During my separation and eventual divorce, I exclaimed I would never love again. (Though I very much hoped I would).
For a year I was, to put it bluntly, a train wreck. I went out frequently. I drank a lot. I took on various lovers. I “fell in love”, i.e. became infatuated or overly attached a few times. They progressed differently. All ending in rejection.
One I slept with, hopes soaring, only to be ghosted. Another one I never had feelings and advances returned and months later the quasi-friendship fizzled out. Yet another one, I even dated for a month. He brought me flu medicine and after he left, I texted him to make plans when I felt better. He called me right away to break it off.
I also did some rejecting of my own.
I was startlingly unknown to myself still. I set out to date and possibly sleep with guys in all different shapes, shades, and personalities. Maybe I was trying to figure out who I was by trying others on?
By May ’16, I had had enough of dating and casual sex and swore it all off indefinitely. I started a new job at this time.
Over the next couple of months, I got acquainted with the company interns. One in particular, was quiet and shy. He wore skinny jeans and cuffed his short sleeves.
In late June, at a company mixer, I found out he had recently turned 21. Shit. Though I thought he was cute, he was much too young. I gave up on pursuing him but over the remaining summer, we started to talk frequently and became friends. We often lost track of time by way of long and sometimes deeply personal conversations. He didn’t make my heart flutter but he sure warmed it.
Our eyes would linger sometimes. He wasn’t someone I usually fell for. Despite his age, he is mature and responsible. He is stable and sweet. Engaging. He enjoyed my company and I his.
In August, full of liquid courage and at yet another company mixer, we crossed into romantic territory.
The first three months were thrilling and terrifying. I assumed he’d get bored of me after two weeks. (He thought the same of me.)
By the second or third month, we were discussing serious topics which took us both by surprise. November we moved in together. April, we were engaged.
A happy occasion which set in motion a six-month long bout of depression.
I felt angry all of the time. I went back and forth between wanting to be with Ian and wanting to end it. I did it so much that even I got sick of my indecisiveness. My co-dependency was kicking into overdrive the more he withdrew.
We started growing apart.
Mid bout, I came across an article by Dr. Henry Cloud. It all suddenly made sense.
That train wreck year of mine wasn’t me trying new things and having fun but me avoiding the healing process for my divorce. Unknowingly, I was carrying around suitcases full of guilt, shame, hurt, grief, and fear.
Before, I had triumphantly and smugly thought that I was way over my ex. But I had never let myself grieve for the whole person. I only acknowledged the parts that hurt me. My pride didn’t let me acknowledge the complete person and good qualities that, to my dismay, I missed. I contributed to our unhappiness and toxicity and I also had to assume full accountability for my part.
My crushing guilt came from feeling as if I had moved on too soon. I felt as if I didn’t deserve to be happy yet. I felt like a cliché having discarded my first husband and moving on to a younger man.
After reading the article and doing some soul searching I knew I had to let myself grieve and I had to forgive myself.
I also took time out and questioned why I was with Ian and why I wanted to marry him.
My intention was to stay single for at least a few years. But Ian and I became friends and it just progressed naturally. Turns out, he is someone I have always longed for and we complement one another well. Most importantly, I trust him. When it is “all hands on deck”, our little ship sails smoothly and beautifully.
We still had a few rough months after this. We were both very hurt and distant. Ian was cold and resentful of my indecisiveness. I felt abandoned by his withdrawal.
With time, though, we found our way back to one another. We gathered our courage and poured our hearts out, agreeing to start with a clean slate.
We haven’t looked back.
We still have disagreements and we always will but we explain ourselves now. We get to the root, discuss what one of us did or said that was not healthy, and we find ways to fix it then and there. We are committed to the long haul. I am committed to the long haul.
By letting myself grieve the end of my marriage and for the person I had known for ten years, I was healing and strengthening my heart to love again. And to love them with a healthier and more mature heart.
It’s okay that I still love my ex. Once we’ve loved, I don’t think it ever goes away. We may think we hate them but I think the hate is really only hurt and disappointment.
All of this is okay.
By acknowledging the pain from lost love and agreeing to grieve, forgive, and let go, our hearts and emotions will heal much quicker. This process will fortify us and allow us the ability to truly love, not only someone else, but ourselves as well.