Being married for a long time is an amazing accomplishment. You work with someone for years to develop the methods of communication and care that each of you needs. then one day one person changes. Not over night of course, but gradually. They start seeing things or are shown things about themself they would like to change . So, they take action, make changes, grow and become something new.
The changes that a person makes can be devastating to the existing relationship. Not in only the new ways a person relates. It can cause the existing partners to find regret, and open old wounds that you thought were healed years ago. However, assuming that wounds have been healed because your partner no longer speaks about them to you is a dangerous pit to fall into. Trust me.
Tuesday, she asked me for a separation. We have been married for 18 years. I was really looking forward to doing something special for our 20. I had big plans. June 22, 1998 we wed in a gazebo on a misty afternoon in South Louisiana. We joked that the gods we so happy they were crying for us. She was dressed in a thrift store-bought summer dress, white with flowers, barefoot and bouncy. Flowers in her hair that she had braided herself that morning. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I loved her more on that day than I thought I could ever love anyone.
There were hard times financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. We suffered 2 miscarriages, 2 walk outs, joblessness, a hurricane, uncertainty, and loss of loved ones. At times we didn’t know where the next box of mac and cheese was coming from so we could feed our kids. We used a cooler for a refrigerator for 2 weeks once because we couldn’t afford to pay our electric bill. Yes things had been hard at times. But we made it through.
There were great times too. We bought our house, had a pool, boat, trampoline, I had a workshop & good job, she worked in her field doing what she loves. We were surrounded by friends and family. Life seemed perfect for those years. There were bumps and little things but we had made it… the American dream it seemed. I can still remember her smile as we rode the intercoastal in the boat. She’d look back and smile at me her hair waving in the wind… “I am one lucky son of a bitch” I would think to myself. And I loved her more on those days than I thought I could ever love anyone.
During the “good times” We decided to try to open our relationship to other people. We discussed rules and situations, trying to make each other as comfortable as possible. I asked for things like gradual increases in affection and no sex without me. This was a horrible idea. It placed limits on her freedom and stifled her personal growth. Yet she seemed to be ok with them at the time. And not knowing in the early 2000’s what we do now about relationships and personal choice and oppressive rule structures, we went forward. Her rules for me however were a bit less restrictive. ” Be smart” that was basically it. I did not see it that plainly however, and many times I would check in and ask if things I was doing were ok and within her comfort zone. We grew a set of “acceptable behaviors” and it seemed to work for a long time. Sure we had a few flare ups about things and grew our comfort zones. But that base line stayed the entire time. We never discussed changing the structure. We accepted it as is.
So fast forward all the years to about 6 years ago when I met J and thought he would be someone M would like. They met, hit it of ad started a relationship. Well, we had a few conversations about what and when how etc… and pretty much the baseline stayed where it was. My rules and comfort zone was still there … READ- MY FEARS HAD NOT GONE AWAY. I was still scared that my relationship was going to somehow be less important than the new one. That I was going to lose something. Out of fear, I put up all these barriers to keep that from happening. To keep me safe. Little did I realize the damage that was doing .
Three years into that relationship I was finally comfortable with how things were J and I got through my fears together as I made him jump through hoops to prove to me that he was not a threat. (Stupid man brain). We 3 bought a house and moved in together. Things were great.
Then, about a year later, M met a woman… let’s call her D. D was great and made M feel wonderful. Guess what… My fears flew up again… Those same illogical arguments came out. And that’s when it happened. D called me on my shit. It was ridiculous the shit that I was saying. That night started a change in me.
In the following weeks I started therapy. I went to learn more about myself. Learn I did. I found that I am a co-dependant. Notice I say AM.. I will never be cured of this. This is who I am. I started work on me. Bettering myself learning what behaviors I have that are reinforcing my belief structure. I started doing hard work on myself to be a better person and a better partner. But I was focused on me. I knew I had to get better before I could ever hope to repair any damages I had caused. I went to therapy for a little over a year. I healed so much of myself and became literally a different person . I have a better understanding of myself, as well as how my actions affect other people.
During this time I met Lindsey and we started dating. As I grew in myself, I was also growing with Lindsey. SHe was with me and saw the change in me as it was happening. SHe didn’t know me before she only knew me now. There were no old wounds, no old heartaches, no damage existing. Our relationship has grown stronger and stronger. We have been together a little over 2 years now. ANd I love her very much. I love her as much as I have loved anyone.
M has supported me through this transformation. SHe has encouraged me to keep appointments when I didnt want to because emotions are hard. SHe has driven me there, waited for me, sacrificed her own time so I could make therapy. SHe has seen the change in me. Even commented on how different I am as a person than 3 years ago. How good it is to see me finally healthy and happy. How proud of me she is. She loves me. I feel it. I know it. And I love her as much as anyone I have ever loved.
J has supported me through therapy as well. Acknowledging the growth, change and strengths I have been able to achieve. He too has driven me and waited for me, let me cry and vent. He cares a lot about me. I know this.. He loves M as well. He is the closest I have ever let a man get in my life. I love him.
M and I have been struggling over the past year to get to the root of issues between us. SHe feels she cant talk about certain things to me because of the fear I will do what I once did, as old me did and shut her down. Not let her have the time to explain. Honestly, I would be afraid of the old me too. I was an asshole. We tried a few things and experimented with conversation styles and I had some great tips from therapy that were helping me let go and listen. But it didnt seem to help. The hurt is too deep for me to fix. She has her own therapist. A different one. We have tried to get one together but it never works out. something always happens where one of us is not able to go because of various reasons. But I think it really comes down to we are both so afraid of what the other is going to say, that we dont want to go. SO we go on daily not talking about things and living our lives as if nothing is wrong. WHen deep down we are both hurting too much to even say to one another.
More recently things seemed to be getting a little bit better. We were starting to talk more about current issues and things that would come up. Concerns would be voiced, I would listen, then based on my internals, I would decide what my action would be.
One of these was to give Lindsey a commitment ring. I wanted everyone behind me supporting me and to be there when I gave it to her. I thought about doing this on our anniversary. But I didnt get the ring in time. Then we found the ring on sale and I bought it. I talked again with everyone and asked how things were feeling… M was hesitant at best and I took this a my cue that she was not ready to be supportive. A month-ish went by and Lindsey talked to me one day and asked, ” WHen are you going to give me my ring? I tried it on last night. ” I felt maybe it was time to talk again. SO I tried to bring it up and was met with discomfort again. Lindsey and I planned a trip for her birthday. I decided that this is when I was going to giver her the ring. Just her and i. It was clear to me that the others were either, ambivalent about the ring thing, OR it would make them very uncomfortable. Me (being co dependant) decided without conversation that I was going to do this. SO I did. Lindsey loved it . It was perfect moment, under the stars, the whole thing. We were happy.
When I got home and it was pretty evident that I had given her the ring, noone said anything for a week or so… Then one night M asked me if I had given L the ring. I said yes I did . She replied we talked a bit…. I said, Are you upset about it? And she said, ” Yes, I feel like you didnt take my opinion into consideration and that hurt.” BAM>..To me I did.. It seemed to my assumption that she didnt want to be a part of the ring giving, NOT that she didnt want me to give L the ring at all. Miscommunication based on my assumption. ( and to be fair I am still assuming that she didnt want me to give Lindsey the ring at all we have yet to figure this out or talk about it.) We talked a bit more and the conclusion was that what was done could not be undone so we would move forward.
Monday, M and I went on a date and had the most wonderful time. Probably more fun than I have had on a date with her in a while. We went to a burlesque show. Not just any burlesque… Gotham: A tale of Two Faces. Yep a batman inspired nerdlesque burlesque! It was fantastic. we laughed cried, held each other, clapped, cheered and loved every minuet of it. We even said on the way home that we should do more dates like this.
Tuesday, she asked me for a separation. In an email that she wrote to me. What a kick in the balls. Here I am thinking I am doing all the right and rebuilding and we are working through stuff…. then this…. I am crushed. She says she needs space to work on healing and that being attached to me is holding her back. I am after all the source of hurt and pain. Maybe from years ago, maybe from two weeks ago. But she is doing this for her. I am so happy and proud for her she deserves to be happy. But it hurts. Its been a hard week.
I leave today to go to a Poly conference. Where last year I spoke. I talked on how important it is to acknowledge your partners while in NRE and how to not neglect them. All the while Im blind to my own teachings.
M and I rode to work together this morning and as we parted she hugged me and said to have a safe trip. I felt loved and it hurt. I love her today more than I ever though I could.
M I hope you get to heal in the ways you need to and that we can always be friends. I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you. No amount of those words will ever heal the wounds. Of that I am aware. Please know I am cheering for you and I look forward to seeing you happy and healthy. I love you. You will always be my Pookie Bear.