“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~Joseph Campbell
On top of the world at twenty-two.
That’s how I felt. I was twenty-two years old and in love for the first time. I couldn’t believe it.
I had come out of a lonely childhood and was beginning to find confidence as a young adult. I landed a secure job, bought my first car, and experienced a freedom I never felt before. Then this beautiful girl came along and took me to another level.
Little did I realize that just around the corner lay the numbness of loss, the feeling of helplessness, and sleepless nights as something magical just slipped away.
When we met, we hit it off straight away. She was kind, sincere, and very attractive. We laughed at the same things, and as we grew closer, stronger feelings soon developed.
Falling in love was exciting. We had great times and lots of laughs. It’s hard to describe, but we clicked immediately. After about six months, I plucked up the courage and proposed. She said yes, and suddenly marriage was on the horizon.
I spent all my savings on a ring, and we made plans for the future. People’s generosity overwhelmed us as we were adorned with engagement presents.
But as we organized the wedding, hints at secrets began to emerge. With little warning, plans crumbled. I spent night after night driving around in my car wondering what to do and how to cope.
Why did it go wrong?
It’s said that when you meet the “right person,” you’ll know. And we did … just know, or so we thought.
The catalyst turned out to be a friend of my fiancé. When the friend came from England on a visit, the tone of our relationship changed. I discovered that a marital affair had occurred between my fiancé and her friend’s husband long before I came on the scene.
Rather than lose her husband, my fiancé’s friend, with no knowledge of me, had come over to see if they could agree on an arrangement to live with the same man!
Now, I’m not old fashioned, but I was shocked. The offer didn’t attract my fiancé either, but it did change the atmosphere. For some reason I’ll never understand, my fiancé seemed to change. She became colder, and I obviously wondered if she still had feelings for this other man. We tried a few times to keep the relationship going, but it didn’t work.
It was a dark time of bitter recriminations and rumors.
Today I realize that the experience strengthened me. After a difficult eighteen months, I started developing a more positive sense that happier times could be ahead and that the future, the undiscovered country, could still hold excitement and happiness. We all have a choice to hold onto that belief or dwell in the past.
Love can cause pain, but it can heal pain too.
What we let it do is up to us. The following steps helped me through this painful period.
Surviving and Seizing The Future
1. Stay friendly, but give friendship time.
A split often results in one person hurting more than the other. Emotions are strong, and you’re feeling fragile, so it’s vital to avoid angry confrontations. Don’t try to convert the relationship into something else overnight. I tried a few times to rekindle a friendship with no success. It was obvious we needed to give each other space.
2. Don’t hide from favorite haunts.
As a couple, you probably frequented some places, and you’re avoiding those now to avoid the memories. Avoiding favorite places only creates conscious reminders and heightens the sense of loss.
Although difficult at the start, if you enjoyed particular cafes, cinemas, or beaches, don’t avoid them. Enjoy them, and create new memories. Although hard in the beginning, I continued to enjoy walking at a nearby lake, and eventually the reminiscing stopped.
3. Enjoy being a solo artist.
Separation can make you aware of how much you’re looking for happiness in other people. Take some time without a serious relationship and you’ll find yourself becoming more able to enjoy your own company.
As your self-confidence grows, your reliance on having a partner to enjoy good times diminishes. I enjoyed being single for over a year afterward, and this helped me in my recovery. It was better to let life unfold.
4. Keep the memories secure.
I regret destroying photographs from the time. Things happened, and burning pictures doesn’t change that. Store the photos away but somewhere safe (perhaps easier in the digital age—mind you they’re also easier to delete). When the time is right, go ahead and look because these were important times in your life, and you’ll want to revisit them sometime.
5. Let nature work.
As time passes, the hurt subsides naturally. You don’t need to do anything. No effort. No timetable. Just let nature take its course, and be sure in the knowledge that you will recover. Cry when you need too. (Yes, even if you’re a man!)
6. Keep an honest perspective.
It sounds like a harsh reality check, but if a relationship is not right for you, it’s not right for the other person, or vice versa. This realization will help you to come to terms with the situation and help you think about how the other person feels. Putting my fiancé first helped me realize she no longer wanted us to continue, and I came to terms with that.
7. Accept judgment.
People might judge you as you come out of a relationship. Don’t let people taking sides trouble you, and don’t feel you have to correct what they think. There will always be people who judge, but judgments only hurt us if we judge ourselves in response.
Instead of dwelling on what other people think, focus on finding peace within yourself and you will become stronger and more positive as a result.
8. Forgive and forget.
Never hold grudges or judge your ex-partner harshly if they were at fault. Nobody makes perfect decisions. It will be easier to forgive if you try to empathize with their situation.
My ex-fiancé came from a broken home, missing her father during her teen years. Perhaps she looked to others for love which led her to relationships that ultimately weren’t right for her. Most importantly though, when it comes to forgiving, start with yourself. Beating myself up only slowed down my recovery. It was only when I began showing compassion for myself that I could fully heal.
9. Look Into the future.
Think of all the possibilities that still await—new steps in your career, and new friends and experiences in life to enjoy. You often hear advice about focusing on the present moment. This is good advice, but during a relationship break-up, know that the present moment will pass. We both moved on and made a fresh start.
The above was a rollercoaster ride with emotions on a high and then an all-time low. You can continually cross-examine yourself and feel emotionally drained. Could I have handled things better? Was there another way?
Four years after my story, I met a truly wonderful person. My wife and soul mate. It put everything into perspective, and after eighteen happy years, we’re still madly in love.
As for my ex-fiancé, all I know is she is married with children and I hope very happy. You see, the end of one relationship might just mean moving closer to the beginning of a new one, and the right one. You never know when love strikes, so if you have lost recently, don’t give up, believe in yourself, and take each day one at a time.
Your soul mate is out there looking for you right now.
Broken heart image via Shutterstock