He was relaxed, lying on a sofa. Before I could say anything, he uttered the words I was so afraid to hear: “I am married.” All the pain I had bottled up inside for so long broke out with a roar.  How could he do this? How dare he say it to my face so calmly and casually, as if everything we had did not matter?! I wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me. I started yelling. Before I knew it, I was breaking and throwing things. One hit his head.

Suddenly, I woke up. It took me a long time to calm down after realizing it was just a dream.

I met him last year, when I was not looking for love. It was my 26th birthday. I had gone abroad, seeking some peace and calm – a break from the storm brewing inside me.

For a quarter of a century I had done everything to be a “smart girl.” I had the “perfect” job, I was the “good” daughter. But instead of being happy, my life felt like it was in shambles. My relationship with my parents was strained and I felt trapped in my job. I felt stifled by the expectations of my family and society.

So I decided to give myself the only gift I could: get away from everything and everyone and spend my special day in peace.



We met on a tour of the city. Everything that happened that day seemed to push us together. But I wasn’t looking for a relationship.


I started to push him away, the words were on my lips, but, unlike all the others I had turned down, this time saying no didn’t feel right.

Even though I tried to go on with my vacation alone, in peace, I found my thoughts going back to him.

As I sat by the calm sea the next morning staring at the horizon I wondered why was I feeling restless for the first time in days. How could I share my dreams with someone when I struggled to even remember them?  Would he accept me -- an open-minded, confident girl who does not shy away from telling her opinion -- the way I am? 

Was he ready to be an equal partner? And, most importantly, could he be more than all the other people who had hurt me in the past? 

That afternoon, I decided to give him a chance.




We hit it off immediately.

My soul felt at peace. Being with him surpassed the comfort I felt with a good friend, or a loving relation. I felt so calm when I was with him, and I could feel that he felt the same. It was as if a riot could break out next to us and we would not feel a thing.

The storm that had been brewing inside me withered away.


It was not that he did anything special. He simply was. We simply were. We were living in the moment in a way that I had never managed before. Nothing else mattered. Even after we parted and returned to our normal lives, the spell held. I did not notice or care about troubles at home or work anymore -- the peace I felt helped me make peace with other areas of my life. I could also see him becoming more optimistic about his life.

I waited impatiently for his first visit to my hometown. When he was with me, I felt strong and he felt the same. We could talk for hours and we understood each other’s pain and fears.

We talked about the past, the present and our future together. He wanted to meet my parents, for me to meet his child. He said I was his family.

Even though I had never dreamed of getting married, I started to imagine our life together. Our days together flew by and, when he left, I was already planning for his next visit.

Over the course of our romance, there were some challenges, but we seemed to overcome them so easily. He had been married to a foreign woman before – ironically, she and I shared some common ethnic roots. I knew this was a problem for him, he had already confessed that the thought of another failed marriage, the possibility of having a child in a foreign country, scared him. But it was never an issue for me and I thought we had moved past it.

In addition, the fact that I was foreign was a real concern for his mother, who worried that, once again, her grandchildren would be living far from her.  He had tried at first to hide the fact he had a child, out of fear I would reject him. But I didn’t mind, it wasn’t an issue for me.

Everything seemed fine.

Until he started postponing his visit. With each delay, I could feel the fear growing inside of me. As the excuses piled up, I began to think he didn’t even want to come. It was more than just his changing plans: I felt like I was the only one trying to make our relationship work.

At some point, I got fed up and I broke up with him. He seemed upset, but he didn’t do anything to try and change my mind.

The storm inside me returned, fiercer than before, waves of hurt crushing me over the loss of him. Even now I can remember the pain I felt the day after I broke up with him, the tears that streamed down my face. I was devastated, furious. I wanted to shout. The storm threatened to break loose and sweep everything on its way.

At that moment, I decided to change my life, to stop putting up with the things in my life that upset me. If I had lost the man I loved, I would not hold on to anything I did not.

His rejection gave me the confidence to finally leave my family home. I moved out, despite what my family or society thought about a woman living alone. I also informed my manager at work that I was leaving. I did not have a plan B or a job lined up but when I told my supervisor, I was filled with a real sense of relief.

It was short lived. My mind and my heart remained with the man I loved. I reached out to him, tried to recapture our spark. 

But he seemed ill at ease and, even though I wanted him back in my life, it became clear that was not to be. About a month after I broke up with him, he told me he could not accept me for who I was -- my ambitions, my dreams, my nationality.

I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. His words made me feel underappreciated, worthless and powerless.  

At the time, I started trying to create a new life. I thought that was the end of us. But it wasn’t the end. Not quite, at least.

For several months after that, we were in contact, on-again, off-again. He seemed torn between cutting me off completely and committing. I convinced myself that his fear and emotional trauma made him give up on us, so I put up with his repeatedly telling me he could not be with me.

The final straw was right after our “on-again” period. He ‘accidentally’ called me from an unfamiliar number and his profile photo was of him with a different woman. He made excuses and changed the photo. But then, a few days later, the profile photo was back and the trust I had in him was broken. I had believed everything he said because I chose to trust my partner. I had accepted all his excuses. But finally, there was no more hiding. The truth was right in front of me and I had to let him go.

For many months following our first breakup, I had spent hours thinking about what went wrong between us, between me and the man I loved. Why had it ended, when we had been happy? Why did it go wrong?

The final breakup seemed, in some ways, even worse than the first. The storm that broke inside of me over the loss of him seemed to unleash some inner strength, however.
I began to realize that our relationship had been exactly what I needed to change my life. For years I had not had the courage to leave my unfulfilling job, or to move out on my own. It took strength – not from love, but from the loss of love – to finally take those steps.
He was fated to become my home only to break it into pieces so I could create a new life, the life I had feared for so long.  I also realized that ending it this way had been a gift, in a way. If we had continued, I would have been happy for a while but eventually it would have ended anyway: he had lied. He could not accept me for who I am.

Life is not that complicated. We make it so with others’ expectations of us. But if you live in fear of change and refuse to do what is best for you, life will always find a way to send a wake-up call. In my case, it was the loss of love.

The day after I dreamed of him, I felt dead. I had not felt so strongly about him in months. Hearing those words, the words I feared the most, the words I knew would come, seemed to reopen the wounds of loss.

But eventually even that pain dimmed. While I still have moments of guilt over the past – and doubt and fear sometimes over the future – I have learned to accept them and let them go more easily. In overcoming heartbreak, I have learned to be truthful to myself and love myself first, so the next time I find love, it will be the real thing, not a wake-up call.

edition

Fear

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