Anna had been with her partner for two years. They had talked about getting married, having a family together and she had never been happier. She felt everything in her life was finally working. She had a great job, wonderful friends and a fantastic man whom she loved with all her heart. She had started to look at bridal magazines and had a wonderful picture in her head of their life together. She couldn’t wait for the rest of her life.
But suddenly, Terry had come home and told her it was over. He said he didn’t love her any more. What? She had thought they were happy together. As he packed his bags and walked out the door, Anna couldn’t understand what had gone wrong.
She got up each morning and went to work, put on a brave face with her friends, but she was completely numb. She knew there was a massive wave of grief just below the surface but she refused to let it overwhelm her. If she ignored it perhaps it would go away. Don’t they say time heals all wounds?
For Anna, the shock of her partner’s leaving was so great she couldn’t begin to comprehend what it actually meant. There was a part of her mind that refused to hear the words, and even though Terry was gone she just couldn’t accept it was over.
How had this happened? One minute they were talking about marriage and babies and the next he had walked out the door. What did he mean when he said he didn’t love her anymore? Had any of their time together been real or had he always felt this way? In her mind, by refusing to admit things had changed, she was able to hide from her reality. She believed if she felt nothing then the pain couldn’t touch her.
Anna couldn’t shake off the sense of sadness and loss that surrounded her. On the surface she appeared fine, if a little thin nowadays. Her friends accepted her word when she said she was okay. They looked closely at her to see if it was the truth but she put on a brave smile and they had no choice but to believe her.
Inside though, was a physical pain in the centre of her chest that would sometimes make her catch her breath. She couldn’t muster up enthusiasm for her work. All she wanted to do was sleep. Everywhere she looked there was darkness. She used to have a future but now she couldn’t see one. When Terry left he had taken her future with him. She had no idea what to do next and she didn’t really know how to care.
Anna believed so strongly in the future she had created in her mind, she wasn’t ready to let it go. She couldn’t see past it because to her it had been real; so real she had lived her life as if it had already been created in her physical world. Whilst the truth was, now that Terry had gone, that particular version of her future was no longer possible she had no way to accept it. In her mind she had lost everything; her past, her present and her future. She had lived so long in the belief she had created that her grasp on reality was lost in the mist of her imaginings. Now she had no idea how to face a world that was not her fantasy. The incongruence of it all left her reeling.
Anna couldn’t feel anything but pain. Her chest continued to hurt and she sometimes couldn’t breathe for the agony of it. She just couldn’t get past the rejection she felt when Terry left her. What had she done wrong? Why did he stop loving her? Had he ever loved her or was it all a lie?
One day she asked herself this question: ‘What if it isn’t about me?’
Perhaps it was just a choice Terry made for himself. Maybe they just wanted different things no matter what he said when they were together. That would mean she couldn’t have stopped it happening no matter what she did. Here she was, feeling abandoned and certain she could have done something differently. Who did she think she was? Did she really believe she was so wonderful that Terry would have stayed with her even if it wasn’t what he wanted?
As Anna opened her mind to the possibility that she was not to blame for the break- up, she understood that for Terry it must have been incredibly difficult. They had planned so much together, and he was a good person. It would not have been easy for him to end their relationship knowing she would be so hurt.
Anna began to see that Terry must have been in an enormous amount of pain to take the step to leave their relationship the way he did. He didn’t intend his choice to be an abandonment or rejection of her. He was just following his heart. Anna remembered he had been stressed and tense in the last few weeks they were together, but when she had asked him what was bothering him, he said it was work pressures. She knew now that his was not the truth. She had seen his pain and now understood the toll his decision had taken on him. Poor Terry, she thought. What a burden to live with? Why couldn’t he just be honest?
It was then that she realised that in fact it was his truth she was struggling with. It just wasn’t the same as hers any more. Everything she had believed about her future had changed, and it was she who was having problems accepting and adjusting. They were her feelings and T erry was not responsible for them. Once the light bulb went off in her head, Anna realised it was time to let the pain go. She had chosen her negative response and she was the only one who could change it. In that moment she understood that Terry had always been an honourable man. He had tried as hard as he could to minimise her pain but the rest was up to her.
Anna grew to a place where she was thankful to Terry for his decision to end their relationship. Whilst it had been a painful journey, the eyes that looked back at her in the mirror each morning were kind, soft and loving, full of vitality and hope. Without the heartache of their break-up she would probably never have had this opportunity to explore her own truth and discover who she wanted to be.
With her focus firmly on the dream of their life together, she had never really stopped to ask herself who she was. In hindsight she realised that to some extent she had been on a road she had never thought about, one she had believed with all her heart would bring her the happiness she had always sought. She knew now that happiness could not be found in a relationship alone. She understood that whilst the interaction between two people who love each other is wonderful, without herself she had nothing.
Anna now got up each morning with a sense of purpose. She no longer went automatically through the motions of her life but radiated a confidence that was contagious. She was attracting many interesting people into her life and she had noticed the attention she’d been getting lately. Something had definitely changed and she was proud of what she had achieved, who she had become. She knew that if she decided she wanted a partner in her life as some stage, she would attract someone wonderful. For now though, she was content to explore the world on her own, to discover new places, new people and get to know herself; to take the time to become a woman with a strong and positive belief system, who asked herself the questions that would form her experiences, to live actively and fully in a world where her life was her own; where she could decide each and every moment what she wanted to experience and who she wanted to be; who recognised the wondrous opportunities she knew surrounded her every day.
A few years later, at Anna’s wedding to the handsome man by her side, she vowed to be true to herself, to be true to him and to love him every day for the rest of her life. She understood finally that love is a choice, one she was determined to make every minute throughout her lifetime. No matter what the future held for them as a couple, she would never again lose herself in a dream that had no basis in reality. She knew that ‘happy ever after’ had to come from inside her. It was up to her to create her own experience.