Day 5: In Chapter Three, “Your Life Will Be Different, But It Will Be Amazing,” I talk about how life can be beautiful again, even after unimaginable loss. Share a time when you faced unimaginable loss, and how you came to realize that you were ENOUGH to handle it.
Losing things in life is quite interesting. In the moment, you feel like the world is falling apart around you, and there’s no way that it could possibly get any better. In my blog post from Day Three of this challenge, I talked about the loss of a career that I had always envisioned for myself. I also touched briefly on the end of a relationship, and how that affected me. If anyone out there reading this has been following my blog over the last few years, you’ll know that I wrote in more detail about that specific relationship a few years back. However, I don’t read those early posts too often because they were written from a place of anger. A lot of it. It’s kind of like an old Facebook status – you’re not exactly proud of it, but it’s already said and done, so why take it back?
Anyway, back to my story about loss. More specifically, my story about a loss of love. I haven’t really talked much about this chapter of my life in recent years, mainly because it’s better left in the past. I’ve moved so far on from it that it doesn’t cross my mind often, but for the sake of being transparent, here it goes.
I met him on my eighteenth birthday. I was not in any way looking for a relationship then. I had plans to go to college and strictly stay focused on my studies. The last thing I wanted was any kind of distraction. However, my best friend at the time kept telling me about this guy she wanted to introduce me to, so I finally gave in. In all honesty, I actually avoided meeting him a time or two before we finally met that night on my birthday. I don’t remember much about that night, other than something about him telling me I had a beautiful smile, and my friend giving him my number. We made plans to go to a school dance a week or two later, and from then on, we were pretty much inseparable. It took me awhile to fully let my walls come down around him. To be honest, looking back, I’m not quite sure that I ever fully let them come down completely. Trusting people has never been easy for me, and it always takes a long time for me to let anyone in. That proved true with this relationship, but eventually, some of those walls did come down. We ended up dating for nearly seven years after that.
I learned a lot in those years. A lot about love, life, and myself. We moved in together about five years or so into our relationship. It was a mutual decision. We both wanted to make sure that we could handle living with each other before moving forward with an engagement and marriage. For the first year, it seemed like everything would go according to our plan. He had a stable career, I graduated college and started a decent job, and we experienced all the highs and lows of home ownership together. We were seriously discussing marriage. I had a ring picked out and a Pinterest board full of wedding ideas. However, in time, I think deep down we both knew that we had changed, but we just didn’t want to admit it. Not to ourselves and certainly not to each other. We attributed it to the stresses of adulting, so to speak. We went from being carefree young adults to suddenly being responsible for a mortgage, bills, the overall upkeep of a home, and working opposite shifts from each other. His job required him to work a lot of shift work, including nights, so I was home alone a lot. Probably too much, to be honest.
I started noticing that I would get frustrated with little things, like him not doing the dishes or putting his dirty laundry in the basket when it was clearly in his line of vision. Normal things that couples who live together argue slightly about. Yet, for me, I felt a stronger sense of agitation toward him and wasn’t sure why. He could sense it. Looking back, it was deep rooted unhappiness on my part that I deflected onto him, and that wasn’t fair. It’s no surprise that he started to withdraw from the relationship when all I did was push him away. Eventually, it got to a point where he would stay out late some nights, always choosing to be with his friends, instead of with me. Sometimes, I wouldn’t really know where he was, but I’m not sure that I really cared that much either.
We went on a cruise together about a year after we had moved in together. It was a belated birthday trip for us both. We fought the majority of the time. I mean seriously, we had the worst fight of our relationship to date at that time. Up until that point, we hadn’t really fought much because neither one of us liked confrontation or dealing with our emotions. It was completely unhealthy. That trip was the turning point of what would be a downward spiral of our relationship over the next few months. We got back from the trip and didn’t speak to each other for a few days. We lived together, but avoided each other at all costs. It was kind of brutal, and one of those moments when we truly realized that we were no longer the same two young kids that had fallen in love all those years earlier. That should’ve been a sign right there, but we both chose to ignore it. Prior to our trip, we had started looking at another house that we wanted to move into. So, after that trip, when we came real close to ending things, we didn’t. Sure enough, we stayed together and moved into the new house. That trip was in February. We moved in May, and by August, I was gone.
The fighting got worse after that trip. For whatever reason, we thought moving into a new house would somehow fix things, but it didn’t. We were both putting on a front to each other and to all of our family and friends. Eventually, I realized deep down that I wanted more out of life than he ever could’ve offered me. We were both just existing in a relationship that we had grown comfortable in, yet neither one of us really knew how to end it. It didn’t help that he had been somewhat unfaithful to me either. Word to the wise ladies: if he tells you not to worry and that she’s “just a friend,” don’t believe him. Trust your intuition. If he can lie to you with a straight face, then he isn’t the one.
Lo and behold, the fact that there was someone else was the last straw for me. I remember it was a night that he didn’t come home, and I had cried myself to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and decided that something needed to change. We couldn’t keep going on like this. Two days later, I told him my feelings through a letter because the words were too hard for me to say out loud. I sat on one end of the couch while he sat on the other reading it, and the tears just started streaming down his face. We both knew that was it. I left the next day. Two weeks later, I moved my stuff out for good.
I’d love to say that was fully the end of it, but it wasn’t. Not completely. I saw him one more time in October, and we talked seriously about working things out, but that didn’t happen. We kept in contact for about a year after that, which was stupid on my part because I knew better. He was on and off dating the “friend” that he had told me never to worry about, yet still telling me how much he loved me and missed me, behind her back. It was absolutely ridiculous, but I was young and dumb, and I thought I was in love. I realize now that people who truly love you will never hurt you like that.
That relationship left me feeling worthless, unloved, and just downright miserable for awhile. The end of it was pretty tough, and I eventually made the decision to go see a therapist a few months later. Mainly because that breakup stirred up a lot of emotional wounds from my parents’ divorce as a child that I had never fully dealt with. I had also grown accustomed to putting a lot of blame on myself for all of the things that had gone wrong in my life, so that was something that I really really struggled with. Fortunately for me, my therapist was an absolute Godsend, and she helped me work through it all tremendously over the next year and a half. Eventually, I learned forgiveness because I knew that I deserved peace.
Now, I often say that the relationship with my ex wasn’t necessarily a loss. Everything that that relationship taught me was a gain. It broke me, yes, but only for a moment. I picked up those pieces of my broken heart and made a much better life for myself than I ever could’ve imagined. That heartbreak was exactly what I needed to find my strength, even though I didn’t know it back then. I went to graduate school, moved away, started a great career, and found that I have a wanderlust heart. I realize now that I was never meant for settling.
But most importantly, I’ve found a happiness and love for myself and my life again.
And that is one of the most empowering things in the world.