real life

Meshel Laurie: "There’s no loneliness in the world like the loneliness of a loveless relationship."

In those days, when I wasn’t gigging at pubs I was spending my time falling in love with Adrian.

Tall, slim and classically handsome, with thick brown hair, full pouting lips, high cheekbones and big blue eyes, Adrian definitely looked good. And, sure enough, he told me straight away that there were a few ladies around the traps who were well and truly sick of his shit (as well as handsome, Adrian is unfailingly honest and self-deprecating – what a package, huh?).

But I refused to believe I’d ever be sick of anything about this lovely man – who somehow managed to pull off sexy and goofy, straightforward and shy, sensible and artistically dreamy all at the same time. I jumped in with both feet and married him, six months to the day after we met on the smoker’s landing at a compulsory work-for-the-dole program. (As you can see, the omens were fabulous!)

Not long before the wedding, I ceased a friendship with someone when I heard she’d made a nasty comment about us. ‘Meshel’s only marrying Adrian because he’s the first man who’s ever said he loves her,’ this woman was reported to have said. How rude!

But how true. At twenty-three, I’d never had a boyfriend before. A few friends with benefits, sure. The odd accommodating stranger? Of course. But no-one to call my own.

No-one who told me they loved me. You might not be surprised to find out that I had a difficult relationship with my father in my teens and early twenties. Now Adrian’s love meant everything to me, and I was determined to hold onto it with everything I had.

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Video by MWN

I didn’t want to listen to anyone’s misgivings about our rush to the alter. At that stage in my life I was a big fan of avoiding unpleasant feelings whenever possible, by whatever means necessary. In fact, I was using heroin when Adrian and I first met. Luckily for me, he didn’t like the idea and Adrian’s attention comforted and numbed my pain so much that I stopped using. The fact that he was attracted to me was intoxicating.

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His love was the best drug I’d ever tried. It blocked out every bad thing that had ever happened or which I feared was possible. Adrian’s desire to be with me made me feel, for the first time since early childhood, that I had a place in the world.

Of course I wondered what on earth this wonderful being saw in me. When I asked him, he’d mutter, ‘I don’t know . . . You’re just . . . nice,’ or something equally profound.

I wept with joy a lot in those early days. I couldn’t believe he wanted to be with me. Looking back now, I think my biggest appeal for Adrian was that I offered him an idea of a future. He admits he was pretty lost at that point in time, and I probably looked as though I was going somewhere because I was very ambitious. When you’re heading nowhere, someone else’s somewhere can look pretty comforting.

Adrian followed me around the country as I moved up the ranks of the entertainment industry. We’d often be given very short notice that we needed to move interstate. Adrian would worry and start packing, and I would reassure him the change would be positive. When we arrived at our new home, he’d worry and unpack, and I’d bury myself in my new job, throwing him a few reassuring words over my shoulder as I rushed out the door.

It was like an inverted ’60s sitcom: I was Darren from Bewitched, and he was the lovely Samantha. I was stressed, self-important and emotionally volatile, and he was serene – never expressing stresses or worries of his own. I tried to keep money worries to myself, and I showed my appreciation of Adrian by showering us in things, from Xboxes to overseas trips.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been sure that Adrian and I would never break up. Our relationship was the one thing I didn’t have to worry about.

But I was wrong.

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Adrian outgrew the dynamic we shared. He got tired of living in my shadow, as many spouses of go-getters do eventually. He wanted to seek his own identity.

I never stopped loving Adrian, but as he started to reject me, it stirred up lots of negative emotions that made it difficult for me to express my love. My ego told me he had no right to stop loving me after everything I’d done for him, and my fear told me I had to make him stay whether he liked it or not.

Whenever I allowed myself to consider my future post-break-up, I was paralysed by fear. I was afraid of being alone, afraid of him ‘re-partnering’ – as the family lawyers put it – and afraid of dating. Just quietly, I was almost as terrified of having sex with someone else as I was of never having sex again. There’s a lot to be afraid of out there!

Fortunately, I had somewhere to turn: Buddhism.

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I first started studying Buddhism years earlier when I needed help dealing with work-related stress. Adrian had told me he was fatigued by the situation and sick of my moodiness. I was in a deep depression at the time, having lost a job I cherished. So I took myself off to classes at the nearest Buddhist centre once a week. They really helped and gave me a new perspective on life.

As soon as I felt better, I stopped going regularly, but I would return occasionally whenever the going got rough.

Despite this, it took me a long time to fully embrace Buddhism as a solution when my marriage was floundering. I resisted it because I knew the first thing Buddhism would require me to do was to let go of Adrian – and that was the last thing in the world I wanted to do!

Eventually, though, I knew I had no option – he had let go of me and it was affecting every aspect of my life. At the time, I was doing a national drive-time radio show with Marty Sheargold and Tim Blackwell which was supposed to give people a laugh on their way home from work, and yet there I was, crying in my car for hours before every show.

Fortunately, Tim and Marty are both brilliant, so my lack of input went unnoticed by everyone but me. You can get really lucky in this crazy business sometimes! But still: I needed help.

I’ve borrowed an expression from Alcoholics Anonymous to describe the way I use Buddhism in my life – ‘working the program’. Instead of trying to figure out ways of coping with their addiction, members of AA focus on the clear roadmap of the Twelve Steps, committing themselves to just one of those steps at a time. Our marriage counsellor, James, joked with us once that Adrian and I are very creative people and we try some pretty creative ways to deal with problems.

I faced the fact that I needed to stop being creative and start working the program as taught by Buddha over two and a half thousand years ago. I needed to surrender myself to his wisdom and to the wisdom of the great Buddhist scholars alive today. I had to have the humility to accept that I didn’t have any answers. I had to give up.

At the heart of my stubbornness and the fears that went with it was the very simple fear of unhappiness. Like most humans, I had convinced myself that there was a long list of things I needed in order to be happy – and high on that list was a perfect partner: a soulmate, if you will. I believed I had found that in Adrian, and that therefore our relationship would last forever, but the fact is I was always bound to lose it, one way or another.

Take a minute to process that, because it’s friggin’ huge!

No relationship lasts forever. Even if Adrian and I had remained happily married for the rest of our lives, what are the chances of us dying at the same moment? It was always far more likely that one of us would have to face the loss of the other. And that’s the case with any love affair – but it’s not something most of us really want to think about, is it?

No relationship – romantic, familial or platonic – is absolute and forever. We will all lose someone we rely on at some point in our lives.

Sometimes the other person chooses to leave us, sometimes they’re taken from us tragically, and sometimes we discover they were never ours to begin with. But one way or another, the relationship will end. We know this is true, and yet we convince ourselves that our happiness depends on how other people see us, on how close they hold us, and on how faithfully they forsake others in our favour.

In the end, I was the one who initiated our divorce. Thanks to his fear of change, I’m sure Adrian would have stayed married to me. We could all have gone on pretending there was nothing unusual about the fact he lived in a granny flat out the back and didn’t come anywhere near me when the kids weren’t around.

But there’s no loneliness in the world like the loneliness of a loveless relationship.

No pillow talk, no sharing of TV shows, no in-jokes, no best friend to curl up with at the end of the day . . . being married to someone who doesn’t want to spend time with you is . . . gosh, I can’t even think of a word to describe it. No word encapsulates the rejection, disappointment and loneliness I felt, lying in bed alone, night after night, for years.

About five years to be more specific – that’s how long it took me to learn that there’s a fine line between commitment to a relationship and hitting your head against a brick wall.

Separating from Adrian is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life so far, and the only thing I’m truly confident about is that focusing on Buddha’s teachings, will leave me in a better place than the one in which it found me. 

This is an excerpt from Buddhism for Break-Ups by Meshel Laurie. Published by NERO (RRP$27.99), Buddhism for Break-Ups is available online through Booktopia or wherever good books are sold.

Buddhism for Break-ups, by Meshel Laurie.

Can you relate to Meshel's relationship? Have you ever stayed with someone because being alone is scarier than being with someone you know isn't right for you?

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