Do you remember your first heartbreak?
Of course you do – everyone does. I was seventeen and had only ever had a crush on one person since the first day of secondary school. He was my first kiss two months before my seventeenth birthday, but our lives were heading in different directions and it just didn’t work.
Bea’s breakup was much more hard hitting than my teenage crush with a bittersweet ending. Two months after they married, Bea’s husband told her he didn’t want to be with her anymore.
What followed is an inspirational tale of self love and finding your inner strength. Now 27, Bea is currently chasing adventure and travelling the world before moving to New Zealand with her girlfriend. On top of promoting the importance of mental health and sharing snapshots of her travels, Bea is working on a novel that details how she overcame her experience.
It’s easy to feel bitter after a breakup and to fall into the habit of having a ‘horrible ex’ that you still bitch about years later, but Bea’s story is a lesson in healing and forgiveness. It’s a lesson in overcoming the bad, in evolving past the negative and into the person you are supposed to be. It’s inspirational, what else can I say?
Describe your relationship and how it ended.
We met in the summer following my first year of university. I’d known of him, but never actually met him until we both started working at Topman. I thought he was the coolest thing and was surprised that he’d want to be my friend, let alone my boyfriend.
We stayed together throughout university, although this was sometimes hard. I really struggled in my final year of university when some inner demons came to the surface and I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and bulimia. As you can imagine, this put a huge emotional strain on us, but we got through. After a year, I was in ‘recovery’ and living with my partner in our first home together.
He was an actor and spent most of our relationship away, but we remained together. Christmas 2015, he proposed. By the time our wedding arrived, we’d been together for just over 5 and a half years.
The big day went to plan. Everything was beautiful and the day after we left for our honeymoon. We had a wonderful time in Turkey but he had to leave on a new job as soon as we got back.
After eight weeks of to-ing and fro-ing for work, he sent me a message that said ‘we need to talk’. I imagined it was about post-wedding blues or homesickness, but when he came back the following morning he simply told me he wasn’t in love with me and that we shouldn’t have married… ouch.
I felt physically injured – I struggled to breathe, my heart physically ached. I told him if he didn’t want to be with me anymore then he should leave. That’s the last time I saw him.
It’s hard to imagine the pain you must have been going through at that point in time. What did you do after he told you he wanted to end the marriage?
I left the house that day and moved in with a friend for what was probably the worst week of my life to date. I was up and down emotionally. My friends were amazing, but no one knew what to do to help. Shopping probably got me through – spending money was a temporary painkiller.
Things didn’t much improve for the first month or so. I worked through each part of my life changing, going over all the things we shared and figuring out how I’d sever the ties. My heart physically hurt, I didn’t eat often and I cried a lot… everything that comes with a breakup.
Those initial few months must have been incredibly tough. What got you through them?
My friends and family are what initially got me through. People sent me presents, cute handwritten notes and would take me out. Spending time with people who loved me was a great distraction.
I got a haircut almost immediately. There’s something to be said for cutting your hair to start a new chapter of life. My motto? New do, new you!!
As I mentioned before, I turned to shopping as a short-term way to ease pain, and when I wasn’t out doing that, I watched silly TV shows. When you go through a breakup, laughing doesn’t happen too often, so shows like The Inbetweeners and That Mitchell and Webb Look were a great distraction.
Often after a breakup, we torture ourselves by going over the past and blaming ourselves. What did you do to try and combat this?
All breakups have different reasons but for me it was pretty clear – he married me but, at some point before, he had fallen out of love with me and into love with someone else. He simply didn’t want be with me. I eventually learned to understand this in a way that didn’t place blame on me, but to begin with I blamed myself.
I’m a highly emotional person and decided that I needed to understand how I was feeling, so I began writing. Writing was an escape for me and and it still remains my form of self-care therapy.
With being out of work for 2 months after my breakup, I allowed myself the time to grieve which was one of the best choices I made. I believe the more you deny feelings, the longer healing will take. I let myself take my my time and mope for a while.
I had lots of baths and did lots of meditation. I went for walks, found new podcasts, carried on journaling. I made myself get up, get showered and dressed, even if I had no plans. I realised that if I was going to eventually come out the other side, I needed to give myself the chance.
On my first wedding anniversary, I was at summer camp. To mark the occasion positively, we had an unwedding where I wore a dress and floated on a inflatable into the lake. We said the past was washed away and I returned a new woman – it was amazing!
As a couple, our identity is often tied up with our partner. How did you rebuild yourself as a ‘solo’ person rather than an extension of someone else and at what point did that become enjoyable?
One of the scariest things about my situation, having been together through the entire period I ‘found myself’ as an adult, was discovering who I was and where my life was taking me now I was alone.
Rebuilding myself as a solo person started with my clothes. I’ve always loved fashion and tied in my expensive breakup coping mechanism of shopping into creating a new wardrobe for myself. This gave me a little confidence, as did my new hairstyle. Sadly I’d lost some weight, which I saw as an achievement instead of a result of anxious not-eating, but at the time I saw it as a ‘new me’. I got a new job and moved into my best friend’s place. Having a new challenge, nothing to do with my ex, was empowering.
After a few months, I saw the positives in being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever and without the need to consult my partner. This is when I started enjoying life. Everything was on my own terms, unlike it was before. I even went to work at an American Summer Camp for three months!
When you look back on the experience, how do you feel about it now?
I look back on the experience with gratitude because, without it, I wouldn’t have had the chance to see and do all the things I have in the past two years. Heartbreak was the most emotional pain I’ve ever felt, but I’m grateful for it. It showed me that I had the strength to get through it and how to accept a tough situation with self-respect and dignity.
Now I’m in such an amazing place, literally, emotionally, romantically and mentally. It’s more wonderful than I imagine my life in that past relationship could ever have been.
It’s wonderful to hear how positive you are feeling now! Are there any lessons you have taken from the experience?
In my relationship, I am more patient and try to communicate better so neither of us feel in a position where we can’t share our feelings. I’m a better partner. I think a lot of that comes down to my partner now being someone who matches me better than my ex, although back then I never imagined that was possible!
I see the world through different eyes. I believe that things happen for a reason and so I try and control less of the world around me. I have a better grasp on the things I can change and those that I have to learn to deal with.
If you could say something to your ex, what would it be?
Although leaving two months after marrying me I still believe was cowardly and cruel, I almost respect him for leaving. Even if he did it to be with another woman, he left before we had kids, bought a home or had really began our married life.
My divorce isn’t yet finalised, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever need to speak to my ex again, but I don’t feel the need to say anything to him now. I believe he’s in a happy relationship, as am I. Some days I think I’d say thank you for leaving as you opened up the most amazing world for me that he could never offer. Then I remember he left me two months after he married me, so he ain’t getting a thanks for me!
But I’m very grateful he left. If he hadn’t, I’d never have worked at summer camp, move to New Zealand, dived with sharks or driven a badass Jeep around Hawaiian islands! Two years on, my sense of self is better than I ever thought it may be. I’m forever thankful that I handled that experience with such grace and dignity and not in a way I regret.
I hold no anger towards him and I hold none towards myself. That was the past, and without that, my incredible present wouldn’t be possible.
Tell me more about the book that you are working on.
I began writing my book shortly after the breakup in November 2017. It began as a journal, but soon became something bigger. I realised that I wasn’t the first to feel heartbreak or the first wife to be left. Whether you’re married or you’ve simply been madly in love for two months, heartbreak is the same thing. I’m a positive person and saw him leaving as a positive thing around 2 months after, but it’s not as easy for everyone. I knew that sharing my experience and how I handled it might be useful to others. I was desperate to find a book like mine when we broke up, and so when I couldn’t find one, I wrote one.
It’s evolved over the past few years and covers topics like liberation, self-love, bravery, self-confidence – all subjects that came from that time in my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with a breakup?
My advice for anyone going through a break up is to be gentle with yourself. Whether there is blame to place or not, be brave enough to acknowledge that this HAS happened and it’s unlikely things will ever be the way they were. That’s scary, but true.
Don’t force or deny any feelings – just let them happen. Allow yourself the time to mope, to cry into your pillow and feel sorry for yourself, but then get up in the morning, shower and get dressed because you’re worth that effort.
Acknowledge your small wins. Washed your hair? Awesome. Walked to the shop? That’s great! Remember, a breakup is traumatic and emotional, so cut yourself some slack.
If you could describe your outlook on life now you have gone through this experience, what would it be?
My outlook on life is that it really is so precious. Nothing lasts forever, which is sad but also great when you’re having a rough time. ‘This too shall pass’ is the phrase that got me through that tough period of my life, and does to this day.
I’m much better at being present now and enjoying the moments that before seemed mundane. You don’t know when life is gonna flip upside down and you’ve got to make the most of now. I stay more positive than ever and seek out the good things in bad people and situations.