Q. I am a 31-year-old woman and a medical officer manager for a thriving family practice. I met my boyfriend seven years ago and we’ve been a couple ever since. We enjoyed being together even though we had some differences. We put hope in our shared values, such as faith, family and friends. We also chose not to live together and maintained our own apartments throughout our relationship.
At times, I would encourage us both to express commitment to our relationship for the long haul. He did not object and believed we would eventually marry. At the same time, he made no effort to actually set a date. Twice I gave him a deadline for some action on his part and each time we had a heart-wrenching conversation that encouraged me to stay in the relationship because there was growth on both of our parts of wanting a future together.
Unfortunately, the “wanting” never became a definite plan. And so, when I came home a few weeks ago after attending a four-day conference, he suddenly broke off the relationship because he “did not see a future for us together, including having children!”
I am shattered and have little motivation to keep going. I cry day and night. I catch myself looking in the mirror and seeing a woman approaching her mid-thirties and having to start all over again! Where do I find a partner I can share my hopes and dreams with for marriage and family at this stage? I feel like I have wasted seven years and I blame myself for being in this situation.
A. My heart goes out to you as you find the courage to go forward in your life. I understand your “crying day and night.” You love him, and he’s been a big part of your life for so long you automatically look for him in all the places you have been together.
First, I encourage you to take the time to grieve your incredible loss. You invested seven years of your life in this relationship. Furthermore, your time with him took up a large chunk of your childbearing years. That too needs to be mourned. At the same time, remind yourself you hung in there because you loved him and saw hope and potential for the future.
Second, check out your friendship pool. Choose four or five to help you get through these difficult days. Good friends allow you to talk and are not judgmental. They take you seriously and make space for you in their lives.
Third, develop a daily routine for the week because it helps you get through each day. At times you won’t feel like talking or being with people and that is normal. Your challenge is to develop a routine that balances your need for connection and your need for solitude. When you feel overwhelmed don’t hesitate to rest. A friend of mine calls her need for napping after she lost her spouse “grief sleep.” Be good to yourself.
Fourth, find a role model who has been through your kind of sorrow and draw strength and hope from her. Allow your faith in God to carry you when the going gets tough. Believe you can get through this and become happy again! But it takes time and courage.
Fifth, allow this challenging journey to strengthen you. Do not rush into another relationship but see yourself as a complete individual on your own. And rather than focus on finding another partner, develop your own gifts and talents in ways that broaden your horizon. Finding another partner may well happen when you least expect it.
Last, hindsight can be a cruel teacher and it can also skew our memories unhelpfully. If you are telling yourself you should have left him when you gave him the first or second deadline I want to remind you that you loved him and both of you grew through the process, which gave you hope for the future. Your belief and trust in him and the relationship at that time needs to be honoured. We’ve only “wasted our time” when we do not learn from life’s experiences. I am sure you learned a lot and your suffering will give you wisdom for the years ahead. However, should you feel yourself sliding into a depression, I suggest you connect with a therapist or a pastor. Your future may well have many good things in store for you.
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