- Photo: J. Gaddis
The last thing I expected to feel during my heartbreak was gratitude.
Several years ago, I went through a bad breakup. I don’t know if there’s a universally agreed upon scale-of-pain for these types of things, but this one had to be up there at an eight or nine.
I had fallen in love. I left my family, friends, community and job to move to Africa, my love’s homeland, to a country where English was rarely spoken. The adventure lasted only a year; the relationship couldn’t survive the culture shock. As badly as I wanted it to work, the obstacles were simply overwhelming. It turned out that there was another woman. I had moved all those miles, sacrificing so much that was familiar to me, only to realize that the relationship was not what it seemed.
When I returned stateside I was heartbroken.
I felt betrayed. I felt lied to. In the period after the breakup, I discovered that most of my friends fell neatly into two camps. Group A allowed me to cry endlessly and nodded their heads in agreement that this was his fault, he was a liar, a real jerk and I had been horribly wronged. Group B listened sympathetically to my plight before stopping me to ask some pretty uncomfortable questions, “Why did you stay so long if you were so unhappy? Why did you allow him to treat you this way?” Some even proclaimed how lucky I was to be out of the relationship.
As time passed everyone seemed to have migrated to Group B—except me. No matter what those around me said, I wasn’t ready to edit my story. I saw a few therapists during this time. Two even diagnosed me with PTSD. One suggested taking a short course of anti-anxiety medication. It wasn’t until a third therapist turned the conversation around to what I could control (hint: me!) that I began to climb out of my hole.
I started to consider the decisions that had lead to this breakup.
I realized that just hours after arriving in my new home, I was already ignoring my inner voice that was telling me something was amiss. Instead of reaching out to friends and family for advice and assistance, I dug in my heels and tried to make everything as perfect as I possibly could. When things continued to go south, I hid my sadness from my support network, determined not to let them know I was feeling lost. I had to admit that the signs of an unhealthy relationship occurred before I even moved to Africa. Certain friends had warned me, but I didn’t really listen—I only heard what I wanted to hear. Looking back I realized that even before I got on the plane, the person I was giving my life up for was subtly telling me not to do it, that this was not going to work.
Perhaps he did not try to warn me off out of a sense of valor. After all, he did lie, cheat and misrepresent what was going on, giving me false hope time after time. As I worked through the healing process, it became less and less about him. I realized that his choices, his karma had little to do with me. Figuring out why he said what he said, or did what he did, was fruitless. Even trying to decide if or how or when I could forgive him eventually became less important. For me, moving on meant examining how I got myself in such a situation in the first place.
Human behavior isn’t complicated.
We all want the same thing: to be happy. We all get confused sometimes. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a hurtful comment and we’ve all said something we later wish we could take back. It was by looking at my own behaviors, that I began to develop compassion for him.
I never really had closure. He never acknowledged my pain. He never said he was sorry for the upheaval I had been through in the name of our relationship. The last conversation we had, which was months after I returned to Texas, reinforced that we were in totally different places about what had happened between us. After that, I no longer needed an apology. I just needed to accept who he was and what had happened between us, and move the hell on. My friends in Group B were right: I was lucky. It could have been worse!
Recently I have begun to feel an unexpected sense of gratitude for my heartbreak experience. My pain moved me to ask some big questions: What do I want to do with this life? What’s important to me? What qualities do I want in a partner? What makes me happy? I have to admit—if that guy hadn’t broken my heart and sent me weeping back to Houston—I would have never met my husband. I would never have opened a yoga studio. I wouldn’t have been next to my grandfather when he passed away last year. It was the relationship with Mr. Africa that made what I do and don’t want from this life abundantly clear. I have lots of mentors, friends, teachers and experiences to thank for being where I am today—and that guy—the one who broke my heart—is definitely one of them.
Rhia Robinson teaches yoga and meditation in Houston, Texas at her studio, Yoga Collective. She is currently working towards Level I ParaYoga Certification with Rod Stryker. Email her at: [email protected]
Editor: Alexandra Grace
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