Behind Closed Doors: Three Years On

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Three years ago today my life fell apart so suddenly I still struggled to comprehend it.

One minute I was having an argument with my boyfriend of almost eight years, the man I’d always thought I would marry and have children with, about not very much – the next I was single.

Within a day I was living alone in our flat, surrounded by our books, our photos, the possessions we’d picked up on all our travels. Within three weeks I’d moved into my friends’ spare bedroom and was contemplating life as a solo act for the first time since my teens.

Within two days of becoming single, I’d applied for a job on the other side of the world. A few months later I left the country with two suitcases and a sheaf of going-away notes and letters from my friends.

I was abroad for two years. I came back. I’ve made new friends, worked out how to try and maintain friendships with the old, mutual ones, where I can. With some it was impossible – I had to let go of them and grieve for them. I’ve found a whole new area of the city we used to live in together, where I know I’m unlikely to bump into my ex walking down the street.

I know now that I can live without him, that I won’t wake up every morning almost paralysed by pain, staring at the side of the bed where he should be sleeping. I know I can be alone. I know now that to be single is better than to be in a relationship with someone who has one foot out of the door. I know that to be independent, to go where I want and do what I want without having to consult another person, is a freeing sensation. I know that I can be happy without him. I can go weeks without thinking about him in any serious way.

But pain remains, regardless. There’s the pain of realising that the man I loved so whole-heartedly, who I lived with and slept with and joked with, is a stranger to me now. That maybe he always was a stranger, and that I never knew him as fully as I thought.

There’s the pain of rejection. The sense that I gave all of myself to someone, and I was found wanting. It makes me very guarded, these days, and overly sensitive to the possibility of being hurt again.

There’s the pain of self doubt. I think it takes a very strong person not to derive at least some of their self-esteem from a partner who thinks they’re quite simply the best thing since sliced bread. I had to learn how to be self-sufficient, to tell myself I’m doing a good job occasionally, to ask my (amazing) friends for help when once I would have turned to my ex.

Recently an acquaintance asked me how long I’d been single, and when I answered, she said: “Wow, that’s a long time. Don’t you think it’s time to meet someone else now?”

And I would like to. I really would. But all those fears come to the surface every time I think about opening myself up, and risking heartache and rejection again. So, for now, I find myself drawn to the age-inappropriate, or the emotionally closed-off, or the downright unavailable. (Just for the record, they can be a total blast. Just not for an actual grown-up relationship.)

AOW reminds me that not all love stories have to have unhappy endings. That one day I’ll meet someone who accepts me for exactly who I am and who I want to become. And that in the meantime I’m surrounded, in life and on the interwebs, by some very cool people indeed.

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships
7 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted January 6, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    God. You’re strong. Revel in that.

    It’s happened to me in a smaller way, in that he came back after a couple of days and realised he’d been an idiot. But for those days I went through this exactly, like we’d built a whole life and future and now it was nothing.

    I have no idea how long is an appropriate amount of time but I’m sure you’ll feel ready whenever you do, and when that happens I hope you get something infinitely more wonderful. Xx

  2. Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I know it sounds trite to say I know how you feel, but I do. I have written already on these very pages about my husband leaving me and my divorce. Just like you, I felt rejected and alone. I think it’s horrible to find that someone has turned out not to be who you thought and to end up doubting yourself as your judgement was clearly so flawed.

    I’m so impressed by how you have put your life back together. For me the changes were smaller but no less important -I moved to a new city and made new friends. Also like you, I discovered that some of the people who I thought were so important to me and could be relied upon, were actually not and I had to let them go too.

    I have just started dating someone else. It’s early days and I am terrified half the time. I have no idea where this is going and I hate myself for having turned into this person who is anxious, guarded and riddled with self doubt. For all that though, I refuse to give up. Because if I do that means the ex has won, and I’m not having that.

    You sound like a fantastic and strong person and I’m sure that one day the person will come along who will make you want to trust again, albeit slowly. But until then, just enjoy life and being who you are xx

    • Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Can I just say that I wouldn’t describe anything you’ve done in the past couple of years as ‘small’.

  3. Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Good luck with everything, you already sound like you’ve been extremely positive and have done things for yourself with working abroad etc. I can’t imagine how it must feel, and I only hope that in time you csn trust again. Good luck to you too Anita, I remember reading your post previously and wish you all the best x

  4. Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I think that the poster sounds really strong and sorted. Too bad for that douchebag who messed you around so much. And this sentence “one day I’ll meet someone who accepts me for exactly who I am and who I want to become” made me smile so much – I have every confidence you’ll get just that. x

  5. Fee
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I think you sound so brave and strong – carrying on through something so traumatic takes so much strength.

    Wishing you nothing but happiness from this point on – I hope you find someone who can make you believe again, when the time is right x

  6. Amanda M
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing post. I really hope you find someone who deserves you.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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