“I’m in love with someone else.”
Words that instantly turn lives upside down. Words that only other people say and hear. Words that were never ever going to be heard in my family.
Sick, hollow emptiness in the gut. Inner peace shattered, lost, in one short sentence.
“But we’ve been married for 23 years. What about our children? We’ve always told them they never need to worry about our family breaking up. And she’s twenty years younger than you – she was only TWO years old when we got married!”
He felt terrible, but he was so deeply in love that he was beyond any form of appeal.
“I’m so sorry to do this to you and the children. I don’t not love you, but I have to be with her.”
Lying alone in bed, I struggled to work out what had gone wrong. For most of our marriage, we had shared joys and sorrows, goals and growth. Yet, gradually, without realising it, we had spun ourselves into a cocoon of complacency and stopped taking care of our special bond.
I was even further confused by his continuing kindness and gentleness. He did not turn from me in my pain and grief and several times I ended up crying in his arms, receiving comfort from the one who was inflicting the wounds.
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When he finally left for good, my light went out. Could I really survive such depths of despair? The cold constant reality of his absence was unbearable.
Without my co-driver, there was no joy in life’s ride. The loss was complete.
My friends were shocked when they saw me.
“Good grief girl, the flesh is falling off you in chunks. You need to force yourself to eat.”
“I just can’t,” I responded. “It’s a guaranteed way of losing weight fast, but not one I’d recommend.”
In time, I started reading books and seeking help. My counsellor was kind but firm: “Live fully in the present; let go of the painful past, let go of future fantasies. What is real NOW? He has married her – he is not going to return to you.”
Slowly, I moved into the release of living each day rather than staying mired in those wistful backward and wishful forward glances. Accepting my own share of responsibility, and ultimately forgiving both myself and them, was also very helpful. It enabled me to avoid the corrosive bitterness that burdens so many women in similar situations.
Eventually, I found that I had something to offer other women struggling with their own painful losses and started helping where I could.
It had been a long hard slog of five years before I knew with certainty that I was fully healed. I could talk freely about it and the emotions no longer had the power to disturb me.
I still loved him, but I did not have to have him. I was whole, living a fulfilling life, with my inner peace regained.
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This story was originally published at ABC Open. For more audience-made stories, check their website.