Can you ever really know how much you hurt someone else? In any given conflict, I’m thinking of how hurt I am, and yes, I might feel guilty for whatever hurt I caused, but I’m more focused on my own feelings. But if I think of how hurt I felt and realize that we all feel the same pain then I know. Maybe different actions hurt me than hurt you or someone else but it’s all pain. I say this because my ex (aka “Steven”), or anyone in my life, has the disadvantage of not being able to tell their story on this blog.
A few weeks ago Steven had told me that he thought about our relationship every day and still felt ambivalent, which I just could not get. How can you ruminate over this every day and still not know? You either love me and want this or you don’t. He was afraid if we got back together we’d just break up again, which was also a fear of mine. But I believe the way not to break up is to stay committed, and the only way to find out if it will work is to try. I felt that he was asking me to promise not to leave, to guarantee that it would work, for me only to commit. I wanted the same thing: for it to work, for him to stay with me, but I cannot promise or guarantee that we’ll never break up because I’m not a fortune-teller and I cannot predict the future. We wanted the same thing but it was easier for him to break up and not try than to stick it out. All that other stuff is easier too: going to the gym regularly, eating a healthy diet, spending less money on going out to dinner, spending more time with friends, investing more time in my own spiritual and mental health, focusing on my studies and career change path. For him, he has kids, an ex-wife, travel out of state to visit his kids every three weeks, an established career as a scientist working for a government who may no longer see a need for him and his colleagues, and he has bipolar disorder. For some people managing all that life stuff while in a relationship isn’t difficult. They work out together, they have the same friends, they eat healthy together. We did ride our bikes together, went to church together, and we even went to a couple of parties together, even though we hate parties. But more often than not what we liked to do was devour cupcakes while binge-watching “Stranger Things” or “Bloodline” or some documentary. When you do that enough times, at some point you realize you’ve gained 10 pounds and you no longer have any friends or life outside the relationship. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that on occasion, but we could easily fall into making each other our world. It’s so hard to find balance sometimes.
If you’ve been following this blog you know that my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly last August, I became depressed, Steven and I had a terrible Thanksgiving last year in which we both grew resentments that never healed, another painful event happened right after Christmas, and then finally we broke up on New Year’s Day. After that I cried to everyone I knew, commiserated about it on this blog, agonized over it in meetings, started going to Codependents Anonymous. I got sad, I got angry, I did everything I could to try to keep him, then I did everything I could to get over him.
Then a few nights ago Steven asked me on a date.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much. He’s moving into a new apartment that he says has lots of free visitor parking out front, and he’d love for me to be his first visitor. We could make dinner together and sit on the balcony. Of course I said yes.
You may be thinking to yourself, Is this really what you want? What about the hell you went through, and all the ups and downs? What about his terrible lack of money management? His self-centeredness? His controlling nature? The way he goes above and beyond for me, then gets resentful? His terrible eating habits, just asking for diabetes? What about all of that baggage?
What about that guy, Jay, my new crush? The one who looks like he gets his aggression out on a punching bag for fun and then meditates for an hour before eating a grass-fed steak with a side of steamed organic vegetables? The one who owns two cars, has no children, no ex-wife, and spends his days building microscopes?
Yeah, I know. Boring. Or maybe not boring. Who cares?
Here’s the thing. It’s worth it. I am in love with Steven. If it turns out I cannot deal with his idiosyncrasies and he can’t deal with mine, so be it. Isn’t it worth trying again?
At the same time, I’m nervous. Does he really mean it? Is he just having a manic episode right now? I half expected to see a dozen emails in my inbox the next morning with plans about how life-changing this new apartment will be and how I’ll fit in there, but I didn’t get that, which is actually a good sign. He seems pretty even-keeled.
You may think I’m making a big codependent mistake, that I shouldn’t get back on that roller coaster, that the highs aren’t worth the lows. Maybe you’re right. But I have to find out for myself. I don’t pretend to think this is the solution or that everything will be perfect now. As a twice-divorced, twice-cohabitated woman who has never committed to anything healthy for longer than seven years, who spent most of her life devoted to drinking and evading responsibility and decision-making, bumbling around taking whatever came next, hoping this is the thing that will fulfill me, but always feeling that it wasn’t quite right—I’ve been there and done that.
One thing I didn’t mention in my previous posts is that after he sent me that song a week or so ago (“Do You Remember” by Jarryd James”), I sent him this one:
The first line really gets me: “You’re gonna leave / Ain’t gonna break my heart.” Because it’s so obviously untrue. My heart got broken over and over again with every time he shut me out, and now what am I doing? I’m going back for more.
This time I feel differently, which I think is progress. I used to feel so relieved when he’d come around after a disagreement, like I could breathe again. Like how an alcoholic feels after spending the entire day at work not drinking, obsessing over how good that first drink will be. When I used to drink, I spent the mornings hung over, swearing I’d never do it again, knowing I would, and as the day progressed a drink started looking better and better. By the end of the work day I was driving straight to the liquor store. When he and I were together I could not wait until the moment he’d forgive me, or apologize, always feeling like, Everything’s okay now. I’m okay now.
I thought I might feel regret if he came back, that by then I’d have changed my mind and decided this wasn’t what I wanted, yet all this time I’ve expressed to him (from my viewpoint) that I’m just waiting for him to come back. (It’s possible from his viewpoint that I have not expressed that so much as I communicated good riddance and it’s your loss and I don’t need you anyway—in so many words. It’s true, I’ve expressed both, all of those feelings: I’m here waiting for you, let’s work this out, okay if you don’t want this then fine.)
I thought that by the time he came back, I’d feel some sort of knowing, guilt, that it’s not going to work out but that I’m trying to force it simply because I can’t deal with rejection and not because I want him back. But I don’t feel that way either.
I’m not necessarily okay just because he wants to see me again, any more than I’m not okay if he doesn’t. My being okay has nothing to do with him.
One of the many sayings I’ve heard in recovery is that expectations are resentments waiting to happen. You get this idea of what everything should look like, how it all should go down, and when that doesn’t happen, you’re disappointed, angry, hurt. You want to blame someone because they didn’t do what you wanted in the way you wanted it. But that’s what we do sometimes. We let others down, and they let us down.
The short version is that I love him and believe it’s worth it to try again. If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll know at least I gave it every possible shot.
So yes. Let’s do this.
…you’ll just have to wait for my next blog post.
Peace and love and hugs,