Conscious Girlfriend: The worst break-up of my life

Woman with broken heart on her chestBY RUTH L. SCHWARTZ, PH.D.

It was April 2000. With the woman I’d been madly in love with since the previous summer, a woman I’d literally wanted since the first moment I saw her. She’d signed up to take a workshop with me at a writing conference and told me later that she’d felt a sense of “destiny” when she first saw my photo on the flyer. So, very quickly and intensely, we were both hooked.

Our relationship wasn’t easy, yet it was the first one in which I’d ever wanted forever. There was something about Sarah that opened me up to a joy I’d never felt before in another person’s presence. As the love songs say, I loved “every little thing about her.” She wrote amazing poetry, she kept a huge unabridged dictionary open on her dining-room table, she collected dead dragonflies in boxes. And she was beautiful and ephemeral, great in bed and hard to pin down.

She ended it by phone, from 3,000 miles away. She couldn’t even give me a clear reason. After we hung up, the room spun. I huddled in my stuffed green chair, crying. Briefly, I wanted to hate her. No, I wanted to love her. I did love her. But our relationship had been a kind of Eden for me, lush, magical and dangerous. Now, I had been kicked out.

I had no idea how to handle that much pain. I called a psychic. I called a friend. Late another night, I called a suicide hotline. I barely ate. Rationally, I knew I’d had a life before Sarah, so presumably I could have one after her. But to the part of me crumpled in the green chair, nothing was real except the fact that Sarah was gone.

As it turned out, she wasn’t. A month later, she started spending weekends with me again, but without letting me call it a relationship. Four months later she left again, but called and sent postcards as she made her way back across the country to reunite with her ex. Three months after that, she invited me to join her on vacation, asking, “Do you think you’ll still be attracted to me?” But when I arrived she insisted I rent my own room, then left the next day. I spent the weekend alone, crying and drinking dark beer.

The happy ending took awhile in coming, but it did come. First, though, I got into another relationship much too quickly. When that relationship blew up a year later, I spent six months alone, then dove headfirst into a relationship with someone who was officially (as opposed to unofficially) unavailable. But I also began to work hard on my own healing because I’d finally realized that if I changed, my relationships would, too.

Now, it’s been 14 years since that devastating breakup, and I’m deeply grateful for the much wiser, deeper love I’ve co-created with Michelle over the past eight years. From where I stand now, I truly feel no anger, grief or regret. I forgive Sarah her confusion. I forgive myself, too, for the many mistakes I made. In fact, I’m actually grateful for the pain that relationship caused me — something I never, ever thought I’d be able to say! — because it truly was a big part of what pushed me into transformation.

Have you ever had a breakup you thought you might not survive? Have you gone through multiple breakups with the same person? Do you still feel grief, anger or regret about a past relationship, even one that ended years ago? If so, write and tell us your breakup stories. They’ll help us in developing the Breakup Recovery Program we plan to create.

We’d especially love to know:

• What one or two things made (or makes) it hardest to let go of your relationship?
• What do you think you most need(ed) to help you heal and move on?
• If you’ve healed enough to be able to name the biggest thing you learned from the relationship and breakup, what would it be?

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