Friday, February 6, 2009

Relationships: Re-Breaking Bones and Saving Lives

Once again with the relationship talks.

(And once again, I love this stuff!)

I actually had a conversation earlier today, in which someone asked why I probe into some relationship areas for which I already know the answer. I had told my girlfriend that I had a conversation with a woman I have known for years, who consistently tells me how she wants to do good things for people and how she says that I am important to her. So I asked for an "easy" favor. VERY easy. One of those favors that would be almost no work, and, if she did it, would reap a huge reward for both of us. It's something she is good at, and enjoys, and something I am not. The conversation went a little like this:

"Lorin, why did you even ask her? You knew the answer was going to be no. You set yourself up for disappointment every time you ask for the smallest thing, that anyone else in your relationship would give, and you know she won't and yet you still torture yourself by having that expectation."

I thought about that for a moment.

"No, I knew she would say no. I think asking her was my way of convincing myself that her consistent rejection does not mean there is anything wrong with me. This was one of those situations where any other person would have gladly said yes, let alone someone I am close to. I already knew she would say know... Perhaps I asked so I could demonstrate to myself that yes, she will always say no. That is what I can expect, and it doesn't have a damned thing to do with me. I am not 'bad', so she rejects me. She rejects me, regardless of how I am, good or bad. She is not capable of helping anyone, her self included."

I am still learning about relationships, you see.

Something else I realized today is that women, when they break up with a man, can generally come up with a decent way to do it. They can anticipate his reaction and break up in a way that would be "easiest" on him. But turn the tables for just a moment. If I was in in a relationship that was about to end, could I do the same for myself? Could I say, "Gee... The nicest way for a guy to break the news to me? Sure! I know how!"

Uh... Nope.

I couldn't think of how! Well, I do think I came up with something, but the interesting thing is that although I, as a woman, am an emotional being, and I could anticipate the best way to break up with a man, I could not anticipate the best way for a man to break up with me.

(The way I got to thinking about this isn't as important as what happened after that, in my opinion, so I am saving you some reading time...! Let's just say that the course was not exactly linear, but it had to do with an internet article. Now you are up to speed!)

I decided to take a very formal poll to get to the bottom of this conundrum.

(In other words, I called a girlfriend.)

"So, how would you want to hear the news?"

"Well, Lorin, I would want him to decide."

"That's a cop out! Work with me here... Say you are in a relationship, and you could choose the way he would end it."

"I wouldn't. But I'll tell you something else..."

She went on to tell me about a realization she had recently. She was in a relationship that ended, and for years she thought she knew what went wrong. Essentially, that it was his fault.

She hasn't really changed her mind on that, but how she got there was a little different today.

"I think that when that happened, I snapped. I realized that he could not make me happy. I wanted to move somewhere that he didn't want to go, and he refused. It was important to me, so important that I did not think I could be content if we didn't move there. The last time I remember being really happy with him, was when at first, he said, 'if that's what you want we'll do it. That's what will make you happy, and I want to make you happy.' But after that he changed his mind. I knew at that point that he could not make me happy."

We went on to discuss how this incident impacted other areas of her relationship. Essentially, even if he had finally done it, she would think he was pressured into it. Then what? What else would happen? What would be the next thing that would come along, that would be important to her, that he would dismiss? It was not as important that they did not move to the location she wanted to move to. It was that he was not capable of doing things that brought her joy.

I probably don't need to mention here that the relationship has long since ended...

Fortunately, I saw a tie-in. I was determined to get to the bottom of my puzzle.

"So, the time came when you were not happy. You knew that you could not be happy. And you eventually left. BUT... What if he realized that before you left him? What if he said to himself, 'I can not give her what she needs to be happy' and as a result, he was not happy either, so he decided to end the relationship. Then what?"

"It still would have hurt."

"Because your life with him was familiar. A habit."

"Yeah, a habit."

Eventually she gave up the goods.

"If he knew I was not happy, I would want to know that he saw that, and that he would want me to be happy. If he knew I could not be happy with him, I would want him to tell me that, and let me find someone who could. It would still hurt, but I would respect that, and know that he was doing it because he wanted me to be happy. Yeah, that's the way I'd want it to happen."

I was in a relationship similar to the one she had... Someone who did not have an element about him that I needed to be happy. It took a long time for me to get there, but when I looked at him and saw him acting the way I felt...? That's when I knew that we were beyond hope. I had told him what I needed from him, but he also told me that I was asking for something that he didn't have in him to give.

Interestingly, after our relationship ended, he decided that learning that specific relationship skill was worth the effort. But he never would have taken that step if we had stayed together, so it's a catch-22. (And a perfect example of how people grow from suffering.)

But long before he learned what he did not previously know, we were over. I knew he could not give me what I needed to be happy. Me not being happy made him not happy. I could tell that we were both unhappy, although out of the two of us, I was the only one who noticed it.

He couldn't understand, at first, why I said that I knew he was not happy. "YES I AM!! I AM HAPPY!" It was a funny moment, in an ironic kind of way, if you want the truth. I don't think I ever told him that... Maybe I never will.

He had confused happiness with comfort. In the time we spent together, he knew what to expect, and was comfortable with that. The reason that he thought he was happy was the same reason that my friend said she would still be hurt, if her ex had broken up with her, before she had broken up with him. It was a change.

A couple of years ago I went through some tough times. A friend of mine, someone I have known for 20 or 25 years, yet recently reconnected with, had words of wisdom.

"It's a chemical thing. Ending something is hard. But we learn to adjust."

When two people end a relationship, the length of time it takes to "recover" is based on the nature of the relationship, the stage of the relationship, the current state of the relationship, and other variables. Is it a friendship? A casual dating situation? A marriage? An internet fling? Not to mention that how fast each person recovers has a lot to do with their own perspectives. I know one woman who got separated, immediately started looking for another husband to fill her needs. I know another woman who has been divorced for years, because her kids are resistant to a new relationship. Another woman stays in a dead-end relationship because she doesn't want to have to find and train a new boyfriend. And many, many wives stay in miserable marriages, because they are afraid that the cons of doing things on their own outweighs the pros of a loveless marriage.

I will tell you a secret. This is for the women only, so it's a good thing a lot of men don't read my blog. If you are male and you are reading, you can close the window now.


Ok girls... This is a funny, strange thing that I don't know that I've ever publicly said. I was married, and I decided to go against the grain and end my marriage. Looking back, it seemed logical, and I don't know that I would do it differently, given the opportunity, but after I did it, I realized how uncommon it was. AND... How common my position (before I ended my marriage) really was.

Consider some of the things that were said to me... Note that many of these things were said by perfect strangers that I ran across in my day-to-day living. Others were by a friend-of-a-friend kind of thing. (In other words, if it sounds familiar, it's a coincidence! :)

"You are my hero! You actually left?? Girl power!!"

"Hey, when I decide to finally leave my husband, can I maybe room with you?"

"Why did you leave? It doesn't make any sense. We are all miserable."

"My money is my money. And his money is my money. If I have to stay with him, and I have put up with my fair share of crap, I will take what I want and he will get what I give him."

"I admire you. That's a really brave thing you did."

"Man, what I would GIVE to be free! I would give anything to just have... Even just a break. For just a little while. A break from being married. I hate him."

"I told him years ago that I was leaving him, and he cried like a baby. I lost all respect for him, but I stayed. Now I know that he'll do whatever I say. I do what I want, and he's not going anywhere."

"You think YOU aren't happy?? Let me tell you about MY husband! He's a f*****g a*****e! Well, just last night, he..."

"Girl, if you can't be happy, let him give you jewelery. I'm not happy, so I take what I can get since he can't make me happy."

"Well, technically it's not an AFFAIR, but letting this guy tell me how amazing I am gives me what I need emotionally. You could say that it makes my marriage bearable. If it weren't for him, I would probably leave my husband."

Does any of this sound familiar? I hope not, really! If you are in this kind of marriage, I am very sad for you! The one thing that it did make me realize that as unhappy as I was, there are marriages out there that are worse than mine, and yet are "whole".

But are they, really?

Ok, ok... I digressed more than just a little. Back on track and I'll try to wrap it up.

I know that, despite the fact that I was the one who ended a relationship or two, it was hard on me. I knew that it was "for the best" and even so, I hurt. I mentioned earlier that people "recover" differently, based on a number of variables. But one thing is the same.

The end of anything is cutting it off, and it cuts.

But, as I mentioned to my friend about the other, completely different relationship, re-evaluating my help-worthiness is like breaking re-breaking a bone.

I learned, long ago, that things "were" a certain way. The problems was, they weren't really. It's like a bone was broken, and it didn't heal properly. Over the years, the broken "bone" caused problems through other relationships I've had... So going back, and demonstrating to myself that the rejection I felt was not me, but her, was like re-breaking the bone. It hurts, like the rejection she told me to protect myself from, but in the long run, I am better healed.

When we end relationships, it's like a cut. But cuts can be good, or they can be bad. I watched my grandfather behead a chicken once and I was mortified, because he didn't quite get it with one shot. It took a couple of times and I have a feeling that was worse for the chicken! When our bodies have cancer, sometimes we must remove a part so the rest can be saved. Relationships are not like cancer, but sometimes the pain we feel from the numbness is almost as bad... If we have a part that is sick, and we leave the part on our body, the whole body dies. Operate on just a part, and, depending on how sick the part is, you might not get it all. If we are our body, and our relationship is affecting a part of us, clean cut ensures that the bad parts are gone. Yes, a part is missing, and that is worth grieving, but what have you gained?

Your life.

Please comment on this post... You can comment anonymously. I am interested to hear your feedback.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog today while researching Asperger's. I really appreciate this post. It was good to be reminded that ending a relationship, even if it's for the best, can still be painful.

    I hope you don't mind if I tell you my story. (I will try to keep it brief!) I am considering making a change in a relationship of mine. We had become close friends and spent a lot of time together, while not ever mentioning dating. Finally about a month ago, I told him that I liked him and asked if he saw our friendship going anywhere. He seemed very surprised and said he hadn't thought about it because he didn't think I thought about it that way. I didn't press him for an answer then, since he seemed so surprised. And at the end of the conversation, after he'd thanked me for telling him, he said, "well now it's out there." And now it's a month later, and we are not spending hardly any time together anymore. We only went to dinner once since the 'talk', but it seemed like we were still being just friends. So since it appears to me that he is not interested in me romantically, I think that I need to put him back in a casual friends category and not be as emotionally close to him anymore. I have been reluctant to do this because it feels like I will be losing something important and something that has been a bright spot in my life the last 8 months. doesn't feel healthy to just keep waiting around if he has no intention of taking it further. So it kind of feels like a break-up even though we weren't officially dating.

    At the same time, I have met someone else whom I find interesting, and think might also be interested in me. I think that seems like a more promising situation then. I do not know him very well at all yet, having only seen him in group settings on about 5 occasions. After the last time, when it seemed like he was paying a lot of attention to me, I asked a mutual friend about him, and found out that he has 'mild' Asperger's. I'm not sure what 'mild' means in this context, but I hadn't noticed too much that was different initially. He just seemed a little socially awkward, but that's not unusual for the guys I usually like -- smart ones! ;)

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I found it helpful.



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