‘To move on and adapt, we need to unlearn and then relearn. It’s vital in a world that’s changing so fast.’ – Catherine Turner, Wellness Editor for Psychologies Magazine.
This sounds so obvious to me now, but I’ve never realised it before ~ If only I had!
The thing is, I’ve always seen my divorce as a defining failure. I had failed at what had been one of the most important things to me in life, and therefore it was a massive failure – I was a massive failure. When my marriage broke down my whole world fell apart. I fell apart. My life as I knew it was changed for ever.
Going through my divorce I went through a complete crisis of identity. I couldn’t adjust to the shock of being knocked off track – knocked off the track of the conventional lifestyle I had always planned for. I didn’t ‘unlearn and relearn’ to adapt to my new place in life ~ I just wanted to continue on the track I’d thought I would always be on … First I’d been a child, then a teenager, then married, then a parent – I knew my place on this track of life. I was complete. Having a husband made me whole. I knew who I was and what my role was, and what it would continue to be. Career choices and aspirations didn’t come into it ~ Once I was married they hadn’t even been allowed to come into it! I was a wife and a mum. My income was supplementary – not bread and butter.
Coming out of a marriage is a rough, tough, horrible experience. The financial implications and complications, and the massive lifestyle upheaval can have repercussions that continue on add infinitum … but it’s the emotional recoil that did it for me. If only I’d realised then what I’m discovering now! If only I’d unlearned everything I’d grown up believing in. If only I’d realised I wasn’t a failure; that I wasn’t an incomplete person. So many times during my marriage I’d wished I could be more independent, stronger, more self-sufficient – but that just wasn’t me. My husband was the strong, independent, self-sufficient one. I didn’t have his confidence. I was definitely a cog in the wheel, a link in the chain. I had a role to do, but I didn’t have a purpose all on my own. I kept things going, I held things together – but always I was part of a team. Suddenly that team no longer existed.
I got lost, totally lost. I no longer knew who I was. I no longer knew where I was going. My natural instincts and human nature led me to look for a new partner in life … but I was so scared of being hurt again, of failing again, of getting things wrong again. I needed the comfort intimacy gives you, but I couldn’t cope with commitment. I was a muddled up mess.
“ … When you’re lost in these woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realise you’re lost. For the longest time you convince yourself that you’ve just wandered a few feet off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again and you still have no idea where you are …” (Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert)
Eventually I realised I needed to ‘get a grip’. I needed to change my coping mechanism … but I didn’t ‘unlearn and relearn’. I didn’t change my course in life – I still just wanted to get back on the track ~ the track I’d been knocked off. I felt out of place in the world. The feeling of being incomplete engulfed me. I now know I needed to focus on ME, on who I am, on what will make me whole without the need of a ‘significant other’. Instead I focused on finding a partner who would complete me. I limped through life, not realising that I am not a failure ~ that I don’t need to be a wife to be accepted ~ that I alone am enough!
“… Yet the lesson you’ve been taught since the time you were little – from every story, every song, every movie, every ad, every well-meaning auntie – that you aren’t complete otherwise. And if – God forbid – you are one of the ‘outcasts’ who haven’t gotten married, or have been divorced, you are considered deficient or incomplete in some way”. (Reclaim your heart – Jasmin Mogadin)
It’s now 17 years since I left my husband and my failed marriage to start out again. It’s taken two further failed co-habiting relationships and a whole shipload of heartache and regret for me to realise that if you don’t unlearn what you’ve been doing and thinking in life – that has led you to where you’re so unhappy, then surely it stands to reason that pretty soon you’ll end up in the same place all over again.
It’s time for me to ‘unlearn and relearn’ ~ It’s OK to be alone. It’s OK to focus on what I want to do with my life; to make choices as a single, whole, complete person ~ standing for what I love in life. I don’t need to make choices that leave a gap for a new partner to fill. I need to focus on where I go from here – alone.
It frightens me … and if I’m honest it saddens me too. I never thought I’d be planning adventures without a partner in life. But I’ve grown so much since my marriage broke down. I have actually become more the woman I used to wish I could be when I was still married! Being alone has strengthened me. It’s time to ‘unlearn and relearn’ what I want in life, and to embrace all the opportunities ahead of me … as me, just me, and that’s OK!