The relationship I thought would last the rest of my life has very unexpectedly ended, and I am heartbroken.
The title for this was inspired by a song called ‘Shrike’ by one of my favourite musicians, Hozier. The first time I heard it was at one of his live concerts at the Apollo in London. It’s haunted me since, but it’s beautiful, about heartbreak and a metaphor for strength.
I need to be clear about something before you continue reading on – there were huge doubts about publishing this because I wasn’t sure about putting it out into the universe, terrified that if I shared this then any hope of things changing in the future would be ruined.
Then it dawned on me and I had to make the choice not to let blind hopes and things that I can’t control get in the way of decisions or my healing going forward. What is meant to be will be. The only thing I have control over now is me, and I have to make sure that I take good care of my heart and my head.
In 2019 I published a piece called ‘Relationship Status: Single’, which was the first time I’d really shared something very personal and started talking publicly about the split from my ex-husband. I remember how much my hands shook as I clicked ‘publish’, closed my laptop, hid and cried in my bedroom.
Back then I was a broken version of myself. Even though I am hurting now and find myself “alone” again, I write this as a stronger, happier and even more determined woman than I was 3 years ago. What came out of that day and that piece of writing was something beautiful. What will come out of this will be even more so.
I wrote a few more pieces after that about dating, and then I stopped. I stopped because I met someone who I began seeing seriously and who I fell in love with, and I didn’t want my life shrouded by all the misery and unhappiness I’d felt in the past. Fast-forward 2 years later and that relationship is now over.
Something I’ve learnt over the last couple of years is that all of the pain which I experienced prior to this forged me into who I am today. Instead of regretting decisions made, I channelled that into the realisation that had I not done those things and been through what I’d been through, then I would not be here and the person I am now.
Writing so honestly and being so open about my life has become part of who I am. It’s a tool that I’ve successfully used to help me learn, heal and grow. I also know that my words have helped many others work through their stuff, too. This is not only for my own personal journey but as a means to help others who struggle to find their own voice.
This is me taking my power back.
You can also do the work, heal and grow from difficult situations without making things ugly. Just as Buddha says, hanging on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It consumes you. It turns you into a bitter, hateful person with a closed heart and a closed mind. I don’t ever want this for myself and have learnt through other past relationships which were truly, truly awful, that this serves no purpose and only creates a void that you will never manage to fill and instead just make bigger.
I’m feeling my pain and working through it with the aim of getting out onto the other side without getting stuck and allowing it to consume me.
This is also not meant to hurt the person who has led me to this point. I still love him and will always love him. Even as that love changes over time, I will continue to respect him. He came into my life when I needed him the most, and our relationship was the healthiest one I’ve ever been in.
The greatest respect I could show that, and myself would be to make sure that this remains an equally healthy breakup.
I started writing this last week, over the course of two days abruptly waking up at 4 am on my side of the empty bed I shared with the man I’ve spent the last 2.5 years with.
Vivid dreams of him and us and everything in between swirled back and forth between the heartache and shock. I felt raw and empty, desperately needing something to help bring order and quietness to the chaos which my head and heart were heading for.
Almost a full week later I’m managing to sleep through the night with the help of sleeping pills, although I’m now waking up at 5 am instead of 4 am. The dreams of him are still there but I suspect this will take some time to settle. Last night we were slow dancing in our pyjamas.
This is harder than when my marriage began unravelling, which in truth was before I walked down the aisle, but that’s a story for another day. It took years, I saw it coming from miles away and it eventually ended on mutual terms. There was no love left there, only unkindness, resentment and the solid promise of an unhappy ending which I knew I didn’t deserve.
This was completely different from start to finish. Yes we had minor issues, all couples do, but we worked through them and never lost respect for one another. What makes this time so much harder is that I didn’t see the blow coming and I wasn’t part of the decision making process. While I was planning ahead and dreaming about our future together, the man I love was coming to terms with how to end it.
A few days ago I was adamant that I didn’t want this relationship to end, but as the days have passed I’m slowly beginning to realise the extent of it all and I’m learning to accept it. I’m still struggling to imagine a life without him in it, but I have no choice.
He doesn’t feel the same way about me.
When the person you love tells you that being with you and trying to make you happy is making them unhappy, you have to put your own feelings aside and love them and yourself enough to let them go. When he came clean with me about this it was like I was suddenly standing in the eye of the storm. It was brief, but I’ve thought about it a lot since.
It doesn’t matter how much time I spend picking apart our relationship, going through the hundreds of photos on my phone, looking over old messages or analysing past conversations – it is what it is.
I want him to be happy, even if that means that happiness doesn’t include me. This for me is what selfless love is, something I have worked incredibly hard to practice. I also love myself enough now to recognise that I have to get on with my life.
The questions and self-doubt hit me like a tidal wave in the first few days. They have slowly begun receding but still creep up on me when I least expect it. Last night it was while watching a documentary about 9/11 on Netflix, the other day it was in the car, tomorrow it will very likely be during my therapy appointment.
How could he not love me as much as I love him? Why am I not good enough? What can I do to change his mind? How can he do this to us? Why does it seem like it’s so much easier for him? Why can’t he see past this and see how good we are together?
He didn’t choose me.
He is a love I’ve never experienced before. Kind, gentle, fun, strong, practical, patient, silly and smart. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be his partner and learn as much as I have from him and also so much more about myself. Even as I sit with this now, in a world of pain and heartache, I am grateful for him.
I miss him, too.
The magnitude of what I have to do over the next few days, weeks and months is debilitating if I overthink about it hard enough. When you love someone as hard as I loved, are with them for over 2 years and have lived through the times we have, you not only form incredible bonds with them but also with their family and friends. True and meaningful relationships that add so much value to your life.
We shared a beautiful and happy home together, a place where I felt safe and loved. We had plans and dreams, too. When all of that is ripped away from you in the space of a few hours the fallout is excruciating, but you have to rebuild.
I can’t explain the pain I’m currently going through. This is going to take me a while to get over, it’s not going to be easy but I know that I will be okay. I’ve surrounded myself with family and friends who care, who check up on me and who tell me what I
want need to hear.
If I could offer one piece of advice right now, finding myself deep in the trenches of these early days of heartbreak, it’s that you need to work through it, not around or above or below it.
My new direction starts here.
“Life will rough you up. Throw you to the shore like a wave crashing – sand in your hair, blood in your teeth. When grief sits with you, hand dipped with rage, let it linger. Hold its pulse in your hands. There is no remedy for a bad haircut or ruined love like time. Even when death is coming, even when the filth rises in the back of your throat – this is not the worst of it. And if it is? Listen for the catbird calling. No matter the wreckage, they still call for you.”KATE BAER