Saturday, May 20, 2006

How Relationships Last

There was thread about coupled and making committments on an email list I'm on. People were very lovingly talking about their commitment to their beloved, their faith in the couple and even the ability to still love someone after there relationship ends. Someone wrote that the vows they would like to have would say something about staying together as long as they continue to treat each other well. While I love the sentiment, I think it is hard to always see when you stop treating someone as well as you once did. In addition it can be a struggle to acknowledge when someone stops treating you as well as they did. The shift can be subtle, discerning when the shifts changes the balance of a relationship can be hard to do. After all how do you know for sure that the nitpicking isn't from the normal discomfort of putting up with someone's bad habits rather than truly a change in how they see you? I know for me it wasn't easy to see, or acknowledge some of this in my last relationship, and I can't say the balance shifted so much as there were other factors that pushed me to end it.

Here's what I wrote: (Awful full of myself, aren't, to quote myself as if I'm so wise. Really it's laziness - I already wrote it, so I just edited a bit.)

I have been really struggling with this thread. As someone who did have a wedding ceremony, who asked special folks to sign a ketubah (jewish wedding contract) with the intent that they should help us stay together, as someone who for the longest time could not, absolutely couldn't see actually ending the relationship, or "falling out of love" in that I, of course, would always love this person, who believed even with our crap we were among the happiest couples we knew - and as the person who ended the marriage this thread is painful.

In many ways it was absolutely true, I still believe, that we were a very happy couple, but we weren't the healthiest of couple, nor was C. a particularly happy individual - which meant, to me, that there was an implicit cap on how happy we could be as a couple. It has been just over a year since I said (well conveyed very badly actually since I found it so painful to say the actual words) it was over.

I know that I felt as M. does, that of course I would always love C. And I do, but the way I do, the ability to access that feeling has changed so dramatically it scares me sometimes. In point of fact I have felt like I needed to shut down some of the connection I felt/feel for her in order to change the dynamic, in order to effectively and safely separate from her. (By safe, I mean for my emotional safety, just clarifying.)

Someone wrote about coping with illness, particularly mental illness like depression and how they would try to work with that. Well I did try, I feel like I tried so hard. C. was depressed, wouldn't look at her own issues, in my opinion. Even with medication and couples therapy it stunned me how stuck she still was and how I felt choked by it, held back, and frankly resentful. Since we split I have found and skimmed through old journals and was, well a bit blown away by entries I wrote in 1997 that would have been almost identical, had I been writing, in 2004. It helped me to see that it was something that was ongoing, that had been impacting me and the relationship for a very long time. One thing I struggled with before and for quite some time (and maybe even still) is when do you decide it's too much. I didn't have a house or kids with her so some of the more obvious things that make that sort decision murkier weren't there, but murky it sure the hell was, let me tell you. What I knew and found hard to struggle with is that I felt the most sure about her, about this relationship than any other I had ever been in. Absolutely certain. Well hell, how could I trust myself to know anything if I was wrong about this? Could I be wrong about the future possibility of our relationship, maybe I was but I made the best choice for me, and like Dale, I think for her - whether she sees it that way, who knows.

Needless to say that as much as I love The Girl Friend, as much as I am awed to find someone who I connect with in the way I feel we do, well, I am scared sh*tless sometimes because there is a piece of me that feels like I can't be trusted to make such decisions. Do I plan to stay with her? Yes. I want this to work so much. Years ago, when C. and I first got together I felt we did a really good job talking about our past relationships, admitting, confessing to our role in what went wrong, but as I told a friend the other day, compared to what The Girl Friend and I are doing now, how hard we work, what I had done before with C. - that was amateur hour.

So while I am nodding my head, laughing, sighing, etc while reading this thread, it is stirring the pot and it's not always a pleasant thing, but it gets me thinking, processing which well hard, is good. At least that's what I chose to believe.

This captures so much of where I am right now. TGF and I have been processing some very deep and hard stuff. Like children, whether to have (and if so how to go about it), what it would mean for each of us to have children. How our past shapes and seems to control our present responses to each other. How even after two years of communicating, over a year of living together there is so much that is not obvious about what we each need, and thinks the other must already know and doesn't. I will say this is the first relationship I have been in where I like the way we fight - that's saying a lot for me. We try very hard to argue fairly, to know when to take a break. This is not to say that we have it down, we don't. One really hard place for us, in my opinion, is knowing when to push past the other's silence. That's a hard one. While I am, occasionally deeply exhausted from this work, I really believe it's what will keep this relationship alive {along with healthy doses of sex, as I alluded to in another recent post :-)}.

Relationships are work, they are invigorating at the same time they are deeply draining - I think it's that dichotomy that keeps our interest and our attention. {Well that and good sex. ;-)}


reasonably prudent poet said...

interesting to read what you write about ending your last relationship. i started my blog last december on the day i decided to leave my partner. i think i wrote my first post declaring that i was leaving, and then i left the next day. it was awful and painful and now, as the months drain by, i see more and more how fucked up our relationship had been and how i should've left so much sooner. which is unbelievable, b/c leaving when i did was already so painful and hard. damn. relationships are so tricky.

wen said...


thanks for sharing that. some of it definitely echoes my current situation. it's so helpful to hear other's stories.

Jennie said...

Silences are so hard. And after you posted the not-talking-before-2-cups-of-coffee thing, that much harder.

Although I do love my quiet time in the morning these days, that's for sure.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

I felt the most sure about her, about this relationship than any other I had ever been in. Absolutely certain. Well hell, how could I trust myself to know anything if I was wrong about this?

Boy, does that ever sound familiar.

Gandksmom said...

I think as much as we want to know going in, you never really know as time goes on. I hope that I will stay and be with Cheryl forever, but I have no clue how long forever is.