The next three months I read self-help books, kept a journal, went to church and spent hours talking to friends in an attempt to understand myself. I kept in touch with him and agonized over the fact that he was dating, but I knew that the only way to heal our relationship was to first heal myself. It is true that before you can truly become vulnerable and open to another person, you have to be able to be vulnerable and open with yourself. The process for me was a difficult and painful one, but the experience was life-changing.
He finally came home, wary that my changes were only temporary but willing to try again. Everything about our relationship changed for the better. We talked much more, and this time I was open to what he had to say. I actually heard him for the first time! I deliberately stopped focusing on the things about him that I didn't like and paid attention to all of his best qualities instead. The little annoyances that I had fought with him about became unimportant. I began writing him notes and letters, pouring my heart out and truly wearing my heart on my sleeve. It was such a huge risk for me emotionally to open my heart like that, but even when it was difficult I forced myself to do it. In the past, when he would ask me questions about our relationship or my feelings about our future, I would make a joke or talk around the subject. This time I allowed myself the freedom to be honest and loving. A year later we were married.
We are nearing our two-year wedding anniversary now, and our relationship continues to improve. It is something I take the time to express my gratitude for every day. Closing my heart off protected me from getting hurt but kept me from experiencing the joy of loving someone and being loved. It is not easy to heal old wounds and allow love in. Allowing myself to become vulnerable, to risk being hurt, to share my true feelings with another human being, was a gift to myself. It changed the course of my life forever.