[True Story] The Alchemy of Suffering: How a breakup can transform you
I was thirty-two years old and I had just fallen head over heels with the man I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.
Never mind that I had already found the man I was going to spend my life with ten years earlier; from whom I had recently divorced. To say I was not managing my expectations well, would be an understatement. My thirty-two-year-old self pressed on optimistically with a man we will call Henry.
When Henry and I started dating, I had recently turned away from everything I had known. I was forging a new identity, life, and way of being. I had spent all of my twenties (part of which included my time being married) conforming to unspoken standards and obligations set out by my religious and familial upbringing. In that upbringing, I was not given space to question or deviate from religious or familial protocols. In being unable to question, I concealed a lot of things including my emotions, dreams, ideas and feelings from everyone in my ecosystem. Free from my marriage, my past religion and my family’s expectations, I was committed to a fresh set of ideals and behaviors. My hope was to have a more authentic and open relationship with the world around me and especially Henry, now that I knew myself a little better outside of my family and religion. The moment my heart recognized deep love for Henry, I made a solemn vow to myself to let him in, to be transparent, to love him without reservation and allow him to love me in return – ‘warts and all’ as they say.
At the time, this felt like the right thing to do. In hindsight, I realized I had opened the floodgates of my emotions and vulnerabilities in a very unhealthy way. I was over-correcting. This swing in extremes was a major part of the overarching narrative of my life story before my pivot. The genesis of my narrative was a shared experience of growing up in a family that operated in extremes. A family that that viewed the world as black and white, right and wrong, good or bad, us and them. It wouldn’t be until after my breakup with Henry that I could see, opening the floodgates was just another way I went from one extreme to the other, without anticipating the consequences. In other words, if not being true to myself and my emotions was bad, then the exact opposite of this must be good, right?
Henry was so easy to love. I loved him with every fiber of my being. I loved him in a way I never knew I could love another human being.
I loved him more than my dog. Henry was positively light, humorous, quirky, mature, creative and spontaneous. He was comfortable in his own skin; in a way I had never experienced in relationships before. Henry had no agenda or ulterior motives. He wasn’t looking to expand his wealth, gain a trophy wife, or flaunt his new arm candy. He was just a guy, who wanted a companion, lover, and friend. Henry used say, “I don’t need or want anything from you, I just want to be with you.”
Four months into our relationship; I started to brood and our honeymoon phase was starting to disintegrate. We were beginning to discern where our differences and similarities merged and where they split. We were uncovering where our core beliefs matched and where mine were undefined and usually changing by the minute. Then, like a cleverly placed IED out of nowhere my insecurities, unresolved issues, and fears started to bubble to the surface. I started to question and doubt why Henry wanted to be with me, why he would love me and suspected him of cheating. I often wondered, if I deserved someone as good, kind and loving as Henry. After all, I had just destroyed another person’s life through my divorce, my family wasn’t really speaking to me, I had no direction in my personal or professional life and I was pretty much penniless. I was the bad, he was the good. What did I really have to offer him?
Over the course of the next year I deployed several self-sabotage tactics, some conscious and some completely unconscious.
My sabotaging came in the form of suffocating his friendships, starting fights over nothing, taking up all of his free time, blaming him for my unhappiness, going into jealous rages, manipulating him and other painful manifestations. I sabotaged until neither of us had anything left to give or receive emotionally, mentally or physically. Then I found one last way to hurt him so badly it would solidify our breakup. An irreversible ending. We would never get back together nor would I be the kind of person he would ever trust again. I had reverted to my childish, defensive ways of hurting you before you could hurt me. However, in reality Henry never tried to hurt me. Henry didn’t even have a malicious bone in his body.
It took about a year and half to completely unravel our relationship. The aftermath of our breakup led me deeper into my awakening and helped me to realize how I wanted to operate in all relationships: To do as little harm as possible to myself and every sentient being, I came in contact with.
Breaking up with Henry broke me. The physical pain, internal suffering, and emotional turmoil I experienced after our breakup felt like a heavy weight that I was unable to move out from under for a very long time. Longer than I would like to admit. I broke so badly that I had to confront everything I had ignored from my past, my childhood and my marriage up until this point. I had lost someone very dear to me, of my own volition and selfishness. What came next was that my fracture was transmuted into intense expansion.
I spent the next few years, with my sleeves rolled up in the psychological garden of my mind unearthing everything that might get in the way of me experiencing relationships from a healthy place.
I didn’t want to meet someone like Henry again and be unprepared or unresolved in my triggers so that I couldn’t fully relax into a healthy, mature relationship. I challenged myself to sit with the discomfort, the ugliness and the all too human aspects of what triggers me in a relationship. I spent time healing the parts of me that felt abandoned in my youth, which always plagued me in relationships. I also spent time figuring out exactly who I was without a partner. I ripped off every layer of my old self that didn’t belong to me and finally revealed my true, light, kind, authentic self. I spent years forgiving my thirty-two-year-old self, for blowing it.
I know now, that going through this breakup, was a catalyst for one of the biggest shifts in my own personal growth. My expansion has been vast and I am certain that I would not have experienced this growth had I stayed with Henry. This experience was painful, but the pain turned me into the person I am today.
I learned a great deal about myself outside of my relationship with Henry, after it ended. I learned two valuable lessons from Henry that stick out prominently in my mind. The first being, when I hurt someone else, ultimately, I am hurting myself. The second lesson being that I now understand the value of companionship without condition. The luxury of just being loved by someone, having them ask nothing of you and accepting you as you are.
And of course, the inverse of that. What I have come to learn more broadly about this experience is that breakups are a great conduit for personal growth and development. I used to judge myself for having a failed marriage and ended relationships. However, there is no such thing as a failed marriage or relationship. Failure is too abstract and subjective a concept to apply to relationships. Relationships exist within the confines of changing beings, with rich histories, and wounds that can surface at any time. Relationships are built between two people who are doing the best they can in that moment in time, with the tools they have gathered on their individual journeys.
If you can find a way to use your pain, grief, and suffering from a breakup as information about what you would like to do differently next time. That’s a game changer.
Try your best to not run away from your pain or avoid it. You might find out that all suffering is transformative and can be used for your expansion and enlightenment. Suffering is alchemy, in its highest form so long as we allow it to be. Next time you experience a breakup I encourage you to be brave and ask—“What was my part in the breakup? “What was theirs?” In asking these questions, you must be kind and gentle to yourself. As you gain courage to self-evaluate, look for patterns or obstacles that seem to present themselves in relationship after relationship. Then with an extra dose of inner compassion, curiosity, loving-kindness and forgiveness work through what comes up, one by one.
Henry continues to live on the periphery edges of my life. He is still on my list of favorite people. With years behind us, the loss of our relationship created the biggest gain in my life. For that I am eternally grateful for the experience of both loving and losing him.
Post written by Krista Xiomara
Post edited by Laura Forbes Photos supplied by Krista Xiomara