I recently ended a relationship with a man I love dearly.
He loves me too.
We were an odd fit. We made mistakes. I was miserable; now, I’m sad.
It took almost a year of struggling before we began to separate, and I’ve been filling much of my new free time with reflection.
Sitting with my broken heart, I’m finding that I have been so focused on what externally is hurting me, I have no idea who is the person in my heart that’s been hurting. I’ve been focused on the ways he let me down without holding myself accountable for making decisions that honor my own heart and mind.
So I made a choice: to consciously claim every tear with accountability for the ways I have allowed myself—sometimes, even encouraged myself—to be hurt and dismissed. To take responsibility for every single moment I chose to stay in a situation that was unhealthy for me. To admit that I knew it. To stop expecting myself to be one way or the other and start accepting the person that I am.
I’ve decided to see how honest I can be.
It’s not pretty…but it’s perfect.
Early on in the relationship, he crossed boundaries that for me define a healthy intimate space shared within a couple. And I stayed. Because we’re different, and our boundaries are different; and when we looked to understand why, we saw more of the person that we loved.
Because even when we’re so upset, we look to forgive the people we love.
A few months later, he crossed my boundaries again. And it hurt. And I stayed. Because we make mistakes. Because he apologized and said everything was fine—and even though I didn’t feel fine, we’re all just trying the best we can.
He crossed them again. Our trust was getting shaky and I knew it. I stayed. Because he asked me to. Because I was/am insecure. Because I’m scared. Because I didn’t know what to do.
I asked him to explain again. He told me something different. He told me something that sounded like a slip. He took it back. He didn’t apologize.
I stayed. Because it was too late to leave now. Because we’d made it this far. Because I was embarrassed. Because I thought leaving was throwing love away and I don’t want to be a person who throws love away.
Our problems were everywhere: every restaurant, every concert, every car ride. He was confused that I was hurting—I was confused that he didn’t try to help me. He didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to tell him.
I stayed. Because he stayed.
Because he tolerated my emotions. Because I think I’m lucky to be tolerated and I’m not sure that I deserve anything more.
I called my brother; I told him I had to end the relationship. But I didn’t—I started yelling instead. I started being mean.
We went on vacation.
If I wasn’t thinking about it, I was terrified of getting hurt. If I was thinking about it, I was hoping something would happen that would give me a reason to go. Because getting hurt isn’t a good enough reason when you love someone.
When I told him I was unhappy, he told me he disagreed; I thought that meant I was wrong.
I went to therapy to get right.
I started yelling louder.
I left because I love him and he deserves better. I found out that I love myself…and I deserve better too.
I started finding everything I had swept under the rug. I found a new place to meditate. I found myself crying in the bathroom at work. I found an opening in my chest when I laugh.
I started to look for the person inside that was yelling to make sure she’s ok. She gave me a book to read; every word tasted like the air in a secret world where things that are ugly are loved.
We listened to music and fell asleep early and told each other the truth about things that we knew.
I used to think she was my weakness—I found out she can cripple me because she’s strong. I let myself feel the pain that she feels; the sobbing forced my chanting to a whisper.
I became stronger on my mat and softer with my friends—I became friends with myself.
At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing; I just knew I couldn’t blame anyone else for what was going on inside my own heart and mind. I knew that I had to be accountable for my emotions.
I knew that he wasn’t breaking my heart—that I was.
One step at a time—one thought, one crying fit at a time—I took responsibility. I owned my sadness and I let my heart fall to pieces.
Rachel Russell practices yoga and meditates. She trained as a Reiki Master Teacher with Kim Fleisher at The Reiki School + Clinic™in Philadelphia. She loves it when Yogi Shanti Desai wrinkles his nose at her and shakes his hands, saying, “You know too much. Stop thinking. Breathe.”
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Ed: Bryonie Wise