Although no one has asked me to do so, I kind of feel as though I need to offer up some advice of how to deal with the breakdown of a long term relationship.
For those that follow my writing, you will know that coming up to 2 years ago now, I ended my almost 20 year relationship.
I was married for 13 of those years.
To walk away from that, was scary and heartbreaking.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
So today, I want to talk about the things that you will experience as a result of leaving a long term relationship, and the things that have helped keep me afloat:
1. DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET – The night before my ex-husband moved out, I was full of fear, and consumed with a sadness like no other. I literally thought I would die. The next day, when he drove away from the house, I sat down and published an article to announce the separation. People were going to talk regardless, and I thought I would give myself the chance to get it out into the open, let people either rejoice, or empathise with me, and then move on with whatever else they liked to gossip about. People were going to talk. It’s what we do. Just rip it off like a bandaid, and get it out there however you choose to do it.
2. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE – You have three types of people in your life when you end a relationship. Those that find pleasure in your pain and will be there to console you, as it acts as a means to console themselves for their own unhappy lives that they do not have the courage to walk away from. Those that will avoid you like the plague, for so many reasons that I do not have the energy to go into. And your true friends. Out of these three, obviously, only the latter are the ones that you want around. Recognise who they are, and embrace them tightly.
3. ALLOW YOURSELF TIME TO GRIEVE – It was really hard in the beginning, and I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. I felt sorry for myself waking up alone each day. For going to bed alone each day. For eating most meals alone. I spent many days and nights feeling incredibly lonely and isolated. I drank a lot. I smoked a lot. I wrote a lot. I spoke to my friends a lot. I cried a lot. I wore pyjamas a lot. And you know what? It’s totally ok. And it will pass.
4. PROTECT YOURSELF – As I had no children with my ex-husband, there was no reason for anyone to stay in contact with me where it wasn’t necessary. At the same time, I also chose to block a whole bunch of people from my social media networks. The reasons behind why I did this were very simple. I had “mutual friends” that had clearly chosen a side. And I didn’t feel as though it was necessary to have these people stalking my social media purely to make speculations about what was now my life. I had my ex-husband phone me one day to say that a “mutual” friend had speculated that I was a lesbian because I only ever had pictures on social media with other women. If I was a lesbian, I would announce it proudly. However, it was a little more boring than that. I was just spending time with my girlfriends, and allowing myself to heal. If people are there to just consume their own boring lives with yours, make the decision to shut that shit down.
5. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – This can be anything that makes you uncomfortable. For me it was a few things. First up, I am a little shy. Second, I am stupidly unsure of myself. One thing I did was try to make new friends. The next thing I did was go on a couple of overseas trips on my own (to meet a friend), and several interstate trips. It was the most liberating thing I have ever done. I met so many interesting people along the way, and I showed myself that it was only my self-doubt that was limiting me in every way possible. It taught me what it means to look fear in the face, and say “I want this more than I’m afraid of you”.
6. CREATE NEW MEMORIES – This is a big one. In order to move forward in life, we need to create new memories. This can come from anything by the way. It can come from meeting a new person at the gym. Getting to know your local barista. Spending time with your siblings. With your friends. Seeing a different part of the world. Going on a road trip. Whatever it takes to create new memories, do it. You will be pleasantly surprised how much this helps.
7. TALK IT OUT – Confide in a friend. A family member. A counsellor. Journal. Get it all out. Talk and write until you can’t talk or write anymore. And then talk and write some more. Purge yourself of all of the shit that weighs your heart down. After all – a problem shared, is a problem halved.
8. BE KIND TO YOURSELF – Know that you will go back to re-visit your past often. This is not a set-back. It is part of being a human being. Experience it, and then let it go. It is over. Move forward. And don’t beat yourself up over it.
9. SPOIL YOURSELF – I personally dedicated at least one day every two weeks to getting a massage. It made me feel good. And I’m all about doing whatever it takes to get you to where you need to go. And a massage is all it took for me. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel good.
10. DO WHAT YOU WANT – Do you want to sleep in until lunchtime on the weekend? Do you want to do a cooking course? Do you want to learn a new language? Do you want to travel the world? Do it. Do what YOU want.
11. GIFT YOURSELF THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE – I don’t know why I put this down as the second last thing on my list. If it were a ranking system in which I wrote this article, this would be the number one thing on my list. Give yourself the gift of knowing who you are on your own. This is the most important thing. You need to know what it’s like to be alone. Yes, at times, it can feel lonely. But that’s no excuse to settle for something less than what you deserve, purely on account of not wanting to be alone. Learn to love who you are on your own. For me, I gave myself the gift of being alone for exactly one year. And at the end of that year, I had finally learned to love myself. It is not devoid of days of totally hating myself, but as a whole, I really do love myself. And I continue to (mostly) love myself.
12. TRUST – You won’t always feel this way. It seriously gets better. Trust that everything is going to work out for the best. Even if it takes a little bit of time to get there.
So I’ve decided to title this article “12 things”.
As there are 12 different things that I feel as though have been important to me in my journey of healing myself.
My Mum always said to me during my rebellious teenage years that “life doesn’t come with a book of instructions” – and it seriously doesn’t.
You don’t get taught anything in school that teaches you how to deal with what life sometimes throws at you.
So this article, is for those that need guidance on what it looks like to end a long relationship.
Or my experience of it at least.
On the flip-side, know that by walking away, you are making space for something so much more beautiful than you could have ever imagined to take it’s place.
Today, as I often do, I leave you with a quote; from the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert.
“Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing”.