Me and my first love in 1994. We met in Naples, Italy where I lived at the time. He was in the Chilean Navy and on a 1-year sailing trip around the world. It was love at first sight for both of us (or looking back from now I would say it was projection). From one month to the next I left my life behind and started a new one in Chile. The relationship was challenging due to him sailing for weeks on end, and me having my first ever, highly challenging job in a patriarchal, post military dictatorship society, feeling a bit lost far away from my friends and shapeshifting into a fake version of myself (the Good Girl) in order to be accepted by his family and fit into the conservative Chilean society of the mid-90s.
We had big dreams
We had big dreams of a family with 4 kids, living on the beautiful Pacific coast. A year into the relationship he grew tired of the Navy and quit so that we could build a life together. At this point I was already quite burnt out due to working 60 to 70 hours a week only to make ends meet. At that time women earned 50% of a man´s salary for the same position. He wasn´t able to find a job outside the Navy. While I was overworked, he was unchallenged. Apart from the pressure at work I was putting an enormous amount of pressure on my highly sensitive self to be the perfect girlfriend, lover and daughter-in-law to be, rapidly burning the candle at both ends. I developed a headache that lasted for months. Living on coffee and meds, hardly eating, and losing 20 pounds I ended up in hospital where I decided that I needed to go back to Germany. I was merely a shadow of the women I was when we met 1,5 years earlier yet he decided to go with me. He had a pending law case for a car accident that he was involved in and learnt that he wasn´t allowed to leave the country. He could either pay a ridiculous amount of money, go to prison for 6 weeks, talk to a Navy Officer to help speed up the process or just wait for the law case to end. Against everybody´s advice he decided to go to prison and obviously he came out a different person. He was not the happy-go-lucky, outgoing and cheerful guy he used to be.
Foundations come crumbling
Creating a new life for us in Germany was challenging too. We were both weakened by what we had been through for the past 2 years, our different temperaments often clashed and the relationship had lost its spark. It was hard for both to get used to the German way of living. He had a prison trauma, we had serious money issues, unresolved family of origin issues & wounds and my health wasn´t back to normal. We both did our best to make the relationship work, while working (me) and starting university (both of us). Not feeling healthy and strong, and feeling like a failure because I didn´t make it in Chile, my self-worth was at an all-time low. I felt a lot of shame for not being the woman I was when we had met and became more introverted than ever which he despised. He started making fun of me for being shy and complicated which led to me being even more so and withdrawing from him. Our physical intimacy suffered from that and from all the challenges we were facing and I felt suffocated by his constant desire.
Hitting rock bottom
At one point I couldn’t go on with the relationship as it was and I proposed to live separately for a couple of months so that we could find ourselves and eventually each other again. That was not an option for him. He said we either live separately and that´s the official end of us as a couple or we continue living together and try to figure things out. I desperately needed space and wasn´t able to live with him at that time so we broke up and my heart broke into a million pieces. After 3 weeks he had a new girlfriend which I took as reason to blame myself even more for not being able to hold on to the relationship. I suffered because I had declared him to be the man of my life, the father of my future children. I kept feeling guilty and shameful for not being able to make this relationship work after all we both had done and sacrificed to be together.
Sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time
A year after the breakup we got together to celebrate his birthday and after some drinks he “confessed” that he had girl after girl since our breakup only to forget about me, that I was the only one he loved and that he wanted us to get back together. I wanted to take it slowly, he wanted me to be easy and insisted on spending the night together. The day after he emailed me saying he had been wrong and this was a big mistake and not what he wanted. I had my heart broken once again. I told him to get the heck out of my life and slipped into depression and anxiety.
A couple of years and many girlfriends later he came back into my life one day. We had dinner, did some catching up and he went home only to come back by taxi in the middle of the night asking me for another chance. I sent him back home and proposed meeting the day after to have a chat about his proposal. When we met he said immediately that he had been wrong and this was not what he wanted. I had been forever hoping that we would get back together again someday. Hoping for that happy end. But it wasn´t meant to be and it was definitely time for that chapter to close for good.
I never lose. I either win or learn.
This whole experience led to me creating many false beliefs like not being worthy of love, not being able to hold on to a relationship, being too complicated, being a fraud, being broken. I didn´t let anyone close to me for a couple of years trying to protect myself from further pain – which is not a good recipe for living a happy life. I wish I then had the tools I have now to get over a breakup quickly and start living a fulfilling life as soon as possible.
Life fills the cup we carry. If we believe we don´t deserve a fulfilling love life, life will not give it to us. We need to work on our self-worth and beliefs, heal our past wounds, get out of our comfort zone and then get back into the dating world, making our dream of love more important than a specific guy. But love is not enough. Our temperaments and habits need to be compatible. We need to be stable and grounded in ourselves, honouring who we truly are, having healthy boundaries, knowing our non-negotiables. It´s from this place of authenticity and a loving relationship with ourselves that we are able to attract the right person into our life who cherishes us for who we truly are.