As any person coming out of a long-term relationship will tell you one of the hardest things to deal with, after the initial trauma, is getting back into the more social aspects of life as a single person. The world suddenly becomes much larger and you are a bit more fearful of it. Suddenly it’s just you and you alone. And that can be a daunting prospect.
For me this was slightly more magnified as when my then wife was pregnant we had decided to move closer to where her family lived for some much-needed support. This meant a move quite far away from my family and friends. It was her stomping ground. The place where she was born and raised. Where she felt safe and secure. But it was completely foreign to me and I knew no-one. Then that didn’t matter to me as I had all I needed at that time. That was then.
Over the years I, like so many other first time parents and couples, lost touch with the friends I had as they, like me, had moved elsewhere, moving on with their lives also. Any new friends I had made were her friends. People she had known for years or other people who had also begun raising a family. Of course when we split up they would keep their distance. So for quite a while it was just me and my boy.
In those initial months the only visitors we had were my mother and father who travelled the almost 3 hour drive to see us. Visiting anyone else was also out of the question as my boy was extremely reluctant to want to visit anyone, even his granny and granddad on her side who were only a mile up the road. Sadly that is still the case. Truth be told I was in no hurry to visit anyone either as seeing anyone only made me feel the shame and embarrassment of having failed in my marriage, and failed in keeping our little family together.
As time passed and I embarked on this journey of being a better me I knew this couldn’t continue. I needed to get out there again to be a bit more social if even just to try and regain a bit of balance in my life. Thing is I was always fearful of going out, always a bit anxious, mostly since I had the unexpected experience of getting a bottle smashed across my nose when I was 19, and partly because I would be too stoned, which only helped to compound my anxiety.
I knew I wouldn’t grow as a person, I wouldn’t be better, if I didn’t face my fears and challenge them head on. It did take a while for this to happen as my son wasn’t ready for me to leave him for any length of time. Thankfully as some more time passed he became a bit more comfortable with me being away a little.
I still had some people who I was close enough to that I could arrange a night out with. It was two people from work who had been the best of friends for years and who I had clicked with when I started my job in the same company a couple of years earlier. They had asked me out a few times before but I had always bailed at the last moment. This time, I determined, it would not be the case.
So I reached out to them. They were keenly aware of my situation and how I was trying to move onwards and upwards with my life and thankfully they thought it was a good idea and were more than up for it.
The following Saturday we all headed out to a pub in a seaside town up north a bit. I was so nervous I felt sick and the old me was demanding attention once again. But this time I was determined not to fall back into old ways of thinking so I forced myself on past my insecurities and doubts, past the normal anxiety. And it was the best thing I could have done.
It was definitely what I needed. A much-needed get away. Some me time. (Although I still couldn’t resist the odd text to my boy and him to me). It was the first time I had been out as a single man in over 14 years and we had some drinks and fun.
There was one drawback however. Seeing all those other women there, some in couples, some in groups of other women, made me realise that I am a very far way from wanting to be in a relationship again. I couldn’t even muster the courage, drunk as I was (The first time in years I might add), to even approach another woman. Truthfully I had no real inclination to. It just felt so alien and in some way wrong. Yes, my wife has moved on and we are together only in the legal sense (Until she gets her divorce). But my mind, my heart, is having a hard time accepting that fact, which I know I have no choice but to. I too must move on.
Regardless of my current hang ups I am glad that I reached out and I will continue to build upon that small foundation. Even this blog is a way of reaching out to other people, and from others blogs I have read, there are a lot of interesting people out there worth reaching out to. Other lives to learn from, be inspired by. Hope to be found.
So to anyone else out there struggling to deal with the loss of a partner or even their own sense of loneliness. Or anyone who is just finding it hard to get over their anxieties and get out there. I say to you, and to myself. Face those fears. Use them to help you grow. Rise to your own challenge. Take this life, your life, make it your own… And reach out with me.