Tag Archives: breakup

Missing Piece

I’m lonely. I miss you.

The words are wrong. How do you say them? To whom? Words communicate. Loneliness is is what happens when you can’t. We have a word for which there can be no word. It feels broken to say, a message without a receiver, but what else can you do? You say them. Not to communicate, to confess.

I’m lonely. I miss you. Pointless. Utterly pointless.

I said them anyway.

Last word

Some words feel too alien to be true, even when they are. It makes them hard to say, even harder to discuss and defend. I don’t handle it well. A sentence causes hurt and denial and anger and pleas and I have no words, nothing to offer that doesn’t make it worse.

This isn’t working.

We’re not–we can’t be–a couple.

We’ve been together more than a decade. We moved states away with nothing but each other, twice. Said vows between the arms of a hurricane. I didn’t want kids, he got surgery so we could be sure. We’ve boosted (or sometimes dragged) each other over the day to day obstacles of work and life and academia. Eleven years, almost twelve. Some of it has been good. Some, unbearable.

It isn’t working.

Too many arguments. Too much damage control, too little ability to understand each other. Too much guilt. Because it can be controlled, all this damage, but one of us is gunpowder and the other is flame. How much time, how much effort, before the hazards of staying together aren’t worth it anymore?

There is shouting, tears. Not so much fighting as being miserable at each other in the same room. First he says fine, I’ll go, find a place to stay right now; if we’re not together I can’t bear to be here. Then it’s please, I can’t live without you, just stay, we’ll figure something out. I try to list steps we can take, so we might do this calmly, though neither of us is calm. I say I’m sorry. It doesn’t help. We’re still broken.

We are both essentially single for the first time in our adult lives. He denies it, and I don’t have the energy to say it again. I slink off to another room, fail to be productive, wish I were alone in a quiet that didn’t touch anyone else’s life, where no one else could touch mine.

There are things I know: that this is my fault, that it needs to be dealt with, decisions made, that I cannot put off or put on him. That I am controlling and hurtful and not to be trusted. That the boundaries I set are not fair, that they make intimacy all but impossible. That this is not going to change. That I am not wholly sane, not wholly sure about the things I think I know.

It isn’t working and I feel like an imposter. How can I write about relationships here when mine all fail so spectacularly all at once? How can I be allowed (yes, really, I am) to provide counseling on sexual behavior and boundaries and the rest? Why do people keep asking for relationship advice and how dare I say “I’ll try” instead of “dear God, run, ask anyone but me”?

I’m shutting down and shutting people out. It seems safer for everyone, though this time I’m aware that it is also selfish. This is terrible timing, though no timing would be good. Final week of semester. Papers and exams and presentations demand attention. Applying for jobs. I am avoiding the necessary conversations, not even sure I can form the right words.

It isn’t working. What else is there to say?

Maddening

I am thinking about endings.

“My wife will be home Tuesday after next.”

I nod. I’d forgotten the exact date but I knew it was coming. “You must be excited,” I say. I guess this is our last lunch out, I think.

“I told you I can’t see you once she’s back.”

“I know; you have an arrangement while she’s out of the country. Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn up on your doorstep and make a scene or anything.”

She’s sitting very straight, hands folded on the table, all business. “There is no arrangement.”

There’s a sudden weight in my stomach. I set my chopsticks down. “So what did you tell her?” I know the answer but I have to ask.

“About you? She doesn’t know.”

“I see.”

“She doesn’t need to.”

I don’t say anything. We are sitting in the restaurant not eating and not speaking and not looking at each other. I don’t have anything to say and don’t much mind that it’s making her uncomfortable.

“Nic–”

“Is there anything else?”

“What?”

“That you lied about.”

“What does it matter? We could only do this until she came home. She is coming home. Nothing has changed.”

“If it’s all the same anyway why bother lying about it?”

“Would you have given me your number if I had told you the truth?”

I am thinking of her right now, defensive and closed off and not lying for the first time and I want to say “no, never, not a chance.” I can’t think of any better way to slap her right in the conscience and that’s all I want to do.

I am thinking of the last four months, of meeting her in pubs and movie theaters and here, in a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall. Of how she always stood out, looked a little too bright and perfect to be real, like she belonged in a book of pin-up art. I am thinking of the day she cooked lamb tagine and baklava that smelled of orange blossoms. I am thinking of electricity and sex and almost drowning. Of how she preferred to speak French when she could, and how she laughed at my accent when I tried to speak it with her. I am thinking of the day she looked in my closet and declared it had to go: all my shapeless T-shirts and ratty jeans and fully half of my shoes. I am thinking of the spines of her books, arranged by color. I am thinking of her hands, with long, long fingers and nails that always looked as though she’d had a manicure that morning. I want to say “yes, I wouldn’t have missed these few months for anything.”

I am thinking of the day we met. She was selling anime and a book on corsetry. I tried not to flirt too much while I looked them over. I asked for her number–“for the sale form, not for me.” She said she’d give it to me if I gave her mine. I am remembering all the things that made her stand out, that day. Her cocky grin. Her Tinkerbell eyes. Her taste in books and film. I want to say “I don’t know.”

“I guess we’ll never know.”

“We can still go out this weekend. Or you can come to the house.”

“No, we can’t.”

She doesn’t seem surprised. We pay for lunch, reassure the waitress that our still-full bowls are not a commentary on the quality of the food. She pulls a book out of her purse before we part ways. “Have you read this?”

“No.”

“You should. It’s one of my favorites. Here.” She’s gone and it’s in my hands before I can decide what to say.

It’s inscribed: “Merry Christmas. Love, C.” C is her wife’s initial. It’s called Written on the Body and it’s about an affair, and she’s right. It’s one of my favorites, too.

I am thinking about endings. Sometimes they need to happen, are the only thing that can happen, but they still feel like a play without the final act. The uncomfortable truth is that the final act still happens, I’m just not in it. I was never meant to be.

[this is ancient history, years ago. Mad has texted a couple of times. I haven’t answered, have deleted her number from my phone. I never did turn up on her doorstep to make a scene. I didn’t look up C and tell her what she deserves to know, and I don’t know if she’d want to hear it. That was it, just an ending.]

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.

A Letter Not for Sending

I used to write letters. To family, close friends, occasionally lovers. It’s been a long time since I bothered. The last three went unanswered. It hardly seems worthwhile to pull out the stationary and fill my fountain pen for a long silence.

Some letters aren’t meant to be read. They’re just a place to say the things one can’t or shouldn’t say aloud. Angry letters, frightened ones, letters to the dead. It’s a form of processing, rarely rational, often ugly. It would be mad to send them, and I never have. This one… it wasn’t worthwhile to pull out the stationary, fill my pen, so it may as well end up here. It is not rational. It is ugly. I don’t much care.

I fucked a girl you can’t stand. Told her “don’t touch me” and dared her to think of what I might do if she did. Shoved her back with high heels and delighted in the way she leaned into me and not away. I made her beg, loudly, for the privilege of eating me out. There were ten people watching, maybe more. I asked them to critique her pleas, made her try over and over until she got it right.

I was trying to cleanse the palate, rid my nerves of the want of you. Her hands are small. Her lips–everything about her is soft and round and delicate. Nothing rough. Nothing that can hurt me. Nothing like you at all. I jerked her by the hair, felt her moan, arched my back and closed my eyes.

I came thinking of you growling “come for me” in my ear. I didn’t tell her that was why I pushed her away.

I want to say “fuck you,” but I can’t.

I want to fuck you. I can’t do that either.

There’s so much that I can’t do, or say, or believe. You said you were afraid so many times. Of fucking this up, of saying the wrong thing, of being wrong. I understood. I was afraid too. You said you didn’t want me to go. I believed you. You never did say you wanted me to stay. I thought this was caution. I never said I wanted to stay, either. You were important. Are important. Enough so that I was willing to wait.

You fucked up. You didn’t make a mistake. You made a choice. Over and over you chose secrets and lies and I don’t know why. I wasn’t afraid when I was with you, of anything but myself. Now I’m afraid that all your lies were somehow my fault. I’m afraid that I’d let you do it again. All the fear I should have had, would have had with anyone else, is crashing through the levees and I can’t do anything but let it come.

I wish you could tell me why. It doesn’t matter and I won’t ask again, but God, it’s killing me not knowing. I’m wounded. That’s fine. It’s happened before, more severely and more often than I care to admit. It makes one adept at closing wounds. This one is held open. I’m digging through muscle and gore as if you might have left some hint of your motive there. You didn’t. Of course you didn’t. Some horrible parody of faith is telling me to keep looking anyway.

I forgive you. For all of it. You don’t deserve it.

Unbelievable

I have trust issues.

These are serious and they are long-term. There are never more than half a dozen people in my life whom I feel I can trust. It is paranoid. It is isolating. It is unhealthy.

The Techie somehow, terrifyingly, became one of those half dozen within a few months. Everyone else on the list I have known ten years or more.

There’s a piece of advice that’s all too common in terms of relationships: listen to your gut. If you’re constantly paranoid, second guessing, suspicious, there’s a reason. Get out. This advice is useless to me. It describes every interaction, every day. Knowing that my emotional response often has no relation to reality is a necessary part of survival. I can’t let anxiety make decisions without evidence, unless I want to completely dissociate from humanity. I have done this. It is paranoid. It is isolating. It is unhealthy.

The last few months, I have essentially not seen the Techie. This was expected. He works nights and often weekends. I get up early, go to bed late. Grad school comes first. Classes, research, writing. I have a job, teach a class, organize board gaming events, cook, clean, occasionally exercise. Relationships have to occur around the fringes. I see Spouse less than I should; the Techie’s physical absence did not suggest a problem except that I missed him.

We texted, most days. About nothing much. His work, his health, my studies, recipes. He stopped responding to flirtation in kind at some point. Acknowledged, apologized: work was eating all of his time and energy, causing pain. I stopped flirting.

There was a phone call in September. He said he’d had a positive serotest for HSV-1 (itself a non-issue). Mentioned he had other calls to make, plural. I was aware of only one other partner. He and I had engaged in unprotected sex. I debriefed my doctor: my boyfriend has likely had partners I do not know about. I do not know his risk behavior with them. We moved up my routine test. Talked about the staggering inaccuracy of HSV serotesting. Most doctors will not perform it in the absence of clinical symptoms, of which I had been assured there were none. Interesting. Suggestive. Insufficient data to justify listening to anxiety.

I asked him for data. Said we needed a conversation about risk behavior and risk communication. That while we were at it could we please put a term to this relationship because I’m tired of not knowing what it is. He said yes and of course, it’s important, we’ll make it happen soon. “Soon” kept falling through, always for reasons that seemed to make perfect sense. I knew his job took priority. After a month I saw him. It wasn’t planned. I was hanging out with his girlfriend at his house, he came home early. I have too much pride. Didn’t want her to know I was upset. Asked him to let me know, when he had time to talk. I offered to discuss it by text message: written communication is far more comfortable for me than verbal. He said that wouldn’t be fair. Anxiety said: be done. I ignored it. Insufficient data.

By Halloween I’d decided he was simply too cowardly to end things. (Behavior: said “we’ll talk soon” for seven weeks. Did not talk.) We were at the same party. I told Spouse and the Fireman and his wife that I was going to go tell him I was no longer waiting; whatever it had been, it clearly was no longer. I’m fond of closure. All three of them objected. He’s busy. Exhausted. You owe him a chance to explain. I did not say I’d offered half a dozen chances. I did not say intent and explanation were not relevant: the behavior is not one I accept. I cornered him outside. Said I didn’t know how to talk to him, or whether it was worth trying. He was calm, compassionate, apologetic, sincere. Work. Always work. He wasn’t willing to steal my attention from the Fireman, he said. They visit rarely enough, he knows I miss them. We’ll talk soon. I said I no longer trusted soon. He amended: I will look at schedules tomorrow. You will have a list of my expected free time for the next week by midafternoon, but expect it to be limited. It was limited to times I had work or class.

He tried to contact me a few times in November. I had extra complications with classwork: an unexpected paper was assigned, I spent two hours with a biostatistician going over some numbers I’d analyzed for a project but seemed too high (the math was correct). I was organizing a group project, finishing a grant proposal. This is real life, not a Nicholas Sparks novel. Romance does not trump all. I told him to expect a call when term ended.

Things started to come out. Spouse started seeing a girl who used to date the Techie. Exclusive relationship, she thought, but then he just stopped returning calls. Our timelines overlapped by several months. He’d never mentioned her name, had explicitly said he had had no other partners since his last STI tests when we started fucking. Laughed when I asked, in fact.

I’d been spending time with his girlfriend–the one I knew about, who lived with him. She got awkward and silent if I mentioned him. He said this was anxiety, she felt I was only spending time with her to get closer to him (not the case. She is bright, studies my field, and as damaged as I am. We get along well). I asked if this was the case, she said she had wondered. That she knew he needed other partners to be sexually satisfied. She gave names, approximate dates. Three or four women either never mentioned or whom I had been explicitly told he had not and would not touch. She hesitated, asked when my physical relationship with him had ended. I told her: we had not fucked since early September. We had a couple of brief, intense makeout sessions, he found excuses to finger fuck me in semi-public a few times, as recently as a week ago.

“Did he tell you we were having unprotected sex?”

“No. Did he tell you we did?”

This led to all three of us and poor Spouse sitting around my dining room table for a few hours comparing notes. He said he was going to a funeral? No. He and I went on vacation. He said he was emotionally involved? That this was unusual, frightening, moving fast? Lovely, we all got the same line. He told none of us about having had unprotected sex with the others, explicitly denied the existence of a sexual relationship with the others (he had not hidden me from girlfriend, likely only because I predated their relationship so she’d heard both scenes and sex from his bedroom when they were just roommates. Bit hard to deny). The girlfriend kept shaking her head. “This is emotional abuse. This is inexplicable, compulsive lying and emotional abuse.” The girl Spouse is now seeing kept crying. The girlfriend was angry enough to be shaking. I wanted to be. Angry, upset, something. I couldn’t manage more than confused. Two of us at least were openly nonmonogamous. What possible motivation to lie? What possible chance we wouldn’t eventually talk?

It didn’t matter. Overwhelming consilience of information. Lies. To everyone, about everything. Behavior is what matters, not motive, not intent. We texted him, got a passive-aggressive and rather martyred email in reply. Not good enough. Confrontation in a diner at 0200, all of us wanting to hear the truth. They may have even hoped for it. I was holding pieces of broken trust and trying to remember how it could possibly have ever fit together. Truth or not, I don’t think I could believe him. He was calm, compassionate, apologetic, sincere. Yes, he had lied. No, he couldn’t say why. Of course we should be angry, he never claimed not to be a terrible person. I reminded him that I had explicitly offered to step back into the role of platonic friend or to just go away if that was what he wanted. That just 24 hours before, he had asked me to be patient, insisted he cared. I did not ask whether that was true; his behavior was not caring, so the sentiment became irrelevant. I just asked why. A few times. He didn’t answer. I suppose that doesn’t matter, either.

I’m not calm. Trust issues. Anxiety is telling me to question everything, everyone. I am confused, frightened, appalled at myself (supposedly an intelligent woman), filled with self-loathing that I could trust someone so easily, that I would choose a mythomaniac to have faith in. The flight reflexes I held down for him–because he asked me to–are wound up as bulls in a bucking chute. But oddly, I’m okay. Not crying. Not angry. Not grieving.

The others, I don’t know. Spouse is taking care of one (Spouse is not the Techie’s biggest fan right now. Can’t be fun to find out one’s wife and new partner were systematically lied to with no explanation by the same man). She’s young and rather fragile. The girlfriend went back home with the Techie. She has a higher stake in this. I am not sure whether she is attempting reconciliation, whether she would welcome support, or if I should expect to be villainized. I suppose I’ll find out eventually.

In any case, that’s done with.