By Abigail Maryam
He abruptly ended the call. A long and heart-wrenching silence ensued on his part. The seat that was meant for him at my graduation ceremony was empty, and our marital dream never became a reality. Without words, all was over between us as soon as he put that phone down.
A better man soon found me. This time, someone committed to marrying me and starting a family. But after a few short years, our marriage reached a sudden conclusion. An uninvited lady came into the picture, and his heart no longer had space for me. For my sake and our daughter’s, I moved out and began my new life as a single mother. I made an unspoken agreement with myself to never trust or love a man again.
During the year that followed, I asked myself a series of all-too-familiar, yet disempowering questions. “Why do people leave?” “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I too much, or not enough?” My confidence plummeted as I kept finding myself launching into a tirade about myself. Though I have long been a self-help enthusiast, I could not break this old pattern. I used to tearfully think how much easier medical school was than finding someone who reciprocated my feelings. When I had just about had enough last year, I wanted to learn how to do things differently.
The Qur’an states something that changed my thinking:
“And whatever misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” (Surah Ash-Shuraa 30).
Given that God loves and forgives us in abundance, this ayah is not meant to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to encourage us to give up victimisation and take responsibility for how we brought about our hardships. In this way, we can graduate from our patterns to live the life of our dreams.
Author and speaker Yasmin Mogahed writes in her transformative book, Reclaim Your Heart: “But the people who broke me were not to blame any more than gravity can be blamed for breaking the vase.” It no longer made sense to blame anybody or figure out why they left. I stopped waiting for apologies and instead, chose to forgive. They were not the ones who needed to make things right with me. I did.
One of my greatest inspirations is NY Times bestselling author and psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person last year. Her work has encouraged me to re-word my questions. After all, they led me nowhere except to the very situations I had been trying to avoid. My questions became more reflective and conducive to growth. “How is this happening for me, rather than to me?” “How might I have invited this unknowingly?” “How does abandonment by others reflect the ways I abandon myself?”
I have come to trust God enough to know that what He decrees to happen in our lives is nothing personal. People can be hurtful because of a problem they have with themselves, not with us. I know my job is not to sue others on Judgment Day, but to tell God how I responded to the people and situations He sent my way. He is more interested to know who we become through them and how we evolve in our capacity to love and be loved. Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, “When someone beats a rug, the blows are not against the rug, but against the dust in it.” If He is sending hardship, know that He is trying to remove negativity from your path.
The way I gave up my victimisation was by lovingly reflecting upon myself as the source of my experiences. I was an over-giver, and my value as a person became based on what I could do for others. This made me an ideal candidate for narcissistic abuse. I chronically self-abandoned by dismissing my feelings and intuition, out of fear that they might inconvenience people. Receiving love was difficult for me, which was not helpful in my relationships, as men are wired to provide for the ones they care about. I was unknowingly training others to disrespect and abandon me, because of how I was treating myself.
Looking back on my upbringing elucidated to me where my co-dependency came from. My mother also over-gave and put herself last. The same hurtful patterns we experience in love have usually been acted out by one or both parents. What struck me was the connection between the moments I felt abandoned growing up – silent treatments, temporary withholding of love and eye contact, call dropping – and the times I was decidedly abandoned in my past relationships. Our unconscious runs our lives if we do not make it conscious.
As children, we made everything mean something about ourselves. “I am not good enough.” “I am unwanted.” “I am unlovable.” We carry these early, unconscious decisions into adulthood, and rarely question them. I still allowed externals to define me. As a result, I attracted people and situations that confirmed and reinforced the core beliefs I held about myself. We really do get what we believe we can have in life. When we self-abandon and consider ourselves unworthy, others look at us and realise nobody is home. So, they leave.
With the power of choice now restored in my life, I made a fierce commitment to love and respect myself. I have learned to set boundaries, say, “No,” and trust the intuition I ignored while choosing to love the wrong men.
Thank God for removing from my life those who did not make me completely happy, so that He could now clear the way for someone who will, in sha Allah. He takes, to give us abundantly more. I have made a new agreement with myself to open my heart to trust and love again.
No matter who leaves us, God never does.
“Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor hated you; And indeed, the Hereafter is better for you than the present life; And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.” (Surah ad-Duha 3-5).
The greatest love story we could experience is with the Beloved, and with our own magnificent selves.
The question is not why others leave us. It is why we do.
About the author:
Abigail Maryam is Polish-American, and a revert sister since 2014. She is passionate about reading, writing, and traveling. For more of her posts, visit https://abigailmaryam.home.blog and her Facebook page.