While doing a spot of clearing out the other day, I came across an old post (2005) from my now defunct personal blog that sowed the seeds for Baggage Reclaim. I used to get emails from people telling me that they printed this out and carried it in their purse or that they read and re-read it when they were tempted to go back– it tells the story of the pain I went through when I realised that my relationship with my ex-fiance was falling apart and how I came to realise that it was a blessing.
“I was devastated when my relationship with my partner of almost two years came to a not quite so sudden, but definitely a dramatic end at the beginning of June 2003. While at the beginning of that year I had felt that our relationship was moving forward and that I was growing individually, a couple of months into the year, and my relationship began to unravel. I’m not quite sure how. There isn’t one great thing that I can put my finger on, but the one thing I do recall, is that one morning I woke up and I knew that trouble was on the way. I felt it, and it came over like a great black cloud, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t shake it.
When you have loved someone and been loved intensely, you feel it when their soul leaves you. One day my partner’s heart and soul just upped and walked out of the relationship, and while in the ensuing months, they occasionally crossed the threshold back into the relationship, they always edged back to the door and left me. I, suffused with this knowledge and the insecurity that followed, tried to pull [his heart and soul] back in, and when they retreated even more, I grabbed on and tried to hold on for dear life, but I eventually lost my grip.
It felt as if the sun had gone out of my life. In its place I had light showers, hail stones, snow, and sometimes I had a thunder storm which temporarily bought the sun back in, until something came along to alter the weather and push the sun out. Quite frankly I was frozen out of my partner’s life and left out in the cold – a pretty horrid thing to happen when you both still live under the same roof.
In the early days of the storm there was distance, a lack of interest in anything I said or did, and mystery excuses started to appear for why he couldn’t do things with me that he had either promised to do or would have done before.
Gradually over time he admitted that he had been distant but that he didn’t know why. I’m quite shrewd and have done my fair share of relationship counseling of friends, so I gave him reasons, lots of them actually. I believed that he had grown tired of the relationship. There had been some dramas that we had had to deal with the previous year, and coupled with what must have felt like being a constant support for the student girlfriend, it seemed that his brain had called last orders and I could no longer get a drink from the bar.
Weeks went by and the arguments gained pace, and it seemed that we talked about the ‘situation’ every weekend. I seemed to be like the psychiatrist on the one hand, and the very frightened, insecure girlfriend on the other.
I felt that if we talked things through, that eventually we would get to a breakthrough. I felt bad that shared problems and some of my personal problems had put us here, and I thought that I must work hard to get the relationship to work and resolve things out.
About a month or so into it, when we were having a break for the weekend, he said he wanted to finish it while we talked on the phone. Initially I was calmly upset, and then I broke down in tears, and I remember saying to him that I couldn’t believe that he would “do this” and that I had thought I could trust him, and after everything that we had been through, this was unbelievably painful. After almost two hours on the phone, he said that we should give it another try and came to collect me and took me to our home.
I felt quite shell-shocked and embarrassed. I kept expecting him to let out an evil laugh and tell me I was stupid, and to pack my stuff and get out. Instead he was quite loving, and we even listened to music and watched films together that night, sleeping together afterwards, where I cried, probably with the sheer exhaustion of my emotions. As time went on, it became apparent that he was using the fact that he’d done a U-turn as some sort of leverage against me. I didn’t expect or need him to be throwing it back in my face like a wet rag. I remember saying to him that I would never place myself in that position again and I told him how the whole episode had made me feel, and that I also felt that I had put my self-respect and dignity on the line, something that definitely wasn’t going to happen again. That wiped the sneering look off his face quickly enough, with him quickly backtracking and telling me that I was silly to feel that way.
It took another 6 weeks before our relationship took a complete nosedive. We’d had some stinking rows in the run up to my finals and he was so obnoxious that every time he opened his mouth, I wondered what I had ever seen in him. He was downright nasty on occasion and at times, I hated him. One night he told me he was going to collect a friend at 1am and that he’d be back in an hour and came back twelve hours later. He didn’t call or text until shortly before he arrived home, and laughed at my anger and annoyance. He brought me an expensive dress a few hours later as if that could make everything OK. Six days later I was gone.
I walked away from my engagement, my home, the future that I had planned and walked into a life of uncertainty. I think the stress of the whole thing was the straw that broke the donkey’s back and plunged my immune system into my illness. The amazing thing is that almost two years after walking away, I still don’t regret what I did. I think most people would have thought, Shit, have I made the wrong decision? Should I have stayed?. Not for one moment did I think that, because ‘NML’ [me, Nat] was back and was certain of my choices, certain of my conviction.
While I was ‘devastated’ when we broke up, I think those feelings stemmed from things not working out how I planned, not because I was actually still in love with him. I was devastated at the loss of plans and the change of identity. Loving myself again (more like loving myself at last) had changed the status quo and created chaos. Loving myself made me wise enough to realise that I was well rid but the fragile ego and my emotions pondered the loss of everything that being in a relationship and being engaged represented. You try telling the same story of the breakup over and over again, to your friends and family all over the world and you’ll know what I mean! I’m a swimmer not a sinker, and I always rise back to the top. I recognise the choices I’ve made and I’m determined to learn from them.
There’s obviously a hell of a lot of things that happened in my relationship with him. It wasn’t all him and it wasn’t all me. What I do know is that only one of us tried and let’s just say that the one that tried didn’t have a willy swinging between their legs.
I loved my ex but it wasn’t the right type of love. I think he worked very hard at breaking down ‘hard NML’ and creating an almost dependency on him. He worked very hard to snare this woman who he viewed as being “ambitious”, “outgoing”, “determined”, with “looks” but worked really hard at breaking that down once he nailed me. Bit by bit he jabbed at my self-confidence to bring me to heel and due to lots of family and personal stuff that was going on at that time, it was easy to break me.
I feel that I grew in my time with him and that a lot of it was positive. I am a richer, rounded individual that not only recognises her strengths but recognises her weaknesses too. Maybe I have been too quick to love before, or feel that I am being loved, but it is all experience, and as long as we are learning from it, it can only be good. While I did love him at the time, it wasn’t anything that would last and was partly emotional dependency. I realise that while he may have bought out some of the best of me, he couldn’t love me for me and made me very unhappy. He had some aspects that were “right”, but fell down in areas that are important to me.
The person that you settle down with should be somebody that accepts you for who you are, not who you could be with a “bit of work”.
I want somebody that shares the same values, that respects, loves and trusts me, and is able to share himself and his life. We’ll be individuals, but also a team. Sure, we’ll disagree, but the fundamentals are there to provide a sturdy foundation.
If I had my time again, I wouldn’t want what happened to happen to me again but I can’t turn back time so I say this to him:
Thank you for teaching me some of the most important things in life, and showing me what I do and don’t need. Thank you for testing my strengths and reserves, which have led me to a more fulfilling life, enriched with the wonderful friends and family. Thank you for leading me to what is a much happier life. I hope that you have the same.”
PS On an entirely different note, is anyone as obsessed as I am with How To Get Away With Murder? Best thing I’ve watched since Breaking Bad!