What I learned in the year after breaking up my long-term relationship

Once we thought we would stay together for life. And in a way, we will, since we have three daughters. But not in a romantic relationship. About twelve months ago we broke up. It felt like facing my deepest fears. It felt like dying. And maybe I did in a way, as the last year transformed me completely.

No more happily ever after

We were so convinced we were going to make it through life together. Even though I got pregnant only months after we met, we hardly had any money, and I didn’t finish studying. I never had a long-term relationship before. I never was pregnant before. It all felt so new. He was my rock to depend on. We found a beautiful balance in which we both could relax and felt happy – a house, a car, several jobs, and two more kids into the relationship we still felt that way. At parties we would always sit next to each other, holding hands with or without company.

Then at some point, I realized we didn’t do that anymore. A while before we had opened up our relationship because there was such abundant love between us, that we felt enough space to share that with others as well. It didn’t ruin the relationship, but it did highlight issues we (or at least I) ignored.

I didn’t need him as my rock anymore – instead, I wanted to explore myself. My sexuality, my power – and so did he, in his way. The balance we had created became unstable. I felt unhappy and caged where I felt free before. And so did he.

Facing my worst fears

For months I didn’t have the courage to end the relationship. It felt like I would face my worst fears of having to let go of my horses, not having any money, no house and failing in general as a human being. Until I realized that I had to step out of this dynamic, no matter the consequences.

I lost my horses.

I had no money for a while.

I still have no idea where I will live in a year.

But I don’t feel like a failed human being.

On the contrary. I have never, ever, felt as strong, confident, empowered and free in my life before. Because I chose for myself. I stepped over my fears to follow my inner calling and love.

And you know what happened after I lost my horses and I nearly had no money (besides crying a lot)? Nothing. The sun still shone. The birds still sang. My friends still loved me and showed their support and love even more – mirroring and honoring my courage. The fear melted away and in its place came a deeper sense of happiness and being at peace with life than ever before.

At the same time, there was no time to hide behind excuses to not give my gifts to the world anymore. For years I had refused to give individual sessions to people because I felt too insecure. I held back from giving deeper and more frequent workshops because of the fear of not being able to fill them.

Now it was either ‘getting a real job’, or giving what feels like my life’s purpose my all. I chose the latter, even though it freaked me out – because the first option freaked me out more.

I created an online course in just a few weeks, multiplied the amount of workshops I facilitated, multiplied the amount of retreats, filling them completely nearly always. On the way I got into touch with truly amazing and inspiring teachers that wanted to co-create, I received invitations to facilitate workshops at festivals throughout Europe, and my individual sessions filled up effortlessly.

In just a few months I went from having nearly no money to a business that supports me and my daughters, just because I stopped hiding behind insecurity and allowed myself to create everything that felt necessary. That I felt excited about. That felt wrong not to put out there.

Breaking up doesn’t end the challenges

I thought that breaking up would end the challenges between my ex-partner and myself. That the dynamics that didn’t serve us anymore would evaporate when we would see each other barely.

Well, they didn’t. Maybe they even got worse, now there was nothing to save any longer. Although we decided not to argue in front of the kids, or talk bad about each other, we got pretty well skilled in fierce WhatsApp discussions. But it feels good, not to hold back at standing up for my desires any longer. And yes, maybe it feels less spiritual to actually get angry – but this is a skill I want to master too. And f*ck spirituality when it means pretending to feel high and enlightened all the times.

Emotional growth is messy. Break ups, even smooth ones (which I consider ours to be), are messy.

We just need to learn to deal with the mess. Move through it gracefully. Just like a mother, receiving her mud-covered kid who enjoyed jumping in puddles. Taking a breath and taking a shower, letting all the dirt wash away. And when that doesn’t suffice, there’s always Rage Against The Machine and a bunch of pillows to get off on. Friends that can receive my uncensored complaints without wanting to solve anything, judge anything or soothe me.

Let’s break up and have a house together

My ex and I still share our house and a trailer in the forest. The kids live in one place, and we swap every other week. Birdnesting, the Americans call it. I like it. For now.

Often, when people split up, it’s so rigorous and abruptly. After many years of building something up, the end has to be as fast as possible. We are a year in the process and still far from done. I like the slow untangling, especially for the kids. They slowly get used to mum and dad not being together, without also losing their safe bed, school, and friends. We both want to move to another place soon (luckily we want to move to the same place), and then have our own separate places. But until that, we do this bird nesting thing.

One week I’m the mum that is there every afternoon at the schoolyard and is there day and night for her kids. The other week I’m the adventurous kinky tantra-teacher traveling throughout Europe.

I love my life like that.

Most important tools and resources

There is a bunch of things that I find unmissable in my life right now. In no particular order these are:

  • My best friends to share with endlessly. I have this amazing friend, also a mother of three like me in a non-ordinary relationship, to share with. She lives far away, so we use WhatsApp voice messages to share with each other. I think our average is about 20 minutes per day, with sometimes days of silence or several hours in one go. It’s like a talking-stick way of sharing, where you can share without interruption and as long as you like. We fully trust the other person will listen when she can and if she wants to. We have given each other full permission to reflect and give feedback, but most often we just share.
  • My sister group consisting of seven women. We meet about once a month, and we share through Social Media on a daily base. We agreed to give each other feedback, even when it is confronting or uncomfortable. They help me discover my blind spots, see what I don’t want to see – or ignore and try to hide from. They help me step up and take action. They also comfort me when I feel down. There’s always someone available in times of need.
  • A freaking good backpack. I did a decent quest of three days through Berlin before I found mine. I thought my wish list was impossible (separate laptop space, comfortable and adjustable straps for long walks, lots of space, lots of different pockets and spaces, waterproof, nice color, not like a hikers backpack, recycled material, etc.) – but I found it, and it serves me well on a daily base.
  • A very practical toiletry bag. Because living in two places. Because commuting. Because being a nomad sometimes. Because I want that little bit of comfort.
  • A pair of great earphones. For the hours of listening to sharing. For guided meditations when emotions become overwhelming.
  • Great shampoo. Because nice smelling hair makes life easier, and the showering away the dirt more loving.
  • I have a thing for notebooks and always carry at least one (more often three) with me. I also have a planner, A Passion Planner, which allows me to combine planning with journaling. Because writing is my therapy. I need to let words flow to get my mind straight. Also pencils.
  • Dark chocolate. No explanation for that.
  • A great pair of running shoes. For several reasons: 1. Feeling fit makes me feel better about myself; 2. Running is a great way of dealing with anger and frustration; 3. Running is a great moment to listen to those sharings; 4. Running is always available.
  • A wide view or a starry night. Because when I get wound up in my stuff, realizing I’m just a small part of something much bigger, gives me breathing space.
  • A stuffed animal. I have a horse in the house and a moose in the trailer. For endless comfort, something soothing to hold, and the feeling of not being alone when I feel lonely.

What’s next?

For the last twelve months, I have felt pretty introvert. My primary focus was, and still is for the larger part, with building a new safe next for me and my (inner and outer) children. Except for some careful explorations with a beautiful man some months ago that taught me so much about what I want and don’t, there hasn’t been much wild and sexy adventure in my life. But my heart is opening up for new steps. Tabula rasa. New beginnings and a blank sheet.

But moving into a relationship will be different this time. Starting something new by putting everything on the table. I want to carefully and thoroughly consider what it is that we want to explore, what we have to give, what we want to receive, what we fear and desire.

Will it be another open relationship? Monogamy? Something else?

Time will tell!

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