Friday, May 09, 2008

Last week, I was out running errands and I caught a glimpse of the ex who lives closest to me going somewhere with some female. My initial reaction was to duck away so that I'd not be seen and race home as quickly as possible. Safely at home, the ironic brain tried to entertain me with thoughts like well, he's her problem now.

Afterwards, I felt awful. Not because I still love him or anything (as my parents I think still hope. They weren't happy at all when I told them it was over. My mother even went so far as to blame me personally for all the ills.), far from it. It's just that seeing him again made me acutely aware of how much of a failure that relationship makes me feel like. He used to tell me he loved me, but the truth of the matter was, he didn't like me. I don't think he respected me much, either. Why did I spend five years in a relationship with someone like that? Why, oh why did I waste some of the better years of my life in what felt for so long like a sinking ship?

I'm not a girl who's ever believed in fairy tales; never saw myself being whisked off my feet and down the aisle. I'd seen too much go wrong in my mother's life and in the lives of my friends' mothers back in the day to be able to seriously consider giving up half my goods and all my heart to a man. I'd been in relationships before, but not for any longer than a few months maybe, and I always tried to keep the guy at arm's length. Why did I stay with this one for four years longer than the normal expiration date and two years after I gave up on being happy with him? Hope maybe?

Hope that there'd be some sort of miracle breakthrough? Hope that he'd some day see how the wall he kept between us was killing the relationship and making me sick? Hope that the reality of our so-called life together might someday catch up to the image of the 'perfect couple' people around us thought we were?

I remember one day early on in our courting when he told me that he was a 'nice guy,' and that nice guys always finished last. My response was that, based on what I'd seen in the dating world, the difference between a 'nice guy' and a 'bad boy' was that, whereas a bad boy was aggressive aggressive, the nice guy was passive aggressive. He kind of chuckled and said that that made sense. How true that ended up being in our case. He never hit me, but he certainly could be nasty. Emotionally, I certainly didn't feel that I could trust him with many of my secrets, deep, dark or otherwise.

Physically, I also knew that I didn't trust him with my life, either.

Why did I let this go on?

At the end of things, and I remember it pretty clearly, I said that I couldn't continue with the relationship in the state it was in, as it was making me sick. His response was something like ... but he loved me ... if things were bad and if he reacted badly it was because I made him that way ... besides, I was emotionally unfaithful and he had a right to be angry about all that. My 'emotional unfaithfulness' stemmed from the fact that I couldn't talk to him when I needed to. I'd say things to his face and get no response. I'd telephone and never hear back from him. I looked to my friends for more support as a result. He answered back that I should have tried harder. At that point, I broke down. How many times would I need to bang my head against this wall before he considered it okay to stop? Once? One hundred times? Was I to keep it up indefinitely?

That was the end. Periodically, I'd get a call from him sounding all weirdly chipper as though nothing had happened. Usually it was the morning or afternoon of some event he was asking me to. Always last minute and always on his terms. If he left a message and I tried to call back, I'd not hear from him. Sometimes mutual friends would get phantom phone messages from him as well.

Last year, around his 40th birthday, I got a call inviting me to some art exhibit. I couldn't go, but I did want to do something for his birthday. Surprisingly he called back; maybe because I offered to take him out. We had brunch. At the end, he casually mentioned that his mother was sick. I asked if I could help with anything because I was very fond of her. I liked his family. I still wanted to try to be friends with him. Never heard back.

***

This past December, a good friend of mine (and neighbor of his) moved south. She got a great job in her discipline in the DC area and I was helping her organize and stay motivated. It's hard leaving a place, even if you're not happy with it, after 20 years. While coming back from a trash run, we ran into the ex's mother. She was walking very slowly and with a cane. I caught up with her to say hello. How was she doing? What was going on? She gave me the news from the past six months: all the illnesses, all of the accidents, all of the hospital stays. Finally let loose the fact that she'd been living with him for the past six months, as it was so much more convenient than staying out west.

Six months? I asked Six months?? Why didn't she give me a call? I'd have helped with groceries, I'd have taken walks with her, whatever. She just smiled and said that she didn't think of it. Asked me in to have a muffin and some coffee with her. I told her I couldn't just then, but I'd be around all weekend.

Ten minutes later, He came home. Put on his fake cheery voice, but it was obvious that he was unpleasantly shocked to run into my friend and me. "How are you?" he asked? "Much better than your mom, from what I gather," was my response. After my asking why no one said anything to me when I lived around the corner and everyone knew how much I liked his mother, he just answered that he was busy and forgot. That was that.

"Was it me?" I asked my friend (a shrink. I have a few shrink friends; comes with working in Human Services, I guess). "It wasn't was it?" She assured me that it wasn't me, I was fine. It might be a good idea if I were to start figuring out why I was choosing relationships with socially awkward or antisocial men and maybe consider breaking that habit.

I can't do anything for them. I tried and failed miserably. Seeing him made me remember this. I feel so awful. I don't want to keep making this same mistake.

5 comments:

Simon Kenton said...

"He used to tell me he loved me, but the truth of the matter was, he didn't like me."

If I define (and I do) an unthinkable thought as one that, once you finally think it, you can never unthink, you can never turn back from having thought it, then my moment came when I was being dressed down for some failing or disloyalty or other - say, overspending an extra 15 minutes past the 1 hour I spent away from the house and job each week. And I thought to myself, "You know, she'd be happier with an audio-animatronic me, because it would never be tinctured by the least trace of my actual personality." It was not long after that that I noticed that there were others who liked me, just in the plain ordinary sense of the word "like." Willing to chat about the weather, mention a book, smile when I entered a room, asking my opinion about some unimportant matter, "like" in the same elementary sense you look forward to seeing certain colleagues at work. The realization that no matter what you are told, no matter all the bleating about intimacy and friendship and all that, your partner doesn't like you is wonderfully and finally powerful. In my case, it ended a marriage. Perhaps better, it put an end to all the force-fed lies about my perceptions. You know, "if she loves me so deeply and respects me so much, why does this relationship feel perpetually unwelcoming? Is it my fault I don't feel all this love she keeps obtruding? Where's the delusion here? Because it has to be here somewhere, it has to be."

It made me hard to date. At the least hint of her old ploys from some new lady, I pressed the red button, blew the canopy, ejected, and parachuted to earth somewhere very elsewhere. After 18 years, it made me a better second husband. Now I accept, and receive, no discordance between what is felt and what is said.

kzgzjsyj - best verification des mots yet

Be said...

I broke up with him several times, but managed to get myself talked into coming back. I always hoped that it would get better, but it never did.

Intellectually, I always knew that relationships were hard, but I hoped that there would be more nice than there was with that one.

Am currently seeing someone who I'm fairly certain likes me a lot. This is going to sound sad, but I can't get over how nice he is to me. Am not used to that, and sometimes the fear of this new stuff puts me in flight mode.

Kzgzjsyj: isn't that the capitol of Tuva?

Simon Kenton said...

"Intellectually, I always knew that relationships were hard, but I hoped that there would be more nice than there was with that one.
"

I used to know this too. It's bullshit, promulgated by people who are trying to establish a pre-defense for their crappy behavior. Life is hard, and it gets harder with the degeneracies of age. A relationship is what you have to make life easier, or at least to share comfort about it. After years of unpleasantness - psychosis, jealousy, violence, derogation of our children, snits - I finally got it. If it's not fun, and if there's no prospect that it's going to get fun soon and stay fun, get out. They will soon climb on someone else's shoulders.

Be said...

It's a process in all the aspects of life. Am over the last one and can't see going back to that sort of thing - just seeing him 'traumatized' me (as my shrink would call it).

Next thing will be work. And quite possibly soon the city. I've been a long time unhappy with both. Just have to get the energy up and find the self-worth to ask for a bit better for me.

Marcia said...

I'm catching up here so forgive the late comment....
I have a challenging marriage. At times I wonder why I bother. But the truth is we like each other very very much. Love is complicated, especially for my husband. He struggles with trust, intimacy, passive-aggressiveness and God knows he married a moody girl. But we are working it through. We see our therapists; we share the challenge of his mentally-ill mom... And we love each other ultimately.
(There is nothing more bonding than attending seminars at McLean with one's spouse / sister-in-law to understand the complexity of your mother-in-law's nuttiness!)
I'm so sorry that he made you feel bad; it wasn't your fault and it isn't your failure. You've learned something, you are stronger.. Trust that you deserve the best because you are such a warm-hearted loving woman deserving of kindness!