Anatomy of a breakup 

  
I should start by saying, this blog like all of mine are about me. About how events have made me feel. At the end of the day, I can only comment on events from my perspective, I can’t hope (or wish) to be in the mind of anyone else. Our feelings are our own and ours alone. Feelings though are transitional they change all the time. For example how I feel when I first start writing this may not be the way I feel when I finish. Just as my feelings at the beginning of this process are not the same as my feelings at the conclusion. I’ve always found writing quite therapeutic, it gives me a chance to almost stand back and look at the situation as though I’m writing a story about a third person rather than myself. It offers me some perspective and helps me challenge my feelings.

This blog is meant to give an insight into events last year, the breakdown of my marriage less than 3 months after the event and the aftermath.

I was reminded of this a few days ago, when I saw a Facebook memory about a Facebook post I’d made announcing that my ex and I had split up. At the time it caused a bit of furore because it seemed she hadn’t told some of her friends and I was announcing it to them. Some harsh things were said to me, but also some lovely things as well and I will forever remember fondly my friends who jumped into that discussion to defend me. The post was something I needed to do to make the situation real as well as begin the process of recovery. It was very much something for me and maybe satisfied a need in me to wrestle back some control of situation in which I felt I had none.

It worked in many ways, it allowed me to draw a line under things and to start to rebuild my life again. Rebuilding meant a lot of things to me, I’m acutely aware of my age and my past relationship failures. My life over the last few years has really been a pot of insecurity, feeling secure for a few months and then having things blown apart again. More than anything my decision to start dating again was really only to fill a bit of time and distract me a little. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined where it would lead me and I am forever grateful that I made that decision.

I’m sure I would have been the centre of everyone’s discussion at one point in time and especially my willingness to get back to dating so fast. I’m sure there would have been comments that I needed time to recover, to take stock before I got to that point. But in my defence I would say, people recover in different ways. There is no rulebook for how we get through these things, there are just opinions. It can be all too easy to criticise what we don’t truly understand. The only person who ever really understands is the man in the arena, fighting a myriad of emotions while attempting to function as normally as possible.

I was proactive in other ways, primarily probably my best action was to seek psychological therapy and quickly. And I lucked out in that respect. I found a psychologist I actually connected with. One who I felt, could understand my situation, who listened. She never led me to any conclusion, she just gave me food for thought, made me understand my repression of certain emotions was damaging and encouraged me not to be so hard on myself. To sit with anxiety, to imagine these feelings as waves crashing over me, to understand these feelings wouldn’t last forever, just like the waves themselves, they stop and the sea becomes calm again. We worked on proactively summoning the emotions and then concentrating on nothing else but them. To avoid my usual route of distraction and instead let this anxiety consume me. In retrospect unless you are used to this, it isn’t an easy route to go but in the long term its been very beneficial. I learnt how to self soothe. At one point in our therapy, she said something I have always remembered, “you’ve suffered more loss in the last few years, than many people have in their lives”. It made me see myself in a different light, to stop fighting and feel a little sad for myself. It was quite an insightful statement for me.

The breakup itself came as a shock. I’m not sure anybody would expect a relationship to fall apart only a couple of months after a marriage. One minute things seem to be flowing along nicely, a few arguments here or there but nothing earth shattering. I recently thought, maybe I’m kidding myself and there were signs it was coming so I flicked back through social media to try and find events close to the end. To my mind they all seemed normal events in some cases happy events. I’m not going to go into specifics because I don’t think that’s fair but I can’t really see how I could ever have seen it coming. That in itself should illustrate what a shock this was. One day I was sailing along thinking all was going well, the next, the future I was thinking of the day before was gone. The world quite literally collapsed, everything I held true suddenly was no longer.

In a strange way, in the aftermath, I didn’t have time to think. My thoughts were all about self-preservation, looking after number one. I did what needed to be done. Suddenly the one person I thought had my back, didn’t. There was such a feeling of loneliness and a hopelessness about the future. Layered on top of this was a fear that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, something that came out of a period of insomnia a couple of years before.

But sleep I did and for me that was reassuring. Next came the process of moving out. An emotionally charged process that speaks not just of the change of location but about the change of everything. I was lucky enough to find somewhere relatively fast and have some good friends who agreed to help me move. The day itself was all about excitement, about starting over, about camaraderie with people helping out. I distinctly remember going to the soccer after I’d moved all my belongings and actually enjoying the day. But then, I went home to this new house and in spite of having a new housemate, I was suddenly all alone in a strange place and a new area. The excitement faded and the worry began. Was this just a transitional phase or was this truly my lot for my lifetime. I tried to be pro-active, I tried to keep my social life going, my friends were amazing, they seemed to make an extraordinary amount of time for me. Time away from their families, which I appreciated and still do to this day.

Life evolved, I started to date but of course there were still things to sort out from my old life. All of those things that on paper look transactional (splitting of assets, post redirections etc) are all highly emotionally charged because they aren’t just about those things, they are about a former life and the mourning of that former life. Contact with an ex became ridiculously painful and provoked emotions that could continue for hours if not days at a time.

But changes come over time. The past is only the past we view at that point in time. I think the immediate view is a very black and white one, a very angry one. But as my therapist at one point explained, anger is very much about self-protection and is there for a reason. It can be a useful emotion. And perhaps one I’ve struggled with and find it hard to bring out. Much of our work was about bringing that emotion to the fore and admitting what the emotion was. What once was anger though turns into something different and over time realisations are made.

I don’t think there is any set time for these. I’m sure people stay angry about breakups for the rest of their lives. But gradually as time went on I came to different points. One of my first ones was I forgave my ex for what she had done. Even typing this sounds very self-important and even though I came to this conclusion at one point it took a big conversation with my therapist to get me to action it. My view was my ex wouldn’t necessarily think she had done anything that I needed to forgive her for. A long discussion was had around the reason I wanted to forgive, was it for me or was it for her. The conclusion reached was, it was for me, so did it really matter whether my ex thought she had something to be forgiven for? I promptly sent an email to her letting her know I’d forgiven her for the hurt I’d felt she’d caused with the breakup. On a side point, I’d actually had a discussion with a friend about exactly this and when I told them I had forgiven my ex, they actually shed a couple of tears and said what a fantastic thing to do it was. I found that quite touching and it certainly reinforced the gravity of the action of forgiveness.

The next stage was, I thought it was the right thing to do to tell my ex about my new partner. I didn’t really want her finding out about it via other people and I’d prefer if I can to try and do what I consider the right thing (it might not always be). Another email was sent off.

I suppose at this point you might be questioning why I favoured email correspondence. I suppose from my point of view its very factual and provides a good record of a conversation. It doesn’t tend to lead to emotional charged conversations and overall, although maybe some people would view this type of conversation as spineless, I believed it provided me the medium which suited my message the best. I couldn’t be interrupted and could make the point I wanted and not drawn off onto tangents.

The final realisation I’ve come to just recently came from a piece of music. One day as I sometimes do, I plugged my headphones in and found myself listening to ‘Fun’ by Coldplay. I find when I have headphone in I really listen to the words instead of just the sounds. The song is about a breakup but refelecting that ‘didn’t we have fun’. It got me thinking. I realised that sometimes in situations like this, we think of a break up and we attach in our minds that all experiences we had were bad ones because the breakup itself was traumatic However the more I pondered that the more I realised there were plenty of good times, in fact the majority of the relationship was full of good times and easily out-weighed the bad. I can now finally look back on the relationship with a bit of fondness.

The process has been a very valuable one in many ways and has taught me so many things. Its taught me how resilient I am and have been over the years. It’s made me realise that I am so much stronger than I think. Its taught me I’m very tough on myself at times (I still sometimes today think what I failure I am after two failed marriages and think there is so much stigma attached with that). I’ve become so much more reflective about my life and experiences and tried to understand why I feel a certain way instead of reacting to the that emotion or trying to distract myself from it. I’ve learnt that maybe it’s not my failure with relationships, it’s a failure in the dynamic between two people. I’ve very much learnt to check in more often, to use my therapist as a sounding board for things and not be concerned about asking for my needs to be met.

The friendships I’ve had have strengthened through this all, my close friends have surrounded me, checked in and been there when I needed them. My new relationship is built with a good solid base, potential problems are discussed and talked out before they become issues. Communication has very much become the key for me.

My world and hence myself have invariably changed. Getting through this all has not been easy at times. Its felt like I’m banging on a door trying to get someone to open it, only realising with time, that the key was in my pocket all the time and I just needed to open it when I was ready.

I’m sure the future holds great things. I’m forever hopeful.

IJS 19/04/2017

One thought on “Anatomy of a breakup 

  1. Eleanor Steel

    Very well written Ian. Any kind of loss leaves us with huge emotional upheaval. Talking to a professional does help but God it takes a long time. Best of luck with everything.

    Reply

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