Scenes from a Break-Up

Z and I broke up. It wasn’t pretty. The conversation followed a couple of weeks of silence and a passive-aggressive facebook post, so it was obvious where it was going to lead. Still. It wasn’t pretty.

Z: “I assumed you were lying and trying to manipulate me.”

I understand this fear. I don’t understand how it excuses her lying to and manipulating me. She feels paranoia and mistrust, she decided it was true, she decided not to say it, and she decided to treat me differently based on those feelings. She decided I was lying to her. That I wasn’t invested in a relationship with her. She closed off to the relationship in response to that fear. She didn’t tell me. It’s long standing (I’ve written about it before), and we’d discussed it more than once at length.

Z: “So if I think you’re manipulative, I shouldn’t stay in a relationship, but you don’t trust either of us. Shouldn’t you not be in a relationship?”

She may be right. My trust issues are severe. I’ve hidden things I shouldn’t, and a part of the problem that led to this most recent mess came out of that. I wasn’t being open about my mental state or the effects of illness. I’m not being open about them here, even, and you folks don’t know who I am. I hide in closets sometimes, or in my car. It’s probably not healthy.

The difference, as I see it, is how we respond to fear. I am always afraid. Anyone who is allowed to get close is close enough to cause hurt, and that thought is never far away. I try not to make decisions based on fear. If I have to–if I can’t think straight anymore and terror becomes certainty and the floor falls out–it’s not an excuse to attack. It’s not an excuse to lie. It means I’m leaving.

Z: “Every time you say you want someone else, what I hear is ‘not enough, not enough, not enough.'”

This wasn’t directed towards me. It’s not the first time she’s said it. Not enough. That may be what she hears, but that’s not what is being said. I’ve always found this line of thinking particularly childish and narcissistic. “If same-sex marriages are legitimized, my heterosexual marriage means less.” “If you’re bi, you can only half-like me.” “If you want other partners, it’s because you don’t want me.” No. No. NO. Look, I get that we’re told to believe this basically from birth, because that’s a major tenet of the theory of One True Love. In reality? “I want to be in another relationship also” doesn’t say she’s not enough. It doesn’t mention her at all. The need to make herself the subject of a sentence or topic that has nothing to do with her is kind of baffling.

Also, she was dating both of us. Does she translate her own behavior the same way? Were we each not enough for her? Or did she never consider us to be in a relationship?

Z: “You’re saying this is all my fault.”

I wasn’t, and I don’t believe that. “I’m saying your choices and your behavior are your fault. And my behavior is mine.” If she doesn’t tell me there’s a problem, she’s not giving me the option of addressing it. But that doesn’t erase anything I’ve done wrong, of course not.

Me: “You’re important  to me. I’d like to know we could still spend time together, but I don’t see how a romantic relationship could work.”

Z: “It can’t.”

I respect the hell out of her for being blunt there. I should have been, and I chickened out; softened it to uncertainty even though there was no doubt that this needed to end.  Maybe I felt I’d been harsh and unkind enough in the hours leading to this, but more likely it was plain cowardice. It is not kind to leave the burden of saying what needs said on someone else, and I did.


As we left it, she and the Techie are still together. In theory, so are he and I. I’m wary: if she can’t be happy with polyamory and he can’t be happy with monogamy, it seems to be a pretty clear recipe for misery unless one of them changes their mind or they split up. In the meantime, I’m in a real good spot for collateral damage. But that’s hardly new.


Obviously this is only a few snippets of the conversation, the comments that most upset me. Obviously this is only my interpretation and perspective. I’m upset. These are patterns I don’t find acceptable and I am known for showing little compassion and no flexibility when faced with things I don’t find acceptable. It means there’s a fundamental incompatibility. It doesn’t mean she’s a monster or a villain or a Bad Person. I’m not interested in any support/commentary that feels the need to say she is.

10 thoughts on “Scenes from a Break-Up”

  1. I just wanted to comment on the bit about openness: I think it’s important to tell specific people about specific things that might affect them, for instance telling people one is trying to be in a relationship with about things that are potential landmines. But telling the world? Even from a position of “anonymity”? Completely optional. (And possibly unwise: the Internet rarely forgets, and people are deanonymised fairly often — basically as soon as someone feels particularly motivated to do so. )

    Other than that: communication is hard. Especially with other people 🙂

    Sorry to hear y’all had a rough breakup.


    1. This was a case where openness needed to happen. I was all but falling apart a few weeks ago, both physically and emotionally. My defense was to get clinical: “X happened. I am doing Y.” Actions, but not context. I felt too vulnerable to give them necessary information, and that wasn’t a fair call to make.

      I know I don’t owe the whole Internet my secrets, but I’m very open on here anyway. The point was that details of my anxiety and illness are difficult for me to say even in a void. Intimacy makes it more difficult. Pretty sure that’s the opposite of how that’s supposed to work.

      It is hard! It should not be so damn hard! Gah!

      Even though it wasn’t smooth, it’s a breakup I feel okay about. Not grieving a relationship that could have been, more relieved not to have to feel guilty for second guessing it all the time. That might be awful of me. I can live with that.

      1. Actually I think it’s pretty much inevitable that intimacy will make it more difficult: suddenly it matters more how you explain it, how it is received, etc. Maybe trust (eg, that someone generally takes news calmly, listens thoughtfully, considers before responding) might make it easier. But that’s different from intimacy. And from what you’ve said (in this post and others) it doesn’t exactly sound like trust was at an all time high…

        As for feeling okay about the break up, that also seems like a good thing to me. Especially given the “cat behaviour” suggests it had been… less than ideal for some time.


        PS: “X happened. I am doing Y” strikes me as pretty good communication if that’s all you’re able to say at the time: it localises the problem, and indicates what you are doing. Yes, “why” is missing and only implied. But a more detailed “why” can come later if someone asks. Poor communication is, eg, not saying anything and just vanishing. Or not saying anything and pretending it isn’t a problem (right up until it’s All The Problems). Seriously.

        1. Interesting point. Intimacy without trust can feel fragile. Trust is not easy for me at the best of times, which is often unfair to people close to me.

          “Why” can be far more important than “what”. If I get to the office and say “sorry I’m late, I had to take the bus” but don’t say the reason I needed to take the bus is that I was in a horrible car wreck and might be bleeding internally…vital information missing. That’s not too far from the level I was at here. Problem was that anxiety and vulnerability were so high (in general, not because of either of them) that even “I had to take the bus” felt like a dangerous level of oversharing.

          1. FWIW, your second example is not of the “X happened. I am doing Y” variety: it only has the “I am doing Y”, which is more helpful than saying nothing, but not as helpful as it is with a bit of context. A closer parallel might be “My car is not working. I am taking the bus.” Yes, it omits why your car is not working — which may well be important to understanding the true magnitude situation — but there is at least an immediate explanation.

            I do definitely agree that if you can say why, that’s usually even more helpful (if one understands why one can make more accurate predictions about future situations). But if you can’t at that point — for whatever reason, including “does not fit in 140 characters” — then “X happened. I am doing Y.” is good (if minimal) communication (and vastly preferably to vanishing/not turning up in silence).

            “X happened. I am doing Y.” is (a) news there is a problem and (b) a statement that you are taking steps towards mitigating that problem yourself. Perhaps more actions will be required later. But at least First Aid is being (self-)administered now.

            Finally, to echo other comments, intimacy without trust is… Really Hard ™. To the point I’m not actually sure it’s possible, at least for me. If “I had to take the bus” alone is hard to say… that’s a warning sign of concerns over trust right there.


  2. Oh, eesh. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Slightly surprised though as I assumed the people breaking up would be you and the Techie, given past drama. But I only know a tiny bit of the story in any case.

    Many good wishes. I know about “letting someone else say what needs to be said” — it’s probably my biggest regret about the last relationship I ended (let her end). Sigh. I’m sorry you’re hurting right now. *offers hugs*

    1. I wouldn’t call that relationship stable at the moment. I was surprised that he stood up for it, when she said she couldn’t be happy if he was emotionally polyamorous. Glad, I think, but it’s a hell of a position to be in. (Also it’s been pointed out recently that I don’t publicly say much positive about him. There’s a great deal to say, but the better things are the less I’m writing. Gives a somewhat skewed view, I think.)

      Thank you. It’s not hurting all that much–more than anything I’m relieved to have one less source of anxiety. Here’s hoping it’s better for her emotionally as well.

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