I left my marriage and felt no heartbreak. The final year of my marriage was so heartbreaking, the end was needed. Divorce was the only way I could be myself again, breathe again. I felt the same way the following year. Finally, I was on the road to happiness …
… until he got a girlfriend.
I will never forget the day he told me about her. I had a break between life coaching sessions, and he told me he needed to talk. He requested “later,” but I had clients all night, so later didn’t exist.
I said, “I have 15 minutes now. What’s up?”
He said, “I’ve been seeing somebody.”
“For how long?”
“A couple of months.”
“Okay,” I said, and walked back into my office.
I was not fully through the door when my wheels began to spin. A couple months? I thought. That’s not “seeing” somebody.
My brain flashed back to the time we were sitting on the floor with my daughter. It was June, and he told me he was moving to another part of town. I asked if he was moving in with a girl. He said no.
I thought of the time I picked him and my daughter up from Provincetown because the water was too rough and they couldn’t take the ferry. I asked him then, too: “Are you with someone?” He said no.
Each time I asked, I was ready for the answer. But I wasn’t ready to be lied to.
He lied to me so often over the course of our marriage. I’d had a hunch for months that he might be with someone, but I wanted us to be at a new place in our relationship where honesty was valued and respected.
I walked out of my office and said in an accusatory tone, “A couple of months? So when I asked you if you were dating someone in Provincetown, you were?”
“And that time we were sitting on the floor a week before you moved, you were with her?”
Then it hit me. “Wait. Do you live with her?”
The tears that followed were massive and uncontrollable. It was as if all my old pain was coming out in each tear. Every moment and emotion I couldn’t feel deeply over the last year erupted from my eyes at once.
I couldn’t tell if it was pain over being lied to or if I was finally mourning the end of this relationship.
It didn’t matter. I was so sad. So uncontrollably sad.
We exchanged a few more sentences, and I learned the tough truth. This person was someone he worked with. I’d heard her name a million times before as his “best work friend.” Now, her name had a new meaning: It was a woman who would be around my daughter.
I pulled myself together, finished my client calls for the evening, and allowed myself space to break down.
I continued to break down the next day, replaying the moment in my mind a million times.
I kept thinking he would apologize for lying, but he didn’t. In fact, he said nothing. I asked him in a text to please not bring her around my child until I met her, but I was not ready to meet her. This was met with animosity and threats, causing me to become an anxious wreck.
The new knowledge assembled a lot of pieces for me, but it also made me very sad. Several thoughts cycled through my head over the following days: Why am I so easy to lie to? What if he is drinking again?
But the biggest thought of all was an unanticipated one: Now we’re really over.
I thought I knew myself well, and I thought my heart had broken all it was going to break for him. I had experienced so much pain — so many hurtful couple’s therapy sessions, panic attacks, fear. I believed there was nothing left in me.
The emergence of this new person lent a finality to the relationship that had given me my only child. It meant there would be no perfect world where he showed up with a grand gesture attempting to win me back.
It also meant he did not spend every day missing me and the life we had.
These thoughts surprised me to my core. I had no idea I felt this or wanted this. I thought I was done.
Mourning an unexpected loss
The weeks that followed found me in a place of mourning. I felt like I was 16 years old again, going through my first breakup. I would cry at the thought of a good memory or a TV show we watched together. I had a plan to “Marie Kondo” my apartment with a friend and felt paralyzed by the idea of donating items that were ours.
I romanticized everything in an unhealthy way that I am still embarrassed to admit to my friends.
In those days of mourning, I convinced myself I wanted him back. I believed this despite his meanness and rudeness about his relationship.
Journaling it out
As a life coach, I am conscious of when I get stuck in a thought pattern that may not be totally “real.” So, I did not allow myself to act on any of my feelings. I knew it was pure romanticization.
Instead, I journaled about it over and over. I felt like I needed to let it run its course. I needed to feel every single feeling that was coming. For the first time, I wanted this family back, but at the same time, I knew I could not push for that. I did not have a family with him. I had anxiety, panic attacks, and exhaustion. And I knew in the back of my mind that if I pushed for that, it would lead me right back to sadness.
The more I journaled, purged, and cried, the clearer a harsh truth became. This person may be the father of my child, but if I settle for this love, I am settling for a version of love that doesn’t allow me to be my full self.
I asked myself that question over and over again in the days that followed. Why do I feel I deserve a love that I left?
Finding the answer
The answer to that question changed over and over again in my journaling. Sometimes it was, “Because you love him.”
Or, “Because you want your family.”
Or, “Because you love his family.”
But eventually, even through tears, the recurring answer that came up was, “You don’t.”
I decided to listen to that recurring answer, even when it hurt.
I also decided I needed help. At this point, none of my healing techniques were working, and I found myself with unshakable generalized anxiety. I allowed this to be my state of being for about a month before I decided I’d had enough.
I heard myself say to a friend, “If he gets engaged, I don’t know how I can ever come back from that.”
Then I decided, wait. I’m not going to let this take me down.
I found myself fully invested in everything and anything that helped me. I started EFT tapping, went to a Reiki session, spoke to an intuitive psychic (twice), got a new life coach who specialized in breakups, amped up the therapy sessions, spoke to an astrologist who helped me through my quarter-life crisis, and sought group coaching for divorced women. If someone recommended something, I did it.
I stayed home a lot on the weekends and allowed myself to sleep more. I refused to see this as depression and chose to see it as healing, just as a broken leg needs rest to heal.
Most importantly, instead of being mad at myself for my feelings, I honored them. I allowed the feelings to exist. And I still do.
There are not many resources out there on how to handle a breakup with an ex, especially when children are involved. Many are filled with advice that only really helps if the other person is on the same page. In my case, he wasn’t. He lied, and I needed to write my own book of healing.
Here are the three main things I did to work through it:
1. I got very honest with myself.
I had to be very real and honest with myself in my journaling. I would write at the top of the piece of paper, “What am I feeling right now?” and then, “How much of this is true?” Then, I’d go through it again, asking myself, “How much of this is actually true?”
I did this again and again until I no longer believed my own romanticized version of our story. I journaled my way to the truth.
2. I allowed my grief over his new girlfriend to feel like a breakup.
A real breakup.
I chose to forgive myself for not feeling it sooner. I was going through the breakup NOW. I had to own that. The timeline doesn’t matter; the healing does.
3. I honored my timeline.
Lastly, I chose to follow my own timeline without comparing myself to my ex.
I was not ready to date when I first left him, and I was not ready to date a year later. Yes, it shook me to my core that he moved on so quickly, but I was not remotely ready to be with someone else when he was. It was only after doing this healing work that I felt ready to date. (And then I started dating, and then I needed more healing work … but that is another story.)
You can write your own book, too. This experience doesn’t have to take you down.
Don’t hesitate to get what you need when you need it. And most importantly, don’t allow romanticized thoughts to trick you into believing you want something that you really don’t.
You deserve to figure out what you want, and you deserve to go after it.