Until you’ve seen

Lesson overview

I’m fighting the impulse go back through this blog and erase every mention of C. That’s always my first thought — pretend it didn’t happen and hide the evidence. Delete the photos and texts, unfriend him on Facebook, and don’t face any unpleasant reminders.

And yes, the photos and texts ARE gone. I’ve blocked him on Facebook, not because I don’t want him to know anything about my life but because I don’t want the temptation of focusing too much on his. But erasing the evidence won’t erase the past, and this blog is about my journey. Like it or not, he’s part of it.

I’ve learned a lot from my relationship with him:

  • I’ve learned that while I do have trust issues, I can put my nose to the grindstone, do the work, and make progress. I feel that I actually handled a difficult situation with maturity and understanding. There are things I wish I would have done differently, but overall, I know I did far better than I would have even a few months ago.
  • I’ve learned that not everything that goes wrong in a relationship is my fault, and that my first impulse is no longer to accept responsibility for things I don’t genuinely feel responsible for.
  • What-you-learn-e1415477706247I’ve learned that I can recognize and call out inappropriate or hurtful behavior, and not feel regret if that person chooses to no longer be in my life because of it.
  • I’ve learned that breaking up with someone who has shut you out and hurt you and blamed you and then ended things via text without even attempting to talk things out with you is really not too painful when you think about what a lifetime with that person might have been like.

The biggest struggle has the cognitive dissonance — how did the man who had been so loving, so thoughtful on so many occasions turn into this guy? What happened to the man who called me the love of his love and said he wanted to go everywhere in the world with me? How did he go from introducing me to his children to ending things over such a foolish argument?

The only answer I have is that he was very happy with our relationship while things were easy and undemanding, but that he couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the more challenging aspects. And that’s confusing to me, because I feel like we had done that before. Twice in the earlier days, I had ended our relationship because of concerns I had over some events from his past. I know he was hurt, but he was kind, and both times we worked through it. Maybe the difference was that, those times, I was willing to take all the blame.

I don’t really miss him. I feel like I can’t, because I’m not even sure I knew him. But there is definitely a sense of emptiness and loss. I miss what I thought we had.

Square one

C. and I are through, permanently, and so I am back to where I started.  And this time, I feel it will be much easier, because it has become apparent to me that he was not the man that I had thought.

On Saturday, I was at a friend’s party when I ran into J., who used to work for my friend. J and I have a lot of common interests, and although I found her a tad nutty, she has generally been a lot of fun. In fact, I had also run into her recently at a party for C.’s running group.

On Saturday, she was so drunk that my first thought was, “My God, I hope she didn’t drive here.” She proceeded to tell me, unsolicited, that C. had a reputation for hitting on other women in their group. That didn’t particularly sound like him, and other things she said made me wonder if she was confusing him with someone else, but I still found it a little distressing at the time. After some reflection, I was less upset but felt it should still be discussed.

That night, I talked to C. I told him what J. had said. I was clear that she had been drunk and seemed confused, and that I would find her a dubious source of information at the best of times. And I added that even if it were true, I understood that it wasn’t a betrayal of me if he had flirted with other women in the group before we met, although I would perhaps rather he not run with someone he had a past romantic interest in.

He was LIVID. Mostly at J., but when I added the part about him not running with other women he’d been interested in, he said, “See, THIS is why I’m so mad! You’re spiraling over this bullshit!”

I pointed out that I wasn’t spiraling. And for some reason, at that point, it seemed like a great idea to point out that his declarations of, “This is bullshit!” seemed more like a non-denial denial, like something a politician would say. (I suspect that, although I hadn’t believed most of what J. said in the first place, his extremely angry reaction made me start to wonder if he “doth protest too much.”) As you might imagine, that made things exponentially worse.

He was so furious he told me he was done with the conversation and was going to bed. I begged him not to go, not to leave it like this, but he was insistent, firmly said, “Good NIGHT, A.,” and hung up.

In the morning, I got a very curt message from him telling me the conversation had really hurt and that we would talk later. I responded that I had believed him and still did, that it was stupid to get hung up on semantics and that I was sorry. I added that as hard as I was working, there would still be struggles and I needed to feel he was a safe person to talk to. I told him to enjoy  his day with his kids and that I looked forward to talking later. Later, after I ran about (which he loves to do), I told him how nice it felt to run after so long and that I wanted to share that with him, and I loved him.

He didn’t respond, and he didn’t call that night. I received a few more very terse, curt messages from him, and my friends who saw them were stunned at how cold and withdrawn he was. He didn’t call Monday night, either. He had been supposed to have dinner with us and meet my children that day, though he had informed me in the morning he no longer felt it was a good idea (which I agreed with). That was also the night J. chose to message me and tell me she’d had C. confused with someone else.

Instead, this morning, I received a text admitting that he cared about me and knew this wasn’t the best way to handle things, but that he couldn’t do this anymore.

I was not stunned that he was choosing to end it — one of his previous texts, send Monday night after I apologized yet again and told him how much I wanted to fix this, informed me, “I don’t want to hear it” and accused me of backpedaling.

But I was stunned that the man I had so cared for, who had called me the “love of his life,” who had seemed so mature and so kind in so many respects, was ending our relationship by text message over such a stupid argument.

I replied:

I’m astonished that you felt this was appropriate. However, your very cold tone and disrespectful words towards me the past few days had also begun to persuade me we were incompatible. People who love each other should be able to respectful and kind even when hurt and angry. I would kindly suggest that just as I am working on my own issues, you look at your communication skills.

You came back to me knowing this would be a work in progress. I will not beat myself up for being unable to make an overnight transformation.

I was proud of that. I felt I was kind and firm and expressed my own concerns in an appropriate way without belittling him or lashing out.

breakupmemetext-6NpwdmI did cry. Hard. The kids saw me sobbing and hugged me. I told them they wouldn’t be meeting “Mr. C,” and that just like Mommy and Daddy had decided they weren’t a good match, Mr. C. and I had as well. I said that I was sorry and I knew they’d been excited to meet him. My oldest said, “I was excited too. Now I’m just mad.”

I texted Sara, my therapist, who promised to get me in as soon as possible. I talked to several friends, who were as appalled as I was. I cried to my boss, who told me it sounded like C. had a lot of issues going on. (Yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve, why do you ask?)

And while I’m sad and hurt and angry, I also feel relieved. I had not seen this angry, hurtful side of C., and I don’t believe he has a “healthy emotional core,” as one friend put it. It’s possible to be mad at someone and still communicate. It’s possible to be very hurt by them and still be kind.