By Ndey Kumba Demba
It has been almost 2 years since my divorce. I still haven’t relearned how to love again. I’m scared to love again. I’m scared to put myself out there again. I’m scared of failing again. I’m scared of disappointment. I’m scared of a heart rupture. I know what is rational is to get back on the horse. People tell me just because it didn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it wouldn’t again. Truth is, while others love easily and can be easily loved, I’ve had struggles with both. I am hard to love, I find it hard to love and I find it hard to let myself be loved. How can I wholly and willingly let someone else run the affairs of my heart? Hell, I don’t even trust myself to do a relatively good job at it. Love is willingly, happily, sanely, wholly giving your heart to someone and trusting they’ll do a great job at keeping it safe. That’s a lot of trust. It takes a lot of jumping hoops before I entrust that role to someone. I have given it under the care of a few special people and they have done a really good job at it. First was my first love in high school. We bonded over our poems and late-night free calls. With him, I was more expressive and in tune with my feelings. Each night, we’ll read to each other the newest thing we’ve written about and what inspired it. I learned to live in the moment knowing I would be writing about it and I would be sharing it with the love of my life and he would be reliving it through my lines. Second, he was my “one that got away”. His was brief but the most intense love I’ve ever felt. More than anything else, he made me feel safe. To this day, no one’s version of “safe” competes with his. He was my ‘I got you’. No one has ever made me feel that way. I realized how much he meant to me when he was no longer a text message away. I moved away. We lost contact. I went back looking for him, he was gone too. He was my spontaneous, let loose, random moments guy. We had a confrontation with the Police, hopped on a van from Banjul with no destination in mind, joined a random church fundraising event, danced away in the company of strangers all in one night. Then my longest and most difficult relationship. He was my on-again, off-again guy. Of them all, I felt he loved me the most. My pain was his pain, my grief was his grief, my happiness was his happiness. He could literally do anything for me. His love was true, genuine, painful, constant. Then my ex-husband. We just made sense. His love was kind and supportive. He made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to. His love was reassuring, boosting, sure. I felt like I could do life with him.
It’s not that I don’t want to love again. A part of me shut down after the divorce. It wasn’t a surprise. I saw it. It was over before it was over. One night as I slept in the guest bedroom while he slept in the living room, I cried my heart out at the realization that my marriage was over. I was tempted to call a friend and tell them. I don’t know what I was hoping to hear or what I wanted to hear, I just knew. I decided against it. I cried hardest that day because I knew from then on it was only a matter of time. A few questions I asked myself were: where do I see myself with this person in the next 5, 10, 15 years? What happens when we get to the phase where all that remains is friendship? Do we have a bond strong enough to see us through? The answers weren’t foggy. They were as truthful as they were painful. That night, I mourned my marriage. I mourned my loss. I mourned what could have been. I mourned failed promises. I mourned that I had become a statistic. I mourned the love.
Divorces are hard because no one goes into a marriage hoping to fail. Picture the wedding day… the happiness, the joy, the families, the friends, the neighbors, all coming together to celebrate love, a forever union. The merriment we all partake in knowing that this is forever. How about the spouses? The journey to get there is in itself a great success. Deciding to spend forever with someone is not a decision anyone takes lightly. There is love, there is hope, there is a plan, there is a future.
When the divorce was in process, I was a robot. I felt nothing. Nothing. Nothing turned to anger, and for a long-time anger was all I could feel. After it was finalized, I felt like a failure. I couldn’t make it work. All through I compartmentalised and didn’t allow it to affect my work and other aspects of my life. I didn’t know I was that good at it. I guess you can surprise yourself. I have my random flashes of melancholy, joy, anger, disappointment, feeling like a failure, deep sadness. I coached myself through it. Firstly, I recognised that I was going through something profoundly painful. I allowed myself to feel whatever it was that I was feeling at a given time, be it nostalgia, bliss, anger, disappointment, pain. It hastened my healing process because I wasn’t suppressing my feelings. I cried if I needed to, I looked at old pictures if I needed to, I stalked him if I needed to. I identified that these were within the realm of normal. My healing was healthy and thus, fast. I truly wish him all the best.
On finding love again, I’m not sure what it will take. I’m looking ahead to new experiences. Ironic that I would literally run away if the new experience were in front of me. The whole ordeal has made me more intentional about what I want. I am clearer about what I want, what I am willing to compromise and not compromise on, what I need more of and less of. I recognise my part in the breakup. What I know with great certainty is that when a relationship breaks down, both parties are responsible, granted one can bear greater responsibility.
My new perspective going into the dating scene makes it that only the strong and well-meaning men would survive. I have experienced marriage, I am more mature, I’m clearer about what I want. Things that used to impress me, don’t impress me anymore. Things that would have made me say “aww he’s so sweet,” is more like “what else you’ve got?” I’m at the point in my life too where I am too old to be playing a game of catch. I am also too old to be coating what I really want to say to spare someone’s feelings. I am serving it, blemished.
Am I open to love again? Absolutely. But men, men, men. Where do I start? I am torn between wanting to meet someone, falling in love, and building a home and also wanting to be left alone. I see myself as an abaya wearing, designer wearing Hijabi traveling the world and living alone.