Our anonymous contributor writes about learning to love herself, and then starting a new relationship, after her marriage ended…[restrict]
There are more final moments than you might think when ending a relationship. The last time your blood boils when you think of them. Your last interactions and calls, unless you have children and will be forever in each other’s lives. Your last moments that come long after the ink is dry on your divorce settlement, when you reminisce about the happy times as the loneliness of reality sinks in.
My marriage ending came as a shock.
At a time when my career was blossoming I found myself coming back to an empty home, no one to say ‘well done’, no one to have eaten the leftovers in the fridge, which would have infuriated me at the time but was also quite comforting. No one there to bounce ideas off with, to hug and hold or even just plan a trip to the cinema with.
I was alone. I struggled to accept it and had fantasies involving grand gestures and declarations of love. They never came. My lawyer, having seen it all a thousand times, told me I could hold onto those ideas for a decade or accept the facts. I found it all excruciating but eventually acknowledged that being legally married to someone who has left you a long time ago was not God’s plan for my life.
A few months later, as if fate had decided my time in mourning was up, whilst taking selfies on Dun Laoghaire pier and laughing with friends, a gentleman appeared and offered to take our photo. Conversation ensued. He was English, well spoken, with a keen interest in horticulture and, seemingly, me. It felt disarming, a little too good to be true, and also as if life was gently nudging me forward.
We spent the night chatting as if we were the best of friends, and a week later went on a dream date. I felt as if this was the plan for my life. This was why I had gone through all the hardship to meet said gentleman so quickly after my marriage ended. It felt perfect, until it wasn’t.
After our ‘perfect’ date I didn’t hear from him for a week. The opposite of love isn’t anger, it’s actually indifference. My emotions were playing ping pong in my mind. After 10 days in a hot rage I sent a message asking in what I thought was a flirtatious manner about a second encounter.
He rang that night and said he wasn’t actually looking for anything and felt I had a lot on my plate.
Humiliation poured through me and the comedown from the endorphins was horrible.
How had I turned something so small into something so painful?
Old coping mechanisms returned; too much sugar, a tendency to bake far more frequently, especially given I had an empty house, and I realised that wherever you go, you’ll take yourself with you and in the magnetic and infuriating dance of life you will find yourself back facing your own shortcomings.
They may look different or have a different name but if there’s an issue in all of your relationships, you’re the common denominator.
I had a deep sense of knowing that there was a design underneath it all and that life was forcing me to face something I had run away from for a long time. For me it was the insecurity. That feeling that I couldn’t build a life, a real life with a bricks and mortar home, life insurance, serious stuff that showed that to institutions you mattered, without a man.
I projected fantasies of responsibility and emotional intelligence onto the men in my life despite them not showing much actual proof.
Life wanted me to stand on my own two feet, alone, and I begrudgingly accepted it. I poured myself into my career, began speaking to a therapist weekly and went to OA for my sugar compulsion.
Addictions feed on isolation and I knew the only way out of what could become a dark place was to reach out to people. I filled lonely weekends with anything I could possibly do to connect and pull myself out of my comfort zone. The sadness was unbearable but I came to realise that as wonderful as relationships are, having a single period of time in your thirties or forties and beyond can be incredibly productive. Your weekends are not filled with seeing their family or friends and time can be filled with project you.
What books do I want to read? What do I want to learn? Where do I want to go? What kind of food do I like eating ? What kind of a life do I dream of building?
Dating myself proved interesting. I found I was happy with simple things and not the high maintenance type those unable to love me had claimed I was. I saw my own shortcomings, my inability to understand my taxes, but also saw that I was a kind and loyal friend and a reliable worker. I learnt I was good at saving money, and competent in my work, without the emotional drain of trying to make a damaged relationship function.
A year on one pandemic Friday night, with a glass of rosé in hand, I joined a dating app. It’s what everyone does nowadays but with my inherent introversion I found the process excruciating. I kept it simple. A recent unfiltered photo, a simple honest bio… and I drank my wine.
Having been through so much and also realising I liked my own company the idea of a relationship was like an accessory, the icing on the cake. Unless it was going to be pretty fantastic, I didn’t need it. For the first time in my life I had the self-esteem to know I deserved something and someone special.
Unless I honestly could see myself wanting to get to know someone I didn’t swipe left. I didn’t try to rationalise, I didn’t ask anyone else’s opinions and avoided men who had that glint in their eye that makes me nervous.
Within a week our profiles matched.
He was gorgeous, he seemed kind, he had a job he enjoyed and messaged every day for a month before asking me would I like to meet for a drink. It was a matter that required patience. The old me would have thought he was unassertive. Current me felt if it was for me it wouldn’t pass me and I calmly replied.
Walking to our first date thankfully during a brief opening of bars during the summer, a surreal feeling came over me. I felt that nervous excitement. Life was again nudging me forward. God’s delays had not been God’s denials. Happiness was there for me, it had just paused for a while to allow me the focus to excavate what had held me back.
I saw him and it felt like coming home. I showed up as myself. Not the cool girl I thought I should be, but quirky me who likes to be in control of quite a lot of things, but also has a sense of fun.
If I didn’t understand something I asked him to explain it. I was honest about my marriage ending but didn’t go into details. I asked him about his relationships.
We met for pandemic appropriate walks, briefly went to a gallery with masks on and soon relaxed into gin and tonics and Netflix taking up most of our weekends. The old insecure me would have claimed this was too domestic. The new me, comfortable in herself, loved it.
Love came back in when it was ready and I realised that had I had an ounce of distraction or temptation during the year between my marriage ending and moving on I would have taken it.
Doing the work on myself took me to unpleasant places and felt like it was chasing me, redefining who I am. Was I not happy every second of my childhood? Of course not, but it’s not nice to remember unpleasant memories or to realise how much impact things that are simple upon reflection have had.
My only regret about my relationship with my ex-husband, who has since also moved on, is the hurt we caused each other. I don’t regret our time or our parting. In losing him, and what I thought I would be defined by for the rest of my life, I found myself and I am grateful for the lessons.
I now allow myself to get high off loving text messages and hugs, but I also get high off the excitement of the life I built myself and that inner sense of power I never knew I had.
I don’t know what the future holds but I know that I can stand on my own two feet, have created a life I’m proud of, and can pay my accountant to figure out my taxes. Having love is simply the icing on the cake and it’s pretty blissful.