As my husband and I are approaching our fifth anniversary, one of my best friend’s is hurting in a way most have experienced, but all wish we had not. Amy and I met for coffee last night, to catch up on life when she unloaded her big news on me—her boyfriend of eight years abruptly left her, giving no explanation other than he “couldn’t do it.” Coffee quickly escalated to the wine bar a block away where we told each deep dark secrets about our love lives that we had never known about one another. For me, it was cathartic, and helped me accept what had happened years ago.
Ten years ago, I was just like Amy, in the same situation, feeling the same heartbreak and loss.
I was 22 when my boyfriend and I unexpectedly broke up, without reason, without explanation.
We had been together for five years, we had dated all through college. I thought we were going to get married, have 2.5 kids, the house with the white picket fence—the whole nine yards.
I came home from work one night, exhausted from a difficult day at work. He was sitting on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, empty beer bottles on the floor and he barely acknowledged my arrival home. The house was a mess. He had been hosting friends all afternoon, leaving me with nothing to eat for dinner. I lost it.
When I came home from work the following day, calm and ready to talk about my frustration about the lack of support around the house, he had moved out.
I waited two days before I called him. He informed me that wanted to hang out with his buddies., do the things he wanted to do when he wanted to do them. He wasn’t “happy.” I later learned that he had been seeing a waitress at his favorite bar for several months before he officially ended things with me.
I was shattered. I lost 6 pounds in a week and hardly slept.
Prior to the explosive end of our relationship, we had our own separate lives. Every Thursday we had a girls night out and a boys night out, once a month he went on a hunting or fishing expedition with his friends, while I stayed home or went to visit my parents. I didn’t understand what he had been unhappy about. We had just bought a house together and had paid for our dream vacation to Italy. In recent months, we had discussed getting married, he took me to look at rings and we talked about what we would name our future kids.
But we were happy and that’s what happy couples apparently do.
A week after he left, I was laid off from the investment company I was working for. Just like that, the man and the career I loved so dearly were gone. (Notice I loved him more than my career.)
I had a mortgage to pay and no way to pay for it. He was gone and he wasn’t coming back.
As if things couldn’t have gotten any worse, I found out I was pregnant.
I now had a mortgage to pay, a baby on the way, no job and no support other than my parents, who turned out to be my only saving grace. They loaned me enough money to pay a couple months’ mortgage while I looked for work. The plan was to rent out the house and I’d move into the townhouse that they owned once their renter had moved out. He was still gone and it took me nearly two months to find a new job.
At sixteen weeks, I suffered a miscarriage.
Much like the breakup, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t function.
This went on for a couple of weeks before I came to an abrupt decision. I wasn’t going to stay in the area, I put in my notice at my new job and packed my Chevy Tahoe up with everything of importance to me. I called my parents from the road, asking them to find a renter to my house. Mature, I know. But I couldn’t stay there for one day longer.
I couldn’t breathe. Everywhere I looked in that house I was reminded of what I almost had. The marriage. The baby. The family.
I walked away from my life in Arizona and found myself living in San Diego for five months. Every morning I went for a jog along the beach and one morning on that path, I found myself. I didn’t belong in San Diego, it was simply where I ended up in an attempt to heal.
What I had realized in that year was I based my happiness on that relationship, on him. I wasn’t ready to be a mother, yet in those few weeks it was all I wanted. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought by having that child, the heartache would somehow have been worth it. I wouldn’t have him but I’d have someone. That isn’t a reason to have a child.
I moved again, this time settling in Shell Beach, a cute coastal town in San Luis Obispo county. You might be more familiar with its neighbor, Pismo Beach. My best friend was finishing up her undergrad at Cal Poly and she proved to be my compass in so many ways. I started riding horses every weekend, going to brandings once or twice a month. I was smiling, feeling more like myself. I was happy.
Do I still miss my former life and what could have been? Sometimes. But what I realized at that wine bar, was had that year not happened, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this with my toes in the sound and the sound of the ocean surrounding me. I wouldn’t have experienced that horrible relationship that I learned so much from. I wouldn’t have gone back to college to get my master’s degree. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have my amazing husband who cooks dinner every night to distract me from the empty beer bottles and dog toys strewn about the house. I learned that sometimes you have to lose yourself just to find yourself again. It’s worth the journey. I am happy.