Posts tagged with "relationships"

conscious uncoupling

I felt aban­doned again last year. Heather was spend­ing less and less time with me, even though she had more time than ever1. I start­ed cook­ing for myself, learned how to cook for her, took on as many chores as I could han­dle, but assum­ing addi­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ties nev­er seemed to trans­late into any mean­ing­ful time togeth­er; it seemed like she was pulling even fur­ther away.

Then she stopped check­ing in entire­ly. Months passed with­out a ques­tion of how I was doing or feel­ing. She would lat­er admit that van­i­ty, per­fec­tion­ism, and inse­cu­ri­ty made her pan­ic and freeze up. Even though she could tell I was unhap­py about our rela­tion­ship, it was eas­i­er to hide from the mon­ster she felt like and avoid fac­ing the pain she caused.

I just wish I was­n’t the one who paid for that cow­ardice, espe­cial­ly when I had already reached my break­ing point a year ear­li­er. There was no desire to com­mu­ni­cate on my end when it felt like she no longer cared, and know­ing that this would make her even more dis­tant — like some kind of neg­a­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion feed­back loop — was ter­ri­fy­ing. I asked my ther­a­pist for advice, and he brought up the idea of a heal­ing sep­a­ra­tion.

This was a great sug­ges­tion. Feeling resent­ful of Heather when she could­n’t meet my needs meant I had fall­en back into the mind­set of think­ing she was respon­si­ble for my hap­pi­ness. Some time apart is exact­ly what I need­ed to gain some per­spec­tive on the rela­tion­ship and reset those expec­ta­tions. Some time alone would also give me a chance to heal, so I could even­tu­al­ly be a sup­port instead of a bur­den dur­ing the times my part­ner is unre­spon­sive or unre­li­able.

I was pleased to know that this would be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for her to do some grow­ing on her own too. The last time she was sin­gle was at 18, and she rarely took the ini­tia­tive to pri­or­i­tize her own inter­ests. The last thing I want­ed was for her to lose her iden­ti­ty to anoth­er rela­tion­ship. And she was so used to hav­ing some­one around that being alone could cause an anx­i­ety attack; exact­ly the kind of thing that she could only work on by her­self.

We agreed to re-eval­u­ate where we were and how we felt at the end of the year; three months seemed like a prop­er length of time to be apart from the most impor­tant per­son in our respec­tive lives. Chores would be divid­ed between us. I agreed not to pur­sue roman­tic inter­ests out­side our rela­tion­ship until until we worked out our issues2, and she agreed to start her own ther­a­py. Despite how dif­fi­cult things had got­ten, I felt some­what secure in the knowl­edge that we still cared about each oth­er and want­ed the same thing — that is, for the rela­tion­ship to work and to even­tu­al­ly re-unite.

  1. When she first start­ed work­ing, not hav­ing a dri­ver’s license meant a four hour com­mute by bus each day. The pan­dem­ic gave her all that time back. []
  2. Not that I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in dat­ing any­way. []

no man an island

Loneliness, or the fear of aban­don­ment when­ev­er I was dat­ing some­one, have been reoc­cur­ring themes since my child­hood.

I’ve nev­er regret­ted the deci­sion to cut out my par­ents for the sake of my men­tal health, but that still means I lost the only peo­ple who had a respon­si­bil­i­ty to help and accept me (as ter­ri­ble as they were at liv­ing up to that). It was a nec­es­sary but trau­mat­ic choice. Then I had a falling out with my ex-bestie, which came about after I real­ized he was­n’t the type of per­son I need­ed or want­ed in my life, and fur­ther robbed me of sta­bil­i­ty. ____ became my best friend after that (even though I was extreme­ly reluc­tant to label her as such after my expe­ri­ences), until I final­ly stood up for myself and she decid­ed she did­n’t want to be held account­able for her actions. Heather and I com­pared notes after­wards to dis­cov­er she was avoid­ing me every time I was in a cri­sis1. I’ve had a life­time of sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ships with emo­tion­al­ly igno­rant peo­ple who would nev­er apol­o­gize or admit that they’ve ever hurt me.

Then there’s Pat, who acknowl­edged he was a being a poor friend for not stay­ing in con­tact the last time I spoke with him. Maybe it was the fact that I was cry­ing that pres­sured him into promis­ing to call me more often. That was about sev­en years ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I’m still mourn­ing my rela­tion­ship with Shawn for the same rea­son; a per­son who lit­er­al­ly saved my life who no longer has time for me in his. Relationships with pos­i­tive peo­ple whom I loved and looked up to, that with­ered when I stopped ini­ti­at­ing con­tact, leav­ing me with more ques­tions than answers. Relationships where I’ve done noth­ing wrong and still suf­fer a loss. Part of me can’t help but feel con­fused, and scared that any­one in my life may dis­ap­pear sim­ply cause they’ve lost inter­est.

Surviving the fall­out of each expe­ri­ence meant I came out with real­ly messed up expec­ta­tions when­ev­er it comes to oth­er peo­ple. Even now, it’s hard for me to feel safe, no mat­ter how close I am to some­one.

My first tru­ly secure rela­tion­ship — one where I could express dif­fi­cult thoughts and feel­ings with­out being blamed or aban­doned or inval­i­dat­ed — start­ed in my mid-30s with Heather2. When my depres­sion and col­i­tis kept me iso­lat­ed the last few years, I was par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ried about being over­ly depen­dent on her. At the slight­est hint of trou­ble, it felt like my world was com­ing down because she was my world3. When I turned to oth­er peo­ple for help dur­ing my lost week­end, I soon real­ized I have a won­der­ful net­work of friends and fam­i­ly.

Continue read­ing “no man an island”…

  1. During a par­tic­u­lar­ly bad day a few years back, Heather asked her to send me a text in sup­port. She replied, “Jeff and I don’t text”. Not only was that com­plete­ly untrue, it was a real­ly shit­ty excuse for her to do noth­ing. []
  2. I’ve since learned a great deal about the qual­i­ties that make a rela­tion­ship healthy and suc­cess­ful. Consequently, my stan­dards have risen. []
  3. Part of my ven­ture into polyamor­ism is because I want to expand my sup­port net­work. I’m inter­est­ed in hav­ing more peo­ple care about me, per­haps cause I’m eter­nal­ly try­ing to fill the hole left by my par­ents. []

lost weekend

I used to have a rule. If I ever feel like get­ting high and stay­ing home instead of going out and doing some­thing — any­thing — then I’d make a point to do the lat­ter.

Otherwise, it would mean I’ve giv­en up. That there’s noth­ing out there for me, and any­thing the world has to offer is no bet­ter than what I have in my house and on the inter­net. It’s a rule that served me well for years; one that kept me healthy and bal­anced and off my ass.

So when I found myself in my neck­beard nest after anoth­er month, not par­tic­u­lar­ly car­ing whether I got up or show­ered or shaved, I knew I was in a bad spot. Of course, just know­ing there’s a prob­lem isn’t enough to rouse one into action when basic hygiene hard­ly feels worth the effort.

Continue read­ing “lost week­end”…

semi-poly

I hope I’m not belabour­ing the point when I say I’ve suf­fered a lone­ly exis­tence. For much of my life, I’ve kept those clos­est to me at arms-length, out of a sub­con­scious fear that they’d hurt me. I could nev­er turn to my par­ents for any kind of sup­port, cause they were more con­cerned about how I made them appear than how I felt; I had no sib­lings with which to form an alliance when they became my great­est ene­my. The best friend I car­ried into adult­hood was a per­son who nev­er tru­ly under­stood me, and my best friend after that aban­doned me at the first sign of dif­fi­cul­ty.

Managing my rela­tion­ship needs has been a life­long strug­gle. Much of the grow­ing I’ve done (or been forced to do) is inter­twined with the soli­tude I’ve faced; being able to change myself gives me a small sense of con­trol in what would oth­er­wise be a messy and chaot­ic exis­tence. An added dif­fi­cul­ty is that I keep evolv­ing, and my social needs evolve in turn. It takes years to devel­op the kinds of rela­tion­ships that nur­ture me. I’m in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion, and my sup­port net­work is the small­est it’s ever been.

Living with a part­ner has helped, but at some point my attach­ment to Heather grew unhealthy. It’s not fair for me to put so much pres­sure on her to be my lover, friend, ther­a­pist, care­tak­er, gam­ing bud­dy…every­thing. When I start to resent her for my needs going unmet, I know I’m in a bad place and need to check myself.

Continue read­ing “semi-poly”…

the purge

In the last few years, I’ve gained a sig­nif­i­cant amount of con­fi­dence in my actions and deci­sions, espe­cial­ly when it comes to rela­tion­ships. It took a lot of grow­ing, and two things helped most:

  1. hav­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of oth­er peo­ple’s expe­ri­ences in gen­er­al (i.e. I need­ed to gain more empa­thy)
  2. sur­viv­ing enough crises that con­flicts or dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions — or even my own feel­ings — were no longer debil­i­tat­ing­ly scary

Even though I’m more com­fort­able with my social behav­iour, I still strug­gle with lone­li­ness. Being more social­ly capa­ble means I can pur­sue rela­tion­ships more pur­pose­ful­ly and with­out regrets; it does­n’t mean my world is imme­di­ate­ly filled with lov­ing, stim­u­lat­ing peo­ple and needs are sud­den­ly being met.

Continue read­ing “the purge”…