It’s been a year. A whole year. Since my heart was broken for the very first time.
It was the thing I was most petrified of my whole life. Surrendering your heart to someone and having them break it, hand it back to you and walk away. Rejection. To be quite honest, that was likely a major reason why it took me 8 years to work up the courage to leave my ex in the first place. Heartbreak was something I was petrified of, how could I possibly do that to him, even if breaking up was the best thing for both of us?
This time last year, I was 34 and heartbroken. And to make matters worse, I live in the neighborhood he works. Ugh. Needless to say, it became complicated and mired. Humiliating. People expect a woman at my age to know what to do in a situation like this, to have already gone through heartbreak and to have learned how to do it gracefully. I didn’t. I’d never had that experience. Not to say that I’d never experienced hurt or rejection – I had many times during the course of my 8 year relationship as well, little hurts and indifferences and small cruelties that sting and break your heart slowly. But this was different. This time I had truly ‘fallen’ in love. It got messy. I didn’t understand ’no contact’ and why that’s integral to moving on with some dignity. In some ways it was like I was 16 in my heart, having my high school sweetheart break up with me and it felt like I would never recover.
I don’t know that I’m ready to talk about that relationship in great detail just yet. But I’m gonna try to unpack it, at least a little bit, because it’s the anniversary of us ending and that actually seems like something to celebrate. You see, he was an unavailable man. I warned you, I have done some very cringe-worthy shit. This is one of those things. I was the other woman.
Here’s the thing … I have always hated women who do what I did with him. We live in an incredibly misogynistic society where men in situations like these are judged, yes, but not nearly as harshly as the woman. The women are shamed. They’re labeled ‘that kind’ of girl. I never ever in a million years thought that I would be in that position, the other woman. I had always judged them with very little compassion. I should’ve known better. In my life every single time I judge someone for something they may have done and say ‘I’d NEVER do something like THAT’, God or the universe ends up putting me in a similar situation and basically goes ‘Oh really?’ Touché God. Touché. All I can truly say is that he (the unavailable guy) didn’t seem the type and I fell for what I thought was a man, very unhappy in his home who believed I was his ‘one’. His lobster if you will. He actually used that term … and my silly, hopeless romantic, anxious heart thought I’d also found my ‘one’, and my life made sense.
Yeah, even as I’m typing that I’m like good lord woman, how did you possibly think that? But to give you a little insight into me … well, I’m stubborn and I’m also the type of person who learns by touching the hot stove. Sometimes repeatedly. I don’t know things until I REALLY know them on a heart level, usually after I’ve experienced a great deal of pain. I wish I were the type that could learn from advice and trust those who are way smarter and wiser than me …sigh, nope. I’m also the type that likes to test theories and boundaries and I think perhaps I was testing the theory that you can find ‘the one’ anywhere and it might even be at the wrong time, but love conquers all, right? Again sigh, nope.
There were many other things … magical moments that transpired between him and I, strange things that seemed to draw us together, but those aren’t incredibly relevant anymore. You see, it’s taken me a full year (and the ending of another relationship) for me to finally start seeing things for what they were/are. A year later and I am finally able to begin processing what ACTUALLY happened and not the story my anxious, hopeful, blind heart was telling myself happened so that I could avoid the truth.
I’m realizing I chose him or was drawn to him because of low self esteem. Ugh. I feel … embarrassed to still be dealing with this at my age, but yet, this is where I am and the only way to get better is to face it right? I also chose him because my low self esteem meant I had very few boundaries in place. I craved love so much I was wiling to accept it in any form, believing if I love them so fully while overlooking these things that might be terrible, the other person will love me back the same way. I’d like to believe love is unconditional but I’m learning that’s not entirely true, not in healthy relationships. Not to say that you can’t love someone in spite of what they’ve done, good or bad. It’s about loving yourself enough to say if this isn’t good for me, even if I understand and can be compassionate as to why they’re doing this, I can’t be involved in it any longer.
A year later and I’m starting to finally see the things that were hidden deep down inside me, under layers of fluff and the bs I kept telling myself about why certain relationships didn’t work so I could avoid the truth … things that have kept me making poor choices for myself. Including choosing to stay in a relationship with an unavailable man for 10 months.
I was stuck in a loop of pain, anxiety and anguish and I didn’t understand why, didn’t see the correlations in all my relationships. Me. I’m the common denominator.
Not to say the men aren’t punks, cause some have certainly been. But I can’t change them right? I can change me though. And I can choose better for myself.
This whole loving yourself shit is tough … I truly thought I DID love myself, but my actions time and again have proven otherwise. It’s frustrating because in so many ways I’m 1000 times more confident than I have ever been – I’m fearless at work and in many areas of my life. But still, there’s something in this one area, the area of romantic relationships, that just spins me out and has (in the past) kept me in anguish, making poor choices and has left me feeling very bad about myself. I’m ready for that to stop.
Sometimes it is embarrassing to discuss rejection or feeling rejected. It’s even more embarrassing to say hey, yeah, I don’t know that I love myself that well. It feels like I should have conquered that by now, but this is my path and I’m figuring it out now. Better late than never right? It is what it is, as they say. Now it’s time to woman up, face the truth, be kind and compassionate to myself … and learn to love me well.
I promise soon I will write of the many fun things I’ve experienced on my journey. Dates on the backs of motorcycles and sunsets on nearly deserted beaches. It hasn’t all been heartbreak and anxiety. And I’m hopeful that there are many more fun things I will experience in my future, this time with a healthy understanding of my value and worth. All the yes.
So … I find myself one year after a traumatic break-up in a better place than ever before. Honestly. These were the lessons I needed. That guy … he wasn’t the one. He was a lesson, a gift. He was a mirror really. That pain and rejection and humiliation … well it truly has made me stronger and for that I truly am grateful. I’m growing up in the school of life and sometimes you gotta go through the tough stuff to understand who you were really meant to be. Refining by fire, right? I’ll get there. We all will.
Happy one year anniversary to the stronger, braver me. You made it.