At some point in my early adulthood, I found it far more enjoyable to partake in something for the first time when it was in the company of another – not only as an introduction but a time stamp in the relationship.
However, this habit eventually became a reinforcement (and testament) of a worldview that didn’t leave room for feelings of inherent value. I would deny myself any form of pleasure unless I was with another person. It’s like I needed someone to validate those experiences, and didn’t know how to give myself permission to enjoy them otherwise.
One might have believed that many painful years alone would give me the chance to develop a better sense of self-compassion, but a career has a way of concealing such inadequacies. That’s why I had as much growing to do as Heather did, even though I was the one to initiate the healing separation. Three months would certainly be far too long for me to tide myself over with chores or mindless busywork. An aversion to idleness would inevitably lead me to find ways of occupying my time in a more meaningful way, and I would be responsible to no one but myself.
Spending some time in exile also seemed like an effective way for me to learn how to prioritize myself, to figure out my wants and needs, to discover who I truly am when the mask is down. Unfortunately, it wasn’t practical for either of us to live apart, even though a complete break would have given me a better chance to heal. As Heather was still working from home, I spent whole days with the office with the door closed and made it my goal to pass the time in enjoyable ways.
Continue reading “cum dignitate otium, or, les Cent Jours”…
I felt abandoned again last year. Heather was spending less and less time with me, even though she had more time than ever. 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 issues, 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.
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 crisis. 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 Heather. 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 world. 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”…
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”…
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”…