New shifts, Old ghosts
Simon is buying a house. It is beyond gorgeous. Huge windows look out onto beautiful walking paths, big trees, several seating areas with fire pits. The elderly owners are leaving some of their furniture, which is all very nice and well cared for. There is a hot tub, plenty of room to spread out, to host guests, or just for leisure time after work.
For so long he wanted to own land, to fill it with little homes full of happy people, to make things grow, to sing over the hills, and pray over the waters. A piece of land that would become a living, breathing example of how effectively human beings can live together in community and conviviance.
I shared deeply in that dream, and I still do.
Well, that dream doesn’t really fit his reality or mine anymore. Simon could not have bought such a nice house on his own. The burden is shared with the one with whom he has been cultivating a shared life since well before my separation from him. The one who captivates him and complements him. One who has the benefit of a strong career, of material resources, and of life experience that makes her a remarkably suitable mate for him. His life is elevated by her influence and companionship.
He could never have bought such a nice house with me. I have almost nothing to contribute, financially. It certainly would never have worked out for the three of us to attempt any sort of close quarters – even with acres between my little house and hers. He would never have had the kind of comfortable, enjoyable and successful life with me that he is having with her. It is such a peculiar experience – to see in such harsh detail all the measurable, visible ways that he has benefitted from choosing to end the relationship with me and choosing to focus his attention where it had already been for so long. To lean his efforts on the thing that was working, that had the potential for greatness. And it has become great.
This experience is leaving me with a lot of questions. Chief among them are the following:
1. Does my influence and companionship elevate the lives of my lovers in any way? If not materially, then how?
2. Will I ever find a partner who truly fits me, like the way they fit together, like puzzle pieces?
3. Will I ever finally live in a home I find truly beautiful? Will I ever be able to afford for my home to be sanctuary without sacrificing my values? When will I ever live in a house that isn’t falling apart in some way or another? I am tired of the broken fixtures, sticky doors, and the general inability to use rental homes for their highest good.
4. Will I ever love any man – any other human being – the way I have loved Simon? I don’t see that happening for a long, long time. I do have other relationships, and though they do bring me joy, they are not the life-building kind. The looking forward together kind.
To all of you, who love me, and who desire to see me prosper and live my best life, who know my qualities and have compassion for any failings of my character, I know that the answer to all of these questions is “YES, OF COURSE!!!” Though your confidence is very reassuring and comforting, I hesitate to hope for unrealistic outcomes. My ability to endure the scattered showers of disappointment is, at present, only tenuous.
At the beginning of March, and for the second time, Kali ended our relationship. After one of the most stress-free and enjoyable trips I’d had in a long time. She said she couldn’t do it anymore. She said I triggered her. I couldn’t see the guylines, did not even noticed where I had tripped them, and it felt like I was being asked to intuit their location. She asked for three months without contact, and because I am always, always, always, putting other people first, I agreed. Three months later, all that anger and disappointment that had stayed bottled up all that time were still there, rotting. And then, PULSE happened. How could I stay angry when the world is like that? Later, I got some medical news that I needed to share with her.
Three more months went by. From that vantage point, I thought I was ready to try and be just friends. To remember all the enjoyable conversations and all the ways we connect in non-romantic ways. We exchanged a couple of surface-level e-mails. I tried to tell her how I’ve been doing. Finally, I said,
“Sometime, not right now, but when it feels like a good time, I would like to have an out-processing conversation.”
Because there still has not been any kind of conversation about how the relationship transition occurred. My therapist put into words what I wasn’t able to: it was like being put in a corner until my temper tantrum was over and I could behave appropriately again. I didn’t get to tell her how isolated and discarded I felt. How very little say I had in the disengagement process. She said,
“I can’t give you that, not now, not ever.”
And that is when I learned that being flat-out denied an out-processing conversation is a huge relationship no-no for me, and something that needs to be clearly communicated to future partners. I began to think back on all the things I never got a say in. The structure of the relationship. The who, what, when, where, why and how of every interaction. I gave so much emotional support. I made so many concessions that so neatly and conveniently put me in a disadvantaged position. I set so many precedents that showed it was OK for everything to occur in just precisely the way that works for her. I had made it clear that my opinion, my preferences and my needs didn’t matter to the success of the relationship because I would have just about put up with almost anything for her. Well. It seemed like as good a time as any to start saying NO. So, I said,
“Thank you for telling me that doesn’t work for you. And that doesn’t work for me.”
With that, I have instantly turned myself into the bad guy. If I say anything further, it will all get turned back around on me. I will be the one who made the breakup bad. I will be the one who stirred up trouble by actually, finally, speaking up for myself. I will be the one who mistreated the other, and who insensitively overstepped boundaries. While I am so deeply aggravated, I am also notably grateful for the lessons to be learned from the feelings I am experiencing right now. I am seeing all the ways that I let her steer. All the ways that I let myself get taken for a ride.
I don’t plan to get taken for any more rides.
It is such an incredible offense to me that someone who is supposed to care for me – someone who built a relationship with me – would 1) refuse to take a collaborative approach to ending that relationship; and 2) refuse to hear me out when I am in my power. It is so desperately rare for me to be passionately upset about something. It makes me feel respected when the other people involved can witness and acknowledge the way I feel, and bear some of the responsibility for their own actions. I know that I can’t make anyone do anything, but in future, I hope that I will find ways to quickly identify those individuals who cannot handle me when I am in my power. As a woman, as a femme, it is so vital that I be heard when I choose to speak up. ESPECIALLY, when the other party is a man, or an otherwise masculine-of-center person. Simon listened to me. He fielded every question and listened even when the thing i was upset about didn’t make a lot of sense to him. I want Kali to listen to me. As for me, and my behavior…
No more careful silence. No more blind acceptance. No more patient allowing.