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He Left, But I Will Not Give Up On Myself

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. “ ~Brené Brown

He just left our home.

After eighteen years together, fifteen of them being married, he left as we had planned, as we had gently and lovingly discussed.

We are on a break, a trial separation. What you hear about separation and divorce is all so achingly true. It feels like a death, a chasm where all the worst feelings imaginable pile in on you, where you can’t quite breathe right.

The pain is visceral—like someone sliced right through your core, the heartache deep enough to make the bones ache, the weariness that makes your head feel heavy and weighted, the primal twists in your gut that cannot be fully appreciated until they are forced upon you unexpectedly.

My eyes are completely dried out and sore, begging for a reprieve from the ocean of tears.

I did not see this coming. I wasn’t blindsided completely, as there have been whispers and ghosts of unpleasant truths that had been squashed down for years: all those inner, intimate workings of a marriage that didn’t always flow smoothly, undetectable to the outside world. The ebbs and flows, the dark thoughts that sprout up on a sleepless night, a human experience in all its shared, bumpy glory.

Through all that, there was purity and goodness, what makes a marriage so rewarding and rich: a deeply rooted friendship, strong as anything I have ever felt with someone in my life. I was connected, heard, understood.

I had a witness to my life’s journey in all its madness, monotony, and triumph. My person. My love. The person who got it without having to say a word. That steady presence even when we were physically apart. I felt secure and safe, and my feet were firmly planted on the ground.

So much time, so much history, so much togetherness feels like it has been wiped out in the span of a few months. It disappeared up in smoke with only the ashes to remain. I am untethered, rudderless, a sail desperately trying to right itself in the tempest.

There is no faultfinding, no hatred, just a crushing sadness with a generous dose of regret. Regret for all the times we didn’t tune into each other or communicate when things urgently needed to be said and handled with proper care. Care that would heal wounds instead of allowing them to fester.

Regret for retreating into our respective corners and hiding, survival skills carried over from tumultuous childhoods. We landed in the gray area of life where feelings subtly shift over time and don’t course correct in healthy ways.

That dreaded place where human emotions get murky, cloudy, and raw, allowing vulnerability and disconnect to cause you to do things you never thought you would. In turn, you make futile efforts for control when there is none. You don’t want to let go but you must. Your hands are too raw and bloody from the struggle to hang on for dear life. I know what it means to surrender now.

It is gone. I am unsure it will ever be back. If it comes back, I hope it is stronger and more lovingly powerful than before, impenetrable from any slings and arrows that may try to dent and poison it. We will nourish and nurture it to make it right, whole, solid—not let it wither away so easily on the vine.

I won’t mind the battle scars, as they will serve to remind me of what we can endure, how we cope, how we survive, and what loss really feels like in your soul. It will remind me to cherish the feeling of home, the safe haven of togetherness. We will mourn the death of our old marriage and pave a path for a new one that is healing, bright, and hopeful, permanently altered for the better.

Right now, I am alone, terrified, vulnerable, standing on the edge of an abyss. All I have is myself, and I have to believe that I am enough. My mantra is “I will get through this,” and I repeat it often. It comforts me sometimes.

I know there are things I didn’t want to acknowledge about myself: I became complacent, didn’t take full advantage of my days of freedom, chose the easy way out on many occasions, ignored my creative leanings, and became more dependent than I would ever care to admit.

I numbed myself with monotony, allowing seemingly benign things from the past to insidiously take root and work their way to the surface, infecting everything in its path.

Now it is all there, right in front of me, not so much taunting me but in my face, reminding me I have some work to do. Life lessons that need to be understood and imbibed to my core so I don’t keep repeating them. Not to put myself in such a place of insecurity ever again. I must own all of this, my part. Digest it painfully and slowly but knowing it will fortify me in the future.

Where will I be in six months, a year? How will this unfold? Will I make hugely gratifying changes that smooth everything over? Will he? Will I take this time to get back to myself? Will I be all too human and fail miserably? Will I numb myself yet again to all of this? Maybe. Maybe not. It is unknowable right now.

I know what I will be doing every day until the answers come. And they will come whether I like them or not. I will get up each morning. I will take care of my body and mind. I will shower, wash my hair, put on makeup, and get dressed.

I will face the days, whether they feel short and uneventful or impossibly long, full of loneliness, despair, and isolation. I will cry until I feel depleted and then cry again. I will not sleep well. My stomach will feel like someone is gripping it tightly in their fist.

But I will take long walks, and inhale clean, fresh air. I will try to eat well, be kind to myself, stay open, soft, and not wear bitterness like a mask or feel my chest constrict with impotent rage. I will remember that it is okay to be afraid. I will reach out to people when I need to and be alone when I need to.

I will try to laugh every day and remember all the good things I have. I will drink red wine and dance spontaneously to remind myself I am alive in this body. I will not give up on myself, though I will want to. I will not break even though I am fragile as fine china. I will throw many balls in the air and see if one lands on a treasured feeling of possibility.

I will let this exquisite pain be my greatest teacher. I will give it time—that magical elixir that taunts and teases on its own schedule. I will become the woman I know I am deep inside, even though she got lost along the way—the woman of my dreams, who is capable and strong. It has been eighteen years of building one life, and now I will begin building a new one.

The most important thing I have learned through this period of profound change is that you need to show up for yourself—always. To be your own champion and best friend. To know with absolute certainty that you are the only person you can count on in order to move forward and build the life of your dreams, with or without someone else. And knowing that is worth everything.

About Rachel McNamara

Rachel McNamara is a Registered Nurse and Certified Health Coach with a passion for all things related to wellness, health and fitness. She just purchased her first essential oil diffuser and is beyond excited. She is also obsessed with (in no particular order) skincare, Bravo TV, red wine and podcasts. Find her on Instagram at@rachelmcnamara8053 rmmhealth.net.

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  • Sharon

    Your words have expressed the pain of my divorce after a 20 year marriage. I thought the excruciating pain was only mine. Thank you for sharing. And just know that after 5 years (for me), the pain becomes whispers rather than shouts. Much easier to handle. Sharon

  • Livelife364

    Hi Rachel
    Thank you for the wonderfully honest article. I’m a 50 year old male who got divorced 4 years ago. And, while it was tough, it was the best thing that happened to me. I was in a relationship that had grown apart and had become very stale (nobody’s fault, that’s just the way it was). I had gone into the relationship with a lot of baggage, and I didn’t address these issues. But most of all I settled. I dimmed my Light, and gave up on who I was, even though my Soul was constantly telling me that this is not who I am. So I believe that the divorce was no accident. It was meant to be so I could free both myself and my ex wife. I have learnt an enormous amount about myself after the divorce, more than in a whole lifetime before that. You will come out of this much stronger than you ever thought possible. It’s actually liberating, and your whole perspective will change. You have a wonderful chance to fully accept and love your beautiful Self, and not be dependent on somebody else for your happiness. That never works, because the goal posts keep shifting. Loving our Selves is one of the best and most honest things we can do (also often one of the hardest). All the best on your journey.
    Gunter

  • Dan Lewark Sr

    Thank you For sharing your story.
    I have been there too . it’s been a littler while but reading your story helps to reinforce mine. I will save it cause sometimes you just need a booster shot to keep you on track. Lol it’s a process as you said .
    It’s takes courage Share like this and I am so happy you did . You have a beautiful heart .

  • livelife0101

    So beautifully written. I agree with the comments below in that you will now grow more in the next 1-2 years than you probably have in the past 10! Keep up your great work, and you should be SO VERY PROUD of yourself!

  • Stephanie

    Reading your post today was a synchronicity. Just a week ago, my husband of 12 years, sat next to me in bed and told me he wanted a trial separation. It felt like an avalanche was collapsing on every bone and organ in my body. Though we intend to stay together to work through our issues, the last week has been achingly sorrowful. I am losing my vision to a rare disorder that I developed a few years earlier and have several mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc). I felt alone. And then your post showed up today. The timing was perfect. Please know your post has touched me and reading these comments has filled me with…comfort? You will be fine. I will be fine. All will be well.

  • deedee

    Fantastic article and one that I will read often. You hit everything right on the head!

  • Casandra

    Rachel, I cannot explain how relieved I am to find someone who is going through exactly the same thing I am. My separation from my husband has been so incredibly painful and I have been struggling with trying to live my life and find forgiveness for several months now. I am so fixated on trying to fix things that I am losing myself all over again. Nothing is more painful than starting over when all you know is your partner. I would love to hear how your story turns out. Sending you love and strength.

  • Rachel

    Sharon, thank you for your kind words. As much as I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, it always helps to know you are not alone in your struggles. My very best to you. Rachel

  • Rachel

    Casandra, thank you for sharing and for your kind words. Please hang in there. Beautiful things will come from this pain–I promise you. I also tell myself that everything is temporary–feelings, situations, etc–when it becomes overwhelming. You will be okay, even better than before. Sending you back love and strength as well.

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for your kind words. It is so appreciated.

  • Rachel

    Stephanie,
    I hope my words did offer you some comfort. Please know you are not alone. You are absolutely right–we will both be fine, I have no doubt in my mind. Take great care of yourself with gentle kindness as you navigate this time in your life. I will be thinking of you and wishing you peace and strength.

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much and I hope you are right. Greatly appreciated.

  • Rachel

    Thank you very much. It is really hard to be open and vulnerable but I think that is where all the good stuff happens too. I hope my words brought you peace and comfort as well.

  • Rachel

    Gunter,

    Your words are so insightful and healing. I completely agree you and I am so happy you are in a much better place in your life. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself and the learning never ends. Thank you for sharing your story and for your kindness. I wish you the very best.

  • Ll Dd

    Thanks for sharing such honest, intimate thoughts Rachel, that takes a tremendous amount of strength. Your life is just beginning, I promise!

  • Pru

    My husband and best friend left me for another a few months ago. We were having a tough time – in the trenches of parenting small children. Is it all the more difficult when they leave because the love another? I still love him deeply and do not wish to run away from my problems. I am slowly coming though the begging and constant crying phase. I need to find a way forward for myself and my beautiful children. Thank you for your words today. I am learning to let go and look within for my happiness.

  • Genevieve Decosterd Kerhuel

    Thanks for this beautiful article. My husband, best friend, died in a mountain accident 4 years ago. He left in the morning, didn’t come back in the evening. I felt exactly the same as you describe, except it was so sudden. I’m still learning to be my own support, to care for myself even if I am alone. I have friends but find myself quite lonely at times, without that constant support that my husband was for me even when we were apart. Any thought on “being your own support” would be welcome, thanks!!

  • Cate

    I’m sending warmth and encouragement as you go through this difficult experience, which is relatable for so many of us. This hardly sounds consoling, but we are ALWAYS rudderless, adrift, at the edge of the abyss. There’s never anything solid to hang onto (even if it may seem otherwise). That’s a huge reason break-ups feel so disruptive and difficult at our very core: We are losing an illusion of stability, security and fixed identity, as well as a friend and partner we loved. Confronting the former is at least as difficult as the latter. From Rilke: “Let everything happen to you — beauty and terror. Just keep going; no feeling is final.”

  • Rachel

    Cate,
    You are completely right and your words are very consoling. When we are in the eye of a storm, it’s hard to remember that it really is all an illusion of security and stability. Life will have its way with us no matter what and it’s always a good choice to lean into it rather than fighting that which cannot be controlled. The only guarantee in life is impermanence. Thank you for your wise words, I will remember them.

  • Rachel

    Thank you for sharing your story. My heart aches for your loss and I think you are a warrior (whether you feel that way or not). Being your own support system can come in many forms but the core is to love yourself no matter what and to not give up even when it is so, so tempting. I am sending you peace and strength as you continue on your journey. Even though you may feel alone at times, you are not–I promise you.

  • Cate

    Life certainly will have its way with us, Rachel, no matter how we may wish otherwise. You sound wise and strong, though certainly you won’t always feel that way. Please remember that self-doubt and regret are normal during such an experience, and are just thoughts like any other, not some sort of epic truth. (Our hurting minds want so much to create a “solid” narrative — even a painful one — to replace the “solid” thing lost. Sigh.) Metta to you, friend.

  • Rachel

    Pru,
    You are handling an incredibly difficult situation to the best of your ability. Healing can be excruciatingly slow and painful, sometimes you literally have to take it hour by hour. One day you will see so clearly how capable, resilient and strong you really are and so will your children. Please take good care of yourself–you are a beautiful and worthy soul. Your world will right itself again one day–this will not last forever. You will find your way– just keep going. Sending you strength and love.

  • Sam Calleja

    I absolutely love this article so raw honest emotional and hearlfelt to read in the last 18months my brother has committed suicide and my partner of 15 years has asked to seperate whilst our relationship has had its challenges I believe she was my best friend knowing almost everything me and what makes me tick but as stated we had grown along with loss is the time away in the future months from my 7 year old son as I never met my father being one is something I cherish .but I know through all the impacting changes through reading this and other relevant tiny Buddha articles there is light through strength courage resilience and self care thank you

  • Shauntay Vichelle Larkins

    I read this not expecting it to resonate as much as I’ve been broken up from my 15 yr relationship for 6 yrs now. But it did. And here I am…

  • Mike

    Great piece, thank you. In my own case, when I thought that the love of my life had gone – which I think was true – only discovering that actually they were not the love of your life forever but only for a time – and then working to be at peace and ok with that. I saw an interesting talk on TED only last night called “How to fix a broken heart” – it felt it had some interesting points which you and others may also find positive and helpful. http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_how_to_fix_a_broken_heart?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2018-02-10&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_content=talk_of_the_week_image

  • Hoos

    Nothing is ever “meant to be”, and nothing happens for a reason. Things just happen in life, and that is all. Life is random, and nothing is part of a greater plan. Some things work out and some simply don’t.

  • Alison Hilaire

    I don’t even have to read the entire article or all of the comments, because I know this feeling… too well. I’ve just been wondering since that: Was I looking for something I can’t have :”til death do us part” happy relationship but still with real life struggles? Because I don’t know the answer to that, I just stop looking for it.

  • Beli

    Rachel,
    I send you so much love and healing during this very difficult time. My ex and I separated 2 years ago after being together for 7 years. The pain was unbearable at times, everything hurt and I thought that I would never get through it. After coming to terms with it, I decided that I had to look inward and that this situation was happening for a reason. I decided to focus on me, follow my dreams and be authentically me. These past 2 years have honestly been the best years of my life. I have grown immensely, traveled, lived on my own, gone back to school, made new friends, changed careers and best of all my heart has finally healed. I know it is so difficult now, but I promise that you will get through it <3!