It was Easter last year, 2014, when I finally admitted to myself and to my ex-husband that our marriage had long been dead.
We were at the dining table of my new flat–one I had moved into without him–and, after much hemming, hawing, and hesitation, we finally said the words that needed to be said: “It’s over.”
The words came out quickly–like that final pound that seals the nail on the coffin. The words stung before they were even said, and they stung even more in the few crucial, silent seconds after they were uttered. But once they had been released into the air–vibration turning into active energy; intention turning into decision–the words became a symbol of liberation.
The marriage certainly was, but my life wasn’t. In fact, a new chapter–nay, a completely new book–was just about to written.
* * *
Ending a marriage or any long-term relationship, and learning to start all over again, is never easy. Moments of euphoria and sudden relief will sometimes be replaced–just as suddenly–by moments of intense loneliness and self-doubt. You know with all your heart and soul that it was the right thing to do, but you also wonder if you’ll ever be able to completely trust anyone else again. You know that you’re a wonderful person and that you deserve better (much, MUCH better), but you also wonder if anyone else will ever see the real you, and accept and love you completely for (and despite of) it–wounds and baggage and issues included. You’re grateful but your fearful; you’re excited but you’re scared.
Here are some of the things I learned through that year of intense self-reflection, self-discovery, and self-liberation. I hope that, whatever you’re going through in life right now, these words may offer some hints of that silver lining behind the clouds.
1. The death of “us” can mean the rebirth of “me.” The time, space, and energy you once devoted to being in an intimate relationship with another person can now be used for more intimate time, space, and energy your Self. It is a time when you discover who you are again–sans your partner and his/her many likes and dislikes. It can be as simple as knowing what you really like to do with your downtime, where you really want to go on Friday nights and weekends, what food you really enjoy eating by yourself, and so on. It can also be as profound as resurrecting long-buried dreams and goals because, suddenly, you have the space to think and decide for just yourself yet again.
In my case, I resurrected my plans of applying for scholarships for a master’s degree abroad. I had long dreamed of studying again and gaining exposure in another part of the world, but my marriage kept me anchored to my current location. Now, however, geography is no longer an issue, and I’m actively pursuing one particular option that has opened its doors to me. (Whether I get it or not has yet to be determined, but I’m glad I at least gave myself permission to explore that option.)
2. The death of your old routine can mean the formation of a new, healthier one. When your life is hit by a giant earthquake (as break-ups tend to feel like), the morning after finds you discarding the pieces that you can no longer use, to make way for new things and habits that will help you rebuild stronger, healthier foundations for yourself and your desired future.
In my case, it meant getting up from my arse and getting fit again. It meant discarding my negative self-image and negative self-talk, and being more loving to and respectful of myself. It meant having more time for meditation and wellness, and being around positive people and with my best friends. It meant more resources for savings and investments. I started with baby steps that I could easily fit into my life, until I just woke up one day and realized that I had completely overhauled my routine and lifestyle without feeling any stress.
(My post-break-up routine helped me lose a total of 40 lbs. in five months. Read the weight-loss journey I shared in Rappler.com.)
3. The death of an old life means you’ll need to bury some parts of your old self along with it. “Say goodbye to the person you used to be in that relationship; you no longer need her.” That was one of the hardest-hitting pieces of advice that my therapist gave me in those crucial post-break-up therapy sessions. And it wasn’t easy. It meant confronting deeply ingrained thought patterns, habits, and behaviors, and working–one gentle day at a time–to let them go. For me, that meant ignoring the need to “take care of” and “enable” someone else who should be able to take care of himself. It meant resisting the urge to feel guilty whenever I was doing something for my own good instead of someone else’s. It meant saying goodbye to old ways of thinking, feeling, and doing, and summoning the courage to do a lot of inner work.
4. The death of an old partnership means burying old ideas and assumptions about the way relationships are “supposed to” work. If, like me, you still believe in love, then you’ll know that the death of an old partnership means space for new connections to blossom. However, it also means discarding old notions and assumptions that you may have carried over from your previous relationship/s. Take note: that new person in front of you is NOT your ex (thank goodness), so do be respectful and don’t treat him (or her) as such. This means unlearning and relearning a lot of things about other people, and letting go of any remnants of “what used to be.” Treat every connection as a fresh experience, and give yourself and the other person enough time and space to discover yourselves and each other. Be mindful of old patterns and cycles that you may be perpetuating from your old life, and remember to break free from ideas and habits that may be detrimental to you (and any potential relationships) later on.
5. Death and life are part of a cycle. You just have to learn to do better the next time around, each time. Whatever your faith may be (or even if you’re agnostic or an atheist), there will be many times throughout your life when the cycle of death and life will present itself to you. Relationships (even just friendships) will come and go, just as jobs and businesses will. At many points in your life, you will be confronted with loss and confusion, but also with the opportunity to resurrect yourself and start all over again. When this happens, know that it’s never truly the end. You always have a choice–no matter how dire your circumstances may seem to be–and you can always pick yourself back up and build even stronger foundations the next time around. The important thing is to learn well from the lessons of the past, bury the old and what no longer serves you, and welcome change with a positive attitude.
* * *
The best lesson that Easter brings us is that death is always accompanied by new life, in one way or another. That said, I’m also marking this day as the last time I’ll be writing about my former relationship because, really, there’s so much more to life than dwelling on the past–even if the past does offer many valuable lessons. And there is so much more to my life now than my immediate past–so much more to share and write about than my wounds and how I’ve been healing from there.
As someone near and dear to me reminded me recently, “You have to stop using the [‘I came from an 11-year relationship that sucked’] card… Here’s another card you can use: ‘I just came from an 11-year relationship… What’s next?'”
New life, definitely. And happier stories to write. 🙂