Letters of loving gratitude

Three women write letters of gratitude to beloved partners


Letters of loving gratitude

4 minute read

You made me feel comfortable enough to expose my deepest wounds

It all began with a simple gesture – you woke me with a kiss and a bowlful of berries after one of our first nights together. Your innate kindness was impossible to ignore and I knew I was falling in love with you. But, as I continued to fall, worry grew – what will he think when he finds out about me? How far will he run when I recount my years-long struggle with mental health? After just a few months together, you made me feel comfortable enough to expose my deepest wounds and broach the subject. By that stage, I knew you loved me, but the thought of showing you my whole self still made me uneasy.

You were born and raised on a dairy farm in a remote Scottish village; your education didn’t skim the subject of mental illness and you hadn’t – to your knowledge – met anyone else with an eating disorder. Others might assume you’d be the last person to understand my struggle – yet, as you wiped away my tears and listened, I had never felt so understood.

Days later, as I thumbed through your phone in search of the perfect date-night restaurant, your recent search history popped up: ‘How to support someone with an eating disorder’. When we finally made it to the restaurant I’d chosen (one of Sydney’s most popular dim sum restaurants), we admired elaborate dishes atop each table’s lazy Susan, exchanged stories from our respective childhoods and joked that the food’s plentiful garlic would make kissing difficult, but not impossible. I mentioned what I’d found on your phone and you replied, ‘I may be from a small town, but I want to understand what you’re experiencing. You’re my best friend and I love you.’ You took my hand in yours and, for the first time that I could remember, I felt completely at ease.

Daily reminders

As each day passes in our lives together, you continue to build me up, reminding me that I’m strong, resilient and worthy of love. From coming home with an armful of lilies to celebrate small victories in my eating disorder recovery, to deploying your raunchy sense of humour when my mood is low, you’ve shown me a level of kindness that I’d never previously known and you’ve inspired me to be kind to myself.

Now, when friends ask how we maintain such a close bond, the answer, for me, is simple. It’s true that we both love travel, satire and exotic food, but it’s not just our shared interests that hold us together – not even your unwavering support as I navigate my mental health. The strength of our love is marked by mutual kindness and, because of you, I now view the world through a rosier lens. You’ve encouraged me to see the good in you, in others and, despite my natural propensity, in myself. And for that, a gift that I will always carry, I am grateful.

Rachel Chalmers

I wasn’t sure therapy would work, but at least we could say we’d tried

I remember the day I realised something had to change. I was driving, tears streaming down my face. We’d been arguing a lot; I felt unappreciated and hated the way you spoke to me. Life was hectic with two young daughters, work and financial stresses, and we hardly spent any time together. I had suggested counselling but you didn’t want to, you’d just brushed it off as though you weren’t bothered that our marriage was falling apart. I thought, ‘Well, if you can’t be bothered, why should I?’

When I got home, I said what I truly felt: ‘I don’t love you any more. I don’t want to be with you.’ You were shocked, and I think you truly heard me for the first time in a long time. It was then that we both agreed to go to therapy. I wasn’t sure it would work, I thought too much damage had been done, but at least we could say we’d tried.

Journey of discovery

I learned so much about you in our weekly sessions. I saw how you struggled to talk about your emotions. It was so painful hearing you open up about your childhood, how you grew up in an environment where you weren’t listened to, things I hadn’t heard before. I started to feel sympathetic towards you and to understand why you behaved the way you did.

I could see how hard you worked at the therapy, too. You’d listen and take notes and when we had our ‘debrief’ after the session, where we focused on each other, I could tell you’d taken so much on board. You were willing to change and really work to fix our marriage.

Because of our therapy sessions, I feel I have an amazing toolkit for dealing with every aspect of my life, as well as our marriage. I can see how much more positive you are now, and how you really try not to react defensively when insecurities surface – just a millisecond of thinking about it stops you flying off the handle like you did before. I’ve learned things, too – to listen more, that it’s better to let go of any grudges, to take a breath before replying, to be more calm. Now, there’s a totally different outcome to any discussion, and all because of what we’ve learned from therapy.

Everything is more positive now – we’ve moved to a new level of understanding and deeper love. I’m so grateful to you for not giving up on us.

Nikki Peterson

You were my first love after my marriage broke up

You didn’t break my heart, you melted it and for that, I thank you. You were my first love after my marriage fell apart. Proof that there might be light at the end of the tunnel, that it was possible to find love again, that there were good guys out there, that I was still desirable. You saw me, liked me, fancied me.

I was 22 when I got married and 42 when I divorced. Five years on, here I was dating for the first time as a grown-up. You certainly were great to date – an England rugby match with fireworks and hollering, a sing-a-thon where we got drunk and sang Bruce Springsteen at the top of our lungs, an evening at the male-only ballet, where beautiful men weaved magic around us. You kissed me that night and I felt my heart began to thaw.

But you were just resurfacing out of a relationship, and still grieving over the ashes of it. Our timing was out. I was coming back to life and was ready for some loud rock ‘n’ roll. You just wanted to sit out the next dance but couldn’t resist jiving with me, anyway. We had fun, the temperature hot, music loud, the beat fast. My frozen heart finally defrosted, only for me to discover why I kept it frozen in the first place. No more sharp edges to keep the pain and loss of my divorce at bay. I had spent years running away from feeling anything.

Softening the edges

And here I was with my melted heart, feeling everything, with a puddle around my feet. Looking back, the shiny, sparkling ice queen with the glittering edges had given you something to hold on to when you were in a bad place. Without them, you floated away.

I was soggy for a while. But I soon realised that feeling something was infinitely better than feeling nothing, even if it was painful. I hired a therapist to give me something to hang on to while I cried and grieved the end of my marriage. But it was you who showed me the way. You were the one brave enough to cry for the ones you’d loved and lost, to dare to try to love again even if it was too soon. You showed me how to holler and sing and lose control, and be enchanted by beautiful men who dance – the ballet and rock ‘n’ roll. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Sara Williamson

Photograph: Getty