I know I have been writing a lot lately about my recent breakup from a 9-year relationship, and I would like to say I am sorry for inundating you all with my journey. But, I am not sorry I am writing about it.
I am not only writing ABOUT it all, but I am also writing THROUGH it. I find it therapeutic and if my words can help anyone in the same situation, or even people who are thinking about making a break from a bad situation, then I see my words as successful.
Further to my writing through the trauma and all of the changes I have been making in my life, I have come to realize that in my case, writing about it is one of the stages that I have chosen, in order to cope.
With that, I have taken some moments to reflect over the steps I have taken to get where I am currently at, and have considered the stages that my mental health has come through, and survived, in order to get here.
The Stages of Walking Away
Stage 1- The Decision to Leave
This was not easy. I honestly don’t know if the choice to make a break for it is ever easy. Chances are you have built a history of memories, a life in a home together, perhaps a family, and you have combined your “stuff”. When you make the decision, all of these things come into play, and you struggle with how everything and everyone will be impacted by the choice you make. Whether you have investments together, a home, kids, a beach house, or bank accounts, when you make the decision to go, it becomes a struggle with yourself. Most people don’t like to stir the pot, and change other people’s lives for their own happiness. Most people don’t want to find lawyers or other financial advisers to leak their dirty laundry too. Most people dislike making major life changes and may find it extremely difficult to see what a future without their significant other would look like.
If you are TRULY unhappy and unfulfilled in your relationship, something needs to give. You need to find your happy. You deserve happiness and a quality life.
The way I chose to do it was a “trial” period. At least, that was what I told my ex. I spent time at a friend’s house and said that it was until I could figure out how to be happy again. I knew better, as I returned home daily to take more and more of my clothing and other items out of the house we shared. For me, personally, it was simply easier this way. Was it hard? Absolutely. Did it mess up the life I had with him, to the point where I questioned my choice? No, it did not. I have no guilt for “knowing” that I would never return, even though my words gave him hope. It was so that I could safely return to the house to gather my belongings. It was also so that he wouldn’t become aggressive and derail, knowing that I was DONE. It softened the blow and gave him a reason to stay kind to me, in hopes of winning my return.
The moment I was under my friend’s roof, and he didn’t know where I was staying, I felt lighter, free, and sheltered from the storm of our relationship.
This stage is emotionally debilitating for some, others not so much. I found myself shedding tears of anger often, but never from sadness. Everyone is different and everyone has their own story.
Stage 2- The Search for a New You
I suffer from anxiety and PTSD. My mental health has always been a challenge and I am fortunate enough to work in a career where mental health is valued and you are protected financially when you take time off. Not everyone is blessed with these perks.
Regardless of whether you can take time off work, or are willing to, finding your new self is beyond important. It takes time and can be your greatest challenge.
You are no longer identified by your relationship and that takes time to adapt to. It is also difficult to wrap your head around the open opportunities you now have, as they become overwhelming. After you remove yourself from the toxic environment, you wake up and everything is strange. You need to embrace those changes and not fear them.
It sounds so easy, right? Well, it’s not. But it can be.
Find your own space. Eat foods that you couldn’t eat because your ex didn’t like them. Make a hairstyle or clothing change that you have always wanted to try. Get a tattoo. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that you are now on your own, and can make your own decisions. Buy fun items off of Kijiji and create your space your own at minimal costs. Find your past self and make the best of it.
Trust me, this helps tremendously.
Stage 3- Dealing with the Ex
Up to this point, you may have successfully shaken off any communication with your ex. I was not that fortunate.
He still, after more than 3 months, texts me almost daily. He longs for contact, and he is the NICEST person he can be, in order to try and get me to come back. Of course, Social Media plays a huge role in his contact, and as much as I am aware of that, I have yet to do the “blocking” him from my life.
Why? Because I need to know where his head space is at. He can be volatile and unpredictable, and I know him well enough to try and stay two steps ahead of where I see his mental state. So far he has not been threatening, nor has he been aggressive. But, I know it’s coming. He is still in his own stage of “Trying to win me back” with kindness, offers, and pretty words.
Everyone tells me to cut him out of my life, but I know how he can be, and I am just as aware of his stages, as I am my own. I know it’s coming soon, the day when I will have no choice but to delete him from my life. Just not until we get the “stuff” figured out. We have a house together and I need to know where he is at with it, whether he will sell or buy me out. In the meantime, I will play along and be nice. That is until he is no longer nice to me.
I do choose to not respond when he asks me personal questions, and I ignore him for the most part. Everyone needs to deal with their own exes in a safe, mentally sound way. Sometimes you have to fight and sometimes you have to stay kind and patient. In a perfect world, cutting ties immediately is best, but not everyone has that opportunity, especially when there are kids involved.
Once you have dealt with the final ties that bind you- move to Stage 4. Alternatively, begin the process of Stage 4 as you complete Stage 3. There is nothing saying that you can’t go through multiple stages simultaneously.
Try and get your financial shit sorted out, work on custody agreements and start the process of separation on a legal level. The quicker you can get through this stage, the better it will be for you and your mental health.
The sooner you deal with every last thread that connects you, the sooner you can begin your new life of freedom.
Stage 4- Your New Normal
What the hell is “normal”?
For me, this changed from week to week. My first new normal was waking up at my friend’s house, in my tiny spare bedroom, and see a therapist.
Then my new normal was searching for my own place to move into.
Once I found a place to land, and to make into my new home, I stayed away from work for two weeks longer, to become reacquainted with myself. That was a process.
Suddenly my new normal was buying MY groceries, cleaning MY home, and making all of my own decisions. My new normal was replete with flashbacks of him yelling at me for making mistakes, and trying to make the voices be quiet.
I began writing again to work through this stage. My “old normal” was writing to escape from my life and my relationship. I wrote to give myself quiet therapy and to keep my mental health in check. A huge part of this stage was returning to writing to see how it would fit into my new life. It has been invaluable as a coping mechanism.
After two long, quiet weeks, I felt like I needed to find my new routine, my new commute and return to work. I have been back for 3 days and I have to say, I feel incredible. I wake in the mornings to my alarm, I have my coffee with the radio playing in the background, and I savor the moments where I don’t have to abide by anyone else’s rules. I am responsible for myself, and that is enough. Again, it is different where children are involved, but I know that this stage is where everything seems lighter and brighter.
My new normal will change again, this I know, but for now, I make the most of how my life is and I forge ahead, avoiding my rear view mirror.
Stage 5- Taking Ownership of YOU
I am not quite here yet, so am unclear of what this entails.
However, I do know that I own my decisions now. I own my time. I own my finances and I own my self-esteem. In fact, I own everything I do day-to-day, hour-to-hour. I no longer have someone breathing down my neck telling me how to live my life. As amazing as that sounds, it can be crippling and exhausting.
I imagine much of this stage will also involve making tough decisions like finding a lawyer to close the relationship book once and for all. It will also include putting yourself back out in the world and moving past the continual “venting” of who what and who you left behind. Again, you are no longer identified by the relationship you were in, and now is the time to take on a new identity.
Some people may put themselves back out in the dating scene, while others may choose to stay alone and enjoy the lack of commitment.
For me, I make my decisions throughout the day with only one person in mind-ME. Even if I make a mistake, I take ownership, because I no longer share my life and my actions with another person. I am no longer influenced by another person’s direct opinions or attitude.
It is scary as hell to allow yourself to take ownership of yourself, but once you do, you feel unbreakable, unstoppable and fearless.
I am working through this stage right now, as I said, and I foresee great things ahead- even though I know it won’t always be easy.
Stage 6- Moving Forward as the NEW YOU
I can see this coming very soon. I will let you all know how it goes, and how I get out of my own way.
It may not happen right away, but I will get to this stage, and embrace the changes. I will also recognize the hard work I have put into becoming this person and celebrate.
When I am the NEW ME.
Please understand that I am not sharing these stages as a professional or as a clinician. These are all based on the experience I have had with my breakup.
Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone’s reason is unique. Everyone’s story has been written in a way that others haven’t read.
Be kind to yourself. Be patient with your experience.
Most importantly, treat yourself as a priority. Without you having sound and happy mental health, you are no good to anyone else-not your children, not your employer, and not even your family.
You have come this far. Keep on going.
When you are going through hell, the best thing to do is plow through as fast as you can, before the devil knows you’re there.
Put it all behind you. Forgive yourself for your own mistakes, and always love yourself.
You’ve got this!