3 weeks after my husband left me I met a friend in town.
“How are you doing?” she asked, leaning over her coffee to gently touch my hand. She moved closer, her face full of concern and worry for me.
“I’m actually really great. I’ve been seeing a counsellor and I now realise this is actually a huge gift. I feel wonderful.” I said smiling.
Her concerned face contracted. She looked me over with fresh eyes, searching my body for clues.
“It’s ok.” She said. “You don’t have to pretend with me. I’m here for you.”
“Yeah that’s why I want to share how great I am!” I said. “I’m doing brilliant. I just realised that he must’ve been really unhappy and he no longer wants to be with me, so while that hurt at first now I realise that him leaving was a wonderful thing.”
“Wonderful.” She said doubtfully.
“Yeah, wonderful. Cause who would want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with them?”
My friend sat back in her chair and there was a long silence before she sat up a bit straighter in her seat. “Taryn,” She said. “I think you’re going mad.”
But I wasn’t “going mad” I had just mastered the art of acceptance. My husband no longer wanted to be with me, I needed to accept that. Once I had accepted it I realised that he must’ve been unhappy with me in order to want to leave. I would never want someone to stay unwillingly with me or out of a sense of or anything other than 100% free will. I also realised that I had been hiding the problems in our marriage from myself, pretending everything was fine and not accessing or acknowledging my own feelings of dis-ease within the relationship.
I’d bought into society’s idea of marriage being a “forever” thing and it had never occurred to me that there was a way out — for either of us — so I just stifled the parts of me that weren’t very happy and pretended everything was fine. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me and I seized it. After 4 sessions with a counsellor I told her that I didn’t need to see her anymore as I felt really happy and peaceful. I also felt more real, more authentic.
My friends however were alarmed by my rapid processing and they staged an intervention-type meeting with me where they told me that I was, “Too happy for someone whose marriage has just ended.” And that they were very worried about my mental health.
As a wise friend of mine said to me recently,
“It’s interesting that some people view functioning coping skills as abnormal qualities. What a strange world we live in when self-love and taking personal responsibility for self is seen as odd.”
My coping skills, resilience and self awareness were seen as so strange that my friends wanted me to see a doctor for support for what they saw as a mental illness.
My lack of anger towards my ex confused them. They couldn’t understand why I was feeling grateful towards him. I felt he had been the more authentic and courageous of the two of us, and I felt a deep gratitude towards him for leaving. He also had to deal with the judgement of the people around us, who all demonised him as, “the awful man who up and left his wife.” I was cast as “the wronged party”. When I didn’t want to play my part people were baffled. They sought to override my authentic response to my own life by infantalising me and assuming that I was not of sound mind. Rather than think I was actually was happy in this situation they sought to see me as mad. What does that tell you about society?
I take the same approach the end of friendships. I’ll be sad about losing a friend but also aware that whatever caused the break up and no matter who instigated it, it can only be a good thing. Who wants people in their lives that don’t want to be there? A relationship, be it intimate or friendly needs to be fully reciprocated, both parties willingly choosing to maintain the connection. Anything else will be a power struggle and one party will eventually loose out.
When someone tells me their relationship has broken down I show empathy and compassion but I also hold space for them to process and move on. I gently over time introduce the idea that relationship break ups can be a wonderful thing — I be the person that I didn’t have. The one who thinks Break ups are beautiful.