When my ex-husband told me he was ending our marriage, I couldn’t understand why.
I lived with the expectation of “till death do us part.” That was my first mistake. Nothing is forever. Having said that, I still believe that marriage is a beautiful thing, and if both people want it to work, it does work. That’s just it—both people, not just one person.
Was our marriage happy? Not really. What I couldn’t understand was that since I wasn’t happy, why was I holding on? I tried to understand myself; I questioned myself about it over and over again. I went through a terrible bout of depression and anxiety. I felt like a failure. My abandonment issues surfaced; my worst nightmare was coming true!
I moved countries and returned home to Tanzania to be with my parents so I could heal and be surrounded by unconditional love; only a parent can love unconditionally. It took me over a year to come to terms with my marriage ending, finding myself, and getting a grip on my new reality. Therapy helped me understand myself and answered most questions about myself. I discovered that I had built a life that revolved around my husband. He was my deity. I let go of who I was to make my marriage work, and despite it all, it had failed.
As women, we’re sold the dream of the prince rescuing the damsel in distress and living happily ever after. We’ve all read Snow White, Rapunzel, and even Cinderella. I had believed that my husband was going to heal my insecurities and I needed to make my marriage work at all costs. This was my second mistake. During this journey, I learned that no one needs rescuing, nor is anyone coming to rescue me. I am a human being and I need to be there for myself. Be there for myself…what does that mean? What does self-love mean? What does having strong boundaries mean? I constantly heard these words thrown around but couldn’t make sense of them.
I was a mess, I felt like I had no identity, I had no job, and I didn’t know what I liked or how I liked to dress or what TV shows I enjoyed. I never even lived on my own. I gave myself completely to my marriage, but that was on me. No one can make you do something you don’t want to do. So why did I abandon myself? As a child, I believed that I wasn’t complete without a man, without marriage. Something a lot of women believe. I believed that my husband and I were one, but we were not, nor should we be. Each of us is an individual and must never lose ourselves in someone else. Love exists only when two people can coexist. This is healthy love. When we devote ourselves completely to the other, we would be brewing a disaster for ourselves. I was also unknowingly teaching my sons a form of unhealthy love.
So now I understand. I don’t want to please anyone else first; I please myself, which means having boundaries and my needs met. Now that doesn’t mean I am selfish; I’m a mature woman who differentiates between boundaries and selfishness.
Then came the big one: self-love. As a wife and a mother of two boys, I put my own needs on the back burner as so many of us do. After all my mother has done the same and continues to put our needs over her own. I wanted to change that, which meant taking time out for myself whether it was a day at a spa, a medical checkup, physical fitness, buying myself something, or eating something I craved. It also meant ending relationships with people whom I had known for years but realized weren’t serving me. This was tough but rewarding.
I now love myself, probably for the first time in my adult life. I live on my own, have a job I love, and I am content. There is no void to fill. I know what I like, who I am, and what I want my life to be. I hope to teach my sons to love who they are and respect everyone. As for our daughters, let’s replace Snow White with “Brave,” Rapunzel with “Moana,” and Cinderella with “Mulan” or even “Frozen.” You are the star of your life—the protagonist—and no one needs to save you.
I am grateful to have lived two different lives in one lifetime. And I know that once you decide to be there for yourself, you can heal and fall in love with your life. You can also love someone again, but this time in a healthy manner.
Kahlil Gibran says it perfectly:
“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”