One year after her partner Rayya Elias died from pancreatic and liver cancer, Elizabeth Gilbert began a new relationship with Rayya's close friend Simon MacArthur

By Joelle Goldstein
March 25, 2019 08:57 PM
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Elizabeth Gilbert has a new man — and is hoping that by sharing her story of love and loss, it will resonate will others.

One year after losing her partner Rayya Elias to cancer, the author of the best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love and the upcoming City of Girls revealed in an Instagram post on Sunday that she is in a new relationship with Elias’ close friend, Simon MacArthur.

“Dear Ones: It’s a beautiful spring day in my corner of the world, life is everywhere bursting forth with a sense of rebirth and renewal, and this seems like as good a moment as any to tell you that I am in love,” she captioned a black and white photo of the pair. “Please meet my sweetheart, Mr. Simon MacArthur.”

Gilbert, 49, explained that United Kingdom-based photographer is a “beautiful man who has been a friend of mine for years” and noted that he was also “a beloved friend” of her late partner for decades — something that was especially remarkable to the author.

“They lived together in London over 30 years ago, and they adored each other forever like siblings. This, as you can imagine, means the world to me,” she said. “Of late, Simon and I have found our way to each other’s arms. And now here we are, and his heart has been such a warm place for me to land.”

Elizabeth Gilbert with Simon MacArthur
| Credit: Elizabeth Gilbert Instagram

Though Gilbert acknowledged that their “new and young” romance may not be ideal to some, especially after the death of her partner, she hoped that by speaking out, it would “help someone else feel more normal about their life.”

“For one thing, I just want to say: If you see me walking around with a tall handsome man on my arm, don’t be buggin’. Just know that your girl is happy, and following her heart,” she wrote.

“If you have lost a loved one to death, and you thought you’d never love again, but you are feeling a pull of attraction toward someone new, and you’re not sure if that’s OK? Let me normalize it for you. Let me say: It’s Ok,” Gilbert continued. “Your heart is a giant cathedral. Let it open. Let it love.”

“Do not let your gorgeous loyalty to the deceased stop you from experiencing the marvels and terrors of your short, mortal, precious life. It’s OK to live, and to love,” she added.

Gilbert, who previously dated men before Elias, also reassured her followers that it’s okay to feel like a teenager when you’re falling in love, regardless of your age or how many times you’ve been in a romantic relationship.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias
| Credit: Elizabeth Gilbert/Twitter

“Or…if you are falling in love in middle age and it’s terrifying, because you feel just as dumb and crazy and excited and insecure as you did at 16? Well, let me normalize this for you. It’s OK,” she explained. “You will always feel 16 when you are falling in love. Or…if you once loved a man, and then you loved a woman, and then you loved a man, and you’re wondering if that’s ok? Well, darling. Let me normalize THAT for you. It’s OK.”

“Love who you love. It’s all OK, and it’s all impossible to control, and it’s all an adventure that I would not miss. That’s all I wanted to say. Onward, and I love you all,” she finished.

Elizabeth Gilbert
| Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Gilbert’s romantic life served as inspiration for her writing. In 1994, the author was married to Michael Cooper. The pair were together until 2002.

She met her second husband José Nunes while traveling through Italy, India, and Bali after the unraveling of her first marriage — a trip that inspired the 2006 hit memoir, which has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies.

Eat, Pray, Love was also adapted for the big screen in 2010, with Julia Roberts as Gilbert.

Elizabeth Gilbert
| Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty

The couple was married in 2007, opening an East Asian decorative imports store in Frenchtown, New Jersey, which was shuttered in 2015. A year later, in July 2016, Gilbert announced their separation in a Facebook post.

Just over two months after announcing her separation from Nunes, Gilbert publicly shared on Facebook that she found love again with her best friend of 15 years, Elias. At the time, Elias had already been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.

The partners were together for a little over a year before Elias sadly lost her battle with the cancers in January 2018.

“She was my love, my heart, my best friend, my teacher, my rebel, my angel, my protector, my challenger, my partner, my muse, my wizard, my surprise, my gift, my comet, my liberator, my rock star, my completely impossible non-cooperator, my otherworldly visitor, my spiritual portal, and my baby,” Gilbert wrote on Instagram after Elias’ passing last year.

“I loved you so much, Rayya. Thank you for letting me walk with you right to the edge of the river. It has been the greatest honor of my life. I would tell you to rest in peace, but I know that you always found peace boring. May you rest in excitement. I will always love you,” she said.

Prior to her death, the couple held “a simple and spontaneous ceremony of love, surrounded by a small handful of friends and family.”

“Over the last year, Rayya Elias and I have been through some really difficult days together — but not today,” Gilbert wrote on Instagram after the ceremony in June 2017.

“Today was precious and perfect,” Gilbert continued. “Our ceremony was nothing legally binding (no need to alert the authorities, folks!)…just a quiet and private celebration of what we have long known to be true: We belong to each other.”