Life is a journey. There are ups and downs, but it’s more about the actual experience than the final destination.
Relationships are similar: You embark on a trip and you have no idea how the outcome might be, but the trip back home is always the hardest part.
Stage One: The Planning
Think back to a time when you had to plan an island vacation. You were excited, slightly anxious and you didn’t know what to pack.
The feelings of excitement and anxiousness are similar to going on your very first date with someone new.
Whether it’s the guy who lives down the hall from you or someone your best friend introduced you to, it happened; you met, something sparked and now, you're questioning whether something real may blossom from it.
You spend hours contemplating what to wear, whether he may like it; you do and redo your makeup. You’re optimistic while trying to stay realistic.
Stage Two: The Departure
So, now you’re at the airport, about to fly off to your destination. You temporarily say goodbye to your family, friends and your life back home, and you look forward to having some time away on a holiday.
It’s liberating, but once again, you can’t help but wonder if it will end up being everything you thought it would be.
The first date went well and so did the second, fourth and eighth. Now, you find yourself talking about him to your family and friends, smiling as you read his texts, and in general, the world seems like a better place.
Little by little, this one person is making you forget about all the stress, and instead, leaves you feeling like this could be it; he might be the one.
Before you know it, you guys are an official item. It’s scary and you’re nervous things might not be all you’ve been secretly dreaming about, but you go for it, anyway; you "board that flight."
Stage Three: The Arrival
So, you’ve arrived on the island, and for the first few days, things are perfect. You’ve spent months dreaming about laying on the pure, white sand, soaking up the rays.
Your Facebook and Instagram are spammed with pictures of you looking content; you look and feel great.
It’s everything you’ve dreamed of and more.
Similarly, this is the honeymoon stage of your relationship. Whether it’s the first few weeks or months, this is the lust-heavy stage all the movies portray.
For this brief period, everything clicks; your life is basically a music video for a cheesy love song.
You’ve become one of those couples who constantly spams everyone’s social media feeds with #bae-captioned pictures. You can’t imagine things ever going bad, and you relish in what love has done to you.
Stage Four: The Trip
You’ve been lazing by the beach for a couple of days now and while you still love the sun and the sand, it’s no longer picture-perfect.
Reality starts kicking in — whether someone from the office starts calling about work or you realize you miss your pet and your own bed. In other words, the initial high of being on vacation is wearing off.
Time has passed, and now, you’re in the comfortable stage of your relationship; perhaps, it’s getting too comfortable.
Arguments have surfaced and little by little, his mere presence is irritating you. You’ve started to forget why you even got into the relationship in the first place.
You miss your freedom and being single; instead of being happy and fulfilled, you’ve started to feel anything but.
Stage Five: The Return
Your week away has come to an end. As much as you’ll miss being on vacation, that’s why it’s called a vacation: Eventually, it has to end.
You pack up your souvenirs, take one last look at a place that gave you temporary bliss and board the plane back to reality. It’s a bittersweet parting, but you know it’s time to return home.
After a long time denying the inevitable, you realize there’s nothing left to save the relationship. Your time of bliss has passed, and as much as you both try to salvage it, the truth is obvious: It’s over.
You store your memories in a shoebox, take one last look at someone who used to be the source of your happiness, pack up and leave.
Stage Six: The Flight Home
As hard as it was to get on the plane, you’ve boarded and part of you cannot wait to get home. You’ve missed your life back home and you can’t wait to have a sense of normalcy again.
It’s hard. You spend most of your days crying, breaking down and regretting ending the relationship. Yet, at the same time, there’s a sense of relief that what’s done is done.
You know it’s for the best, and slowly, you try to adjust back to your life before him.
Stage Seven: Baggage Claim
Welcome home. Your flight has landed, and now, you wait at baggage claim to pick up your luggage.
As always, you’re slightly nervous, wondering if your bags got lost, but eventually, you see them, grab them and go. Just like that, your trip has officially come to an end.
It’s been a few weeks now and you relapse more often than not. Trying to go back to normal seemed easy, and yet, you find yourself going through old texts and photos, looking back at what you had.
Literal baggage is easy to pick up but emotional baggage is a whole different story.
Here’s the cold truth: A vacation only lasts so long, and after awhile, you have to return to reality. Relationships work the same way. Yes, you were in love; yes, he was once your everything, but the truth is, it ended.
The only thing holding you back is the emotional baggage you choose to lug around with you.
The Next Trip
It’s a few months later, and now, you’re planning a ski trip in the mountains. While you happily look back at your past trips, you’re more focused on what you’re planning now.
Your bikinis and sundresses have long been packed away, and instead, you have a new set of plans — a whole new wardrobe to pack and a whole new set of expectations.
Take a cue from your trip planning and realize the only way to move forward is to leave things behind. There’s nothing wrong with looking back on past relationships fondly, but that’s exactly where they belong — in the past.
Just like how you wouldn’t pack sundresses for a trip to the Alps, leave behind past expectations, arguments and insecurities when you’re going into a new relationship.
Instead, focus on the new person and the possibility of creating new memories and experiences together.