she was out of the picture, the healthier life went with her.

Soon after, though, I did a shit ton of work on myself (with a therapist), and I got back to a happier place again. I did it on my own, and essentially, I saved myself.

What I learned in the process is that I didn't have to abandon those precious lessons she taught me. I could have carried those gifts into my life with or without her.

Fast forward to now: One of my friends called me recently, crying so hard that her voice was shaking. Her boyfriend had just left her.

She was freaking out because they had kicked their drug addiction together, and she really thought she couldn't live without him. He had pulled her out of that dark, terrible life — a life she never wanted to revisit again. She was convinced she was going to go back to blowing all of her money on cocaine and having meaningless friendships now that he was absent from her life.

I felt her pain, babe. I felt her fear so intensely that it lived inside of me for several days. Shit, I was at that same point in my life not too long ago.

But I told her that just because he was gone didn't mean her integrity and new, healthy lifestyle had to leave, too. She could treasure the lessons he taught her and always have gratitude for him and the purpose he served. But, those lessons were gifts to her, and gifts don't ever have to be returned. They are ours to keep.

Another person can teach you incredible lessons that might indeed save your life. But technically, you were the one who saved yourself. Because the only person who can save you is yourself.

Others can bestow you with great wisdom, but it's up to you (and only you) what you do with it. You can be smart and make changes and implement the lessons into your life — or you can toss them aside like last week's tabloids.

Don't give all the power and credit to your partner. It was inside of you from the very beginning. It was you who made the change; your partner just pulled it out of you.

As for me, I'm seeing someone new now, and she's pretty awesome. I guess you could say I like her a lot. She also happens to be a pretty wise force of nature who's taught me some really epic, valuable things that have reshaped the way I approach  life.

And in a way, it's "saved me" from making mistakes and repeating silly patterns that were getting in the way of my success. But in spite of how much I like her, I know things can end our relationship. This could all stop at anytime, and I'm fully aware of that reality.

But now that I know what I know, I can't un-know it, kitten. And if things go south, the great lessons I've learned will remain inside of me, here to stay, forever and ever.

What I'm really telling you is, be fucking selfish. Take that lesson you learned from your lover, store it deep down inside of yourself and remember he or she can't ever take it away from you.

Because you were the one, really, who did the saving. Your partner just inspired the change.