To All the Men I Have Loved Before:
I have been thinking about you lately. I thought you should know.
I have been sorting through the rubble of my past and you are there.
A couple of you live planted in a precious place in my heart, which I visit once and again to pay homage. When you cross my mind, I think of you fondly and wish you well. We ended for reasons beyond our control.
We were young, naive, or scared.
It was poor timing.
We were not ready to take on what we were being faced with, or we had different goals in life that could not be overcome.
We are still friends. We talk on holidays and wish one another happy birthday. This feels right. I am glad for your place in my life—both past and present.
One of you I have been carrying around for years, dragging you behind me like a lead weight. I felt that it was my weight to bear, my penance for what I did to you, how I treated you, the choices I made that caused you pain and suffering.
One of you I tried to burn from my soul with a blowtorch. I did my best to erase you completely, as I felt you had done to me.
One of you is raw. You are with me still, as you are the most recent to have held my heart to your chest. You are the one who got me on this quest.
I loved all of you in different ways that honored the individuals that you are.
I loved you all deeply and to the best of my ability—yet here I am standing alone.
Somehow the choices that I have made in love have brought me here. An important component of my healing and preparing to open up to love again is contemplating my role in why we didn’t work out. I will be honest with you, this is not an easy or fun process.
I coach people on how to heal from heartbreak. I teach that a critical step in the healing journey is to reconcile the past and forgive yourself. So it is only right that I work to heal my heart of the baggage that it has been lugging around. It is my work to do.
As I lift up each stone and peak under, I discover that there is no one reason why we didn’t work out. I read articles that use familiar buzz words such as “codependence,” “fear of intimacy,” and “insecure attachment style.” They point to these concepts as the toxic ingredients that make up the stew of failed relationships. While I do not totally disagree, I feel like it is a gross oversimplification.
As I explore each one of my past relationships, I cannot say that there was one blanket reason why they ended. That would be unfair to the two individuals who were involved in that relationship—me and you. We were more than a collection of psychobabble terms. We were people, you and I.
I am not saying that my past experiences didn’t influence who I was in our relationship or have an impact on why it ended. To the contrary, that is the reason that I am writing this letter in the first place. I want to own my part in why we ended and forgive myself for playing that role, so that I can move forward and manifest new love in my life.
There are three of you who I feel I must do this with:
To the man who I still carry around:
I let you down. I loved you, and I betrayed your trust. I acted out of fear. I was scared to be honest with you, and I pushed things to the breaking point. I hurt you badly. I am very sorry. I must forgive myself for that now. I must let it go and move on. I forgive myself for letting you down.
To the man who I tried to erase from my heart:
I changed myself for you. I abandoned myself to be loved by you. I let you down by not being my authentic self in our relationship. I let myself down by not setting clear boundaries, by not stating my needs, by not expecting you to show up for me. I thought I could fix you. I could not. I forgive myself for letting myself down.
To the man who is still in my heart:
I was honest with you. I was myself with you. Yet, still we ended. I am proud of who I was with you. I liked myself in relationship with you. I have few regrets. Because I have learned to not change myself to be in relationship, I couldn’t be the woman who you wanted me to be. You understood this. I thank you for being the one who was strong enough to end it. I forgive myself for letting us down.
And, lastly, to all the men who I have loved before:
You have taught me so much about myself and about the world. I am grateful for your place in my life and the role you played in helping me be the woman who I am today.
I forgive you for bringing your baggage into our relationship.
I forgive myself for my part in our ending.
I am ready to move on now.
Author: Leah Neas
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: April Nicole via Flickr.