This is the title to one of the chapters in my book and I realized that it is one of the most important. Looking at the journey I have been on over the last five years, I see now that it was crucial for me to come to a point of feeling completely vulnerable and accept being alone in order to learn what I needed to learn. I had to break down in order to break open.
Once I had decided to end my marriage after years of dealing with the betrayal and heartbreak of infidelity, I was able to immediately find forgiveness. The pain didn’t go away, but the anger did. Three months after I had asked for the divorce, we took a family trip to my parent’s house in Ireland that we had already planned months prior. People thought we were crazy for still going, but it was important to me that our relationship remained cordial for the sake of the kids. My mother-in-law and one of her friends joined us and although it was strange that we never made mention of the divorce throughout the trip, it was a very healing experience for all of us.
We were having a great trip and a part of me wished things could be different. I knew he wanted this trip to fix everything and that somehow being together as a family in this beautiful country would change my mind about the divorce. Believe me, at times my heart wavered. Here was this man that I had loved for over 20 years, doing everything he could to keep our family together and my resolve to leave up until this point was unwavering. I still loved him. A part of me always will. I remember taking long walks along the cliffs of my father’s homestead praying for clarity. Asking God if I was doing the right thing. Wishing that I could get past all the hurt and pain he had caused me.
One morning before the kids and I were awake, he made breakfast and drove to the store down the road to get some orange juice. He must have been in a hurry to return before we got up, because he ended up crashing my parent’s car into a stone wall to avoid an oncoming truck. The look on his face when he finally returned was filled with shame and despair. You see, it was yet another example of him disappointing me…of disappointing himself. I quickly tried to make him feel better. After all, the roads in Ireland are so narrow and winding, that it was no surprise when there was an accident. I wasn’t mad or disappointed in him that he totaled the car, but it was another example of how he always managed to ruin everything good in our lives.
The one thing that did upset me was having to tell my parents he had wrecked the car they’d just bought and that he didn’t have the money to repay them. He was so successful on paper, but had a way of sabotaging himself personally and financially. He wasn’t able to truly experience joy and contentment. He worked so hard to be better and reach that next goal, but never felt like he was good enough. This story played on throughout our entire marriage in one form or the other. I realized that day, I was tired of trying to heal him. I spent my entire adult life supporting him and trying to love him, but he never felt worthy of love. I knew he cherished me, but the only way he knew how to show me love was to buy me things, which lead to enormous debt. I was completely unaware of the extent of it until we filed for divorce.
That incident, even though it wasn’t entirely his fault, jolted me back to all the times I saw that look of disappointment on his face. It reminded me of all the times when he had done something to hurt me or the family because of poor choices or lies he had to cover up.
That day I sat on my father’s bench overlooking the ocean in his backyard and cried, knowing that I couldn’t stay. Knowing that I was tired of all the pain he had caused and disappointments that I endured being with a man who couldn’t love me because he didn’t love himself.
That was the beginning of me breaking open. All these years later I am still breaking open. Bit by bit, I am learning to let go of the pain and view the healing as an experience to grow. It’s such a long process of recognizing that you still love a person you can no longer be with. I had to love myself more.
Otherwise, I would have still been in a marriage where I sacrificed my own happiness to heal another person’s wounds. I would have stayed. I would have tried to heal him for the rest of my life, but he did everything he could to push me away. Unconsciously, he sabotaged everything good in his life, but yet he loved me more than any man ever has…possibly more than any man ever will.
Sad as it is, I’m okay with that because I learned a lot about myself in the process. I now know that I don’t deserve to be with someone who mistreats me, because deep down they don’t like themselves. I no longer feel the need to fix someone to show them I love them. I know that I will find someone who is whole and can meet me where I am today and enjoy life instead of creating drama and turmoil. I want balance. I want true intimacy. I don’t need fancy things and expensive vacations to have someone prove they love me. I want their honesty. I want their heart. I won’t settle for anything less.
Breaking open and realizing my truth was the best gift he ever gave me. I will always love and respect him and I only hope that he can find true happiness for himself. This perspective allows me to let go of the bitterness and resentment and recognize that he did his best for me and the kids.
If you haven’t broken open yet, try. Not just for the sake of the kids, but for your sake as well. When you hold on to the anger, essentially you are pushing away your own joy and happiness. You can’t begin a healthy relationship holding on to the pain of a past love. It’s impossible. You will only find yourself living in fear that it will happen again. Release it. Only then can you move towards a balanced loving relationship. The relationship you deserve.