Sometimes there is that moment when life takes a turn you really hoped it wouldn’t.
It can be a blind turn or a deaf turn or a dumb turn. Sometimes it’s a turn with a man you love.
I had the privilege to both love and lose a good man.
In the darkness a few years ago, I asked him, “Is there something wrong?”
He inhaled, long and deep and he must have taken all the air from the room where we laid in bed because I suddenly couldn’t inhale.
I knew something bad was coming. This is how I got through it.
1. Admire the bravery.
“Yes, something is wrong,” he said.
I loved him because he was going to hurt me and he knew it, he didn’t want to but he had to. This was the price he paid for his honesty.
He turned to me in a respectful attempt to meet my eyes in the darkness and I imagined he was thinking, some things must be said face to face, regardless of lighting or circumstance.
2. Respect their honesty.
The blue-gray light of the moon shadowed that face I loved. I heard him swallow and I thought, as I always do. that a person swallows when they want to choke back words they don’t want to say.
It’s as if swallowing the words will render them unsayable.
I knew what was coming, but it didn’t stop the pain that gripped my spirit. The words travelled from his mouth, across the intimacy of our bed, to my ears:
“I don’t want to be with you any more.”
I felt a sense of relief that it was finally said. Every cell of my body could at last relax its vigilance and collapse into a well-earned slumber.
The truth had at last been uttered. The enemy had arrived and I had been powerless to prevent his arrival.
The fight that could have occurred and never did had become obsolete: the conquering had taken place without a struggle.
3. Accept it with grace.
Our relationship was over.
It never seems to matter that even if you expect the worst thing to happen, nothing can prepare you for when it finally does.
I knew there was no point in arguing. The deserter has most often taken leave of you long before the words make it official.
I only asked why.
And I couldn’t argue with his factuality.
“I want to get married. I want to have more children. I am wasting your time and you are wasting mine.”
Ah, the knife in my belly. It twisted. It gutted. It emptied me of all that I had inside other than a fierce respect for his honesty.
“It’s not fair!” ran through my mind so many times that even Stephen Hawking would have had trouble comprehending the number of repetitions.
In my head I went away as an emotional fog numbed and protected my mind from the pain. He continued talking but the fog grew around my head and obliterated reality, rendering me incapable of coherent thought.
4. Have consideration for the timing.
I knew then, there would be another woman in his future, and unborn children and a life they would all live together where they would travel and do all the things we’d talked about and now, will never do.
He would love her when he didn’t love me—enough.
He would bite the back of her neck, stroke her cheek, wash her hair in the shower. He would prepare dinner for her and tell her to just ‘sit there and look pretty’ as he handed her a glass of wine.
He would become intimately familiar with her life, her family, her career, her friends and her body.
While she hadn’t yet come into his life, she would.
Being abandoned for an as-yet undefined variable felt worse than being abandoned for a flesh and blood entity. I had been abandoned for an unknown.
But was this really the worst case?
5. Embrace thankfulness.
At the time I thought this was surely the worst thing one could be abandoned for; the mere thought of someone ‘better.’
But it wasn’t.
With time I grew to admire his honesty and bravery which led him to sever our relationship before he replaced me with another woman.
I appreciate his consideration in not wasting any more of my time and a begrudging respect for him bloomed.
It could have been worse, much worse.
There was no ugliness to our separation, just an acceptance on my part of a hard fact of life. Some relationships run their course whether you want them to or not.
Although it was painful at the time, in retrospect I admire the way he handled our ending. It allowed me to grieve organically without the nastiness of blaming him.
I hear he has recently married, so I naturally thought back to our conversation a few years ago. I felt a sense of love and thankfulness for the fact that he freed me, and that he found a woman better suited for him.
The truth was, I wasn’t the one, and he was brave enough to say so.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Brenna Fischer/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo Credit: Geecy/Flickr Creative Commons