“I just want to die!”
That’s what I was praying for one night in December when I was 31 years old.
I had just discovered something that shook me to the core. Something that I couldn’t believe.
All the carefully constructed walls that I had built around my heart so that I couldn’t get hurt came crashing down in one fell swoop.
What I was left with was such raw emotional pain that I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
I couldn’t believe that it was possible to feel such pain.
How did this happen? How did I get here?
The clues are in the past
And I remembered the day when I was 10 years old, sitting on a step outside our house. My dad sat down beside me, started to cry and said, “Your mom and I are splitting up and I’m moving out.”
It’s then that I learned some things I hadn’t been aware of. My mom was 17 and unmarried when she got pregnant with me. My dad was 20. They had no money and no support whatsoever from the one living parent they each had.
My mom really didn’t want a child at this stage and my parents talked about giving me up for adoption. My dad, who was more open to having kids, really, really wanted a boy.
The stories we create early on show up later
In hearing all this, I created a story that I was never wanted, that I’m not good enough, and that I’m not lovable. I decided that I’m going to prove my worth by becoming successful and I was going to show my dad that I could be better than any boy.
I also decided that I would guard my heart and never allow myself to be vulnerable. That way I couldn’t get hurt.
I became this little rebel who wanted to achieve success in a non-conforming way. And I did!
My big dream was to have my own business and I also wanted kids.
I was 20 when I met a very handsome, super-extroverted man who was into me right away. Tom was very intense and since I didn’t have a clue about love, I thought he could be the right guy.
We don’t listen to that little voice
By the time I had some niggly doubts about this man, he had already proposed and the wedding arrangements were well on their way.
I was happy to settle down with a man who was excited about joining me in realizing my dream of owning a business.
Two years later we moved to a fast-growing town in South Africa ready to open our store.
The first thing we did was join the one and only tennis club in town. We became close friends with another couple with whom we spent weekends socializing.
I noticed after a while that something was going on between my husband and the wife whom I’ll call Candy. When I confronted Tom, he admitted that he’d developed feelings for her but loved us both and didn’t know what to do.
Well, the decision was made for us when I got pregnant with my first child.
My first breakup
Our marriage was not a good one and we split up 5 years later. By then I had two kids.
On the day of the divorce, Tom was very upset and went bat-shit crazy as they say here in the US, causing us to lose everything.
Suddenly I was homeless and having to rely on strangers for shelter for me and my two young kids.
The next few months were the scariest of my life as I tried in vain to find the money I needed to save the business and house.
The poor little ones in the meantime didn’t know what was going on.
I finally had no choice but to give up and get a job with another jeweler in town.
Two weeks later a miracle happened!
Money appeared almost out of nowhere and I was able to borrow enough to get the business and house back just before they ended up on the auction block.
After five months of hell, I reopened the shop and started to rebuild it in a way that was aligned with my more introverted nature.
The business became more successful than it had ever been before.
I felt I’d arrived. I’d proven my worth and life was good. Little did I know what was in store for me two years later.
Not long after my divorce, I entered another relationship with Dick – also a tennis player. I thought I’d found the one.
We had a lot of fun and connected well intellectually – something I’d never had with Tom.
Our social circle revolved around tennis. This meant that Candy and her husband were very much a part of it.
A very bad soap opera
On the night that my life changed forever, Dick and I were playing Bridge with Candy and her husband. I leaned back and happened to look under the table and what I saw shook the foundations of my world.
Candy and Dick were playing footsie, bare feet caressing each other.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Discovering a philandering streak in Dick was bad enough. Having it be with Candy was too much.
Who was this woman? What did she have that I didn’t? What kind of voodoo did she do so well to tempt the men in my life away from me? What had I ever done to her to make her do something so heartless? Why me? Surely, this kind of thing didn’t happen in real life – only in movie scripts and stories.
Dick made light of it saying it was just a mild bit of flirting. We’d consumed quite a lot of wine and I so wanted to believe him.
I immediately began seeking answers to understand my pain and how I could get rid of it. I devoured every self-help book I could find.
The illusion of control
By protecting my heart so that I couldn’t get hurt, I had created the very thing I had tried to avoid.
Before that day I believed I was in complete control of my life and emotions. But now I discovered that it was all just an illusion.
After 9 months of trying to be a more loving partner so that I wouldn’t lose Dick, I broke up with him. I just couldn’t trust him despite his reassurances.
And surprise, surprise—once Dick knew it was over between us, his next stop was Candy’s doorstep. This time her marriage ended.
This was extremely painful for me. The worst part was having to face them together at tennis each week looking happy and in love.
I prayed for strength each time I was on my way to the tennis club.
Now some of you may wonder why I didn’t stop going there. Tennis was my sport, my hobby and there was only one club in town.
If I stayed away to avoid seeing them I’d be giving my power away. I’d be letting them control my life. I couldn’t do that. I knew deep down that I needed to go through it to heal.
The one thing that sets you free
After many months of seeking, growing, and doing the inner work, I found the one thing that ultimately set me free. It was to forgive Candy. How I got there is an interesting story that I’ll share another time.
Now you’d think that’s all there is to the story, but wait…there’s more as they say in the infomercials on TV.
The year after I ended my relationship with Dick, an old tennis friend who had moved away, returned to our town.
There’d always been a spark between us so Harry and I started a relationship that lasted nearly three years.
Candy and Dick broke up the following year. Their relationship had been a disaster once it moved past the initial infatuation stage.
You don’t need a partner to feel whole
I eventually grew strong enough emotionally to realize that I didn’t need a man in order to feel whole. I was longing to spend some time alone and get connected with me, so I broke up with Harry.
He was devastated and after trying in vain to get me back for a few months, he gave up.
And guess what?
On the rebound, he married Candy five months later!
Yes, you heard right. Crazy isn’t it?
The best gift of my life
My story with Candy spanned over a period of 14 years. It turned out to be the greatest gift of my life.
It broke me open and helped me heal from my past hurts. I learned that true strength comes from our ability to be vulnerable.
I later moved to the US and remarried. It ended after seven years. Although the divorce was unwanted on my part, the personal growth-work I’d done between each relationship, gave me a deep understanding of the human condition and the ability to see the bigger picture.
This allowed me to move on very quickly since I barely had any emotional baggage.
My journey with Tom, Dick, Harry, and Candy, showed me that our relationships are gifts that serve as a mirror. They reflect who we are and give us an opportunity to heal and evolve…
…but only if we let them.
I’m on a mission to help women discover the gift of their relationship breakup, and use it to deepen their connection with their true self.
This will not only prepare them for a deeper and happier relationship the next time around, but they’ll also discover a richer and more joyful life overall.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent