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The Break-Up That Made Candice Brathwaite

In the month of love, we asked some of our favourite writers to share their most painful but powerful lesson in love


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‘You know, I see the world in black and white and you see it in colour. Whilst I admire how open-minded you can be, the reality is, it just won’t work. There aren’t even Black people in the village that I come from; we work here. But we wouldn’t work anywhere else.’ He said sucking in the now cold air between his teeth.

We had been dating, on and off for a year. And although he didn’t introduce me to his friends as such (major red flag, run for the hills), and he would sporadically not want to hold my hand (attachment issues I lied to myself), we did everything couples are supposed to do. But now, in the middle of a damp children’s play area in a park, I was being broken up with because I didn’t fit into his next ten minutes yet alone his ten-year plan.

Folding my arms and making my way to the rusting iron gate, he called my name multiple times, but I never turned – or looked – back.

This isn’t to say that every relationship after that one was plain sailing, but that experience made me revaluate how I felt about myself, and take an in-depth look at how many relationships I had endured whilst always trying to make up for what I felt I wasn’t. When it came to romantic relationships, I had never ever put my own needs first. It was always about what I could be, or do, for the person I was with; never ever the other way around. So desperate I was to feel any sort of affection, I minimised my want list and just grew content with the mere idea that someone, anyone, actually paid me any attention. Outside the more nuanced issues like race relations and self-confidence, reflecting on the break up that made me also led me to realise how I had fallen, hook, line and sinker for the universal idea that finding a man who could be the default of what success looked like on paper, would mean that I wouldn’t have to jump over the very high hurdles that came with me wanting to be a success myself – not that this went down well with people I knew.

‘But he seemed like such a nice guy, secure and ready to settle down – are you sure there is nothing you can do to make it work?’ One family member asked after I recounted word for word how I was dumped, in a kiddie park no less.

I sighed. I couldn’t blame them. Like I, they had been repeatedly sold the idea that a man had to come along and save you. And when a half decent one came along, your sole job was to do everything in your power to keep him interested no matter what the effects are on your self-confidence or mental health.

Now I won’t lie, these lessons weren’t learnt in a day, not even a week, it took many years for me to unravel and work on the low self-esteem and lack of self-belief that became magnets for such ruinous and commitment phobic men in the first place. But man am I so happy to be here. That kind of break up was necessary for me to understand that I am worthy of the relationship I’m in now. It is stable and love-filled and, although it isn’t without its ups and downs, if one thing is true it’s that if I ever was made to feel how I did on that damp and chilly evening, I would run for the hills because now I know what love is supposed to look like.

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