Nicholas Sparks once wrote, “You can’t live your life for other people. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if it hurts people you love.”
This is a difficult article for me to write. But as a writer, I challenge myself to write about the hard stuff. The stuff that festers beneath the veneer of positivity and warrior affirmations and tough, Jersey Girl bravado I keep wrapped around me like a suit of armor.
Really, I’m just a girl like every other—human, flawed and finding my way.
And today, I find myself in an entirely difference place than where I was three years ago maybe when my husband left.
I could paint a picture to make myself look like the victim: the sweet, innocent, loving wife who was devastated when the man she considered to be her whole world chose to start a different life—one that didn’t include being married to her anymore.
But there’s another picture, one I see clearly now. It emerged out of a thousand tears and a hundred sleepless nights praying for answers and asking for peace. The paint slowly made its soft brushstrokes by itself while I relentlessly sought to heal from the pain and loss I felt and rebuild my life.
I encountered strangers at ceremonies and retreats who held me while I cried and offered a far different retelling of my story than the one I was telling myself.
There were friends who held space for me time and time again in my moments of anguish and sorrow, tentatively offering what they saw as the gifts of this situation—the flip side that may have been before my very eyes, but that I was unable and unwilling to see.
Spiritual teachers, therapists, family, and wise elders who had trudged the road I was walking all spoke of love and fate and destiny and soul contracts and healing and hope and happiness that would come when I was willing to take a closer look at the new painting quietly creating itself in the corner of my dark room. That painting held the answers about what had actually happened in my life.
Love had happened. True love that was too hard to turn away from.
Except in this story, the true love I had found had been winding down on one side while another one, incredibly powerful, too powerful and too strong to ignore, was emerging for my husband.
So he chose what most of us who would likely choose. And although it was probably an incredibly difficult decision to make—because we never want to hurt somebody we love, or someone we used to love—
He chose to be happy. And happy for him meant not with me.
I could gloss over how insufferable that decision felt to me at the time. I could fast forward to the end and tell you how I’ve found peace with this decision because I truly believe that all of us deserve true love and all of us deserve to be happy.
But I’d be doing a total disservice to those of you reading this right now who are navigating your way through this very situation—to those of you who have ended a relationship with somebody you loved for years but no longer love the way you once did.
And for those of you who are in the depths of agony and despair right now because you have been left. And you can’t accept that the person you love more than anything has not chosen you, has possibly moved on to be with somebody else because that is what makes them happy, and you don’t know how to move on.
I won’t gloss over it. None of us want to be dismissed with a flippant, “Give it time; you’ll feel better,” from somebody who has moved past those initial stages of grief and loss.
It will take time. That’s the easy part. Because time is not something you have to work at. It just happens.
The healing part though—the part where you have to do the actual work of forgiving the person who walked out on you and accepting that, whether you like it or not, that person’s happiness doesn’t include you anymore—that part isn’t easy.
But it’s necessary. And no amount of guilt-tripping or making yourself the victim or feeling sorry for yourself is going to change that.
The path to healing is not linear.
For every two steps forward I took on my own path, I’d take one step back. For every hurdle I’d sail through as it approached—whether it be an anniversary, the unexpected melody of our wedding song playing in the background at a restaurant, my first Christmas alone—there were countless others where I took a complete nosedive. I’d find myself sobbing hysterically as I drove away from dropping my kids off or hiding behind one of the buildings where I worked in the middle of the day because I was having a full-on panic attack.
It’s a circular path, healing.
Eventually you come back around to where you first started, and you feel the same familiar pain and loneliness and sadness. But here’s the thing: You’re so much better than when you first started. You’re not the victim anymore.
In time you’ll start to realize that you deserve happiness too. You deserve someone who loves you with their whole heart, their whole being, and their entire soul.
And you’ll begin to understand that you weren’t abandoned or deserted or tossed aside, even though it may feel like it right now.
You were simply freed up by the universe, or God, or whatever you believe in for something better. The next chapter.
The one where you meet new characters and have new adventures and get involved in an entirely different plot line.
And yes, you know what? We don’t know where that new plot line is going to take us, but we do have a certain amount of editorial control over how this story goes.
We’re the ones holding the pen, aren’t we?
And as every good writer knows, all the characters in a story can end up happy. One isn’t more deserving than another. One doesn’t have to lose in order for the other one to win.
So allow the person who left you to move on to their next chapter—to find their own happiness. Even though it doesn’t include you.
Because you’re on your way to creating your new story. And although you may not be able to see it now (I know it feels like it will never be good again), I promise you this: If you just let them go, free them up to be happy with whoever or whatever is going to do that for them, you will find your center again. You’ll find your own happiness.
Because, remember, you’re the one holding the pen.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Toby Israel