Sunday, May 01, 2005


Have I talked about torture yet? Do not torture yourself in the name of a relationship. Forms of torture in which you shall not indulge include: waiting for phone calls, stewing about problems instead of talking, thinking too much.

I don't think I can say it enough: don't torture yourself. This goes along with all of what I've learned recently: don't try and get inside someone else's head and don't try and control things that are out of your control. It would be nice if we knew what was going to happen but it would also be boring. An important (unoriginal) thought: nothing lasts. Someone dies first. The point is that you can't control things, force things and that it's important to keep things in perspective. It doesn't mean don't love someone or make them part of your life. It doesn't even mean you shouldn't make sacrifices. Part of loving someone means making sacrifices and not minding. It means doing things that you might not like doing (like going to funerals or meeting long-lost relatives). It does not mean torturing yourself.

There are things you can do to calm yourself when struggling to start a relationship or when struggling in the midst of a relationship: you can list pros and cons, you can write letters and not send them, you can keep a journal/diary/blog, you can take a walk, you can listen to loud music, you can go to the movies. Still, there is only one question you need to answer: are you miserable most of the time? If so, then there is a problem. A relationship is not going to fix your problems. If you are unhappy, a relationship won't make you happy. If a relationship doesn't leave you a bit better off than you were before then there is a problem. If you are anguished, sleep deprived and confused, it's time to make a change. That is to say: break up with him. As Princess has taught me, though, it's not always that easy to know when you are unhappy. One can get used to being unhappy and it can start to feel normal. If you have this tendency, you probably know it. It's dangerous and subtle. I can tell when I'm unhappy, at least after the initial euphoria wears off, and then I usually get out.

I don't think I told you how I broke up with the crazy alcoholic boyfriend. I used to think that he broke up with me. Years later, after telling the story to enough friends, I changed my mind. How can there be confusion on this point? You'd think it was obvious.

He'd stood me up for the second time. After the first time, which was not exactly a stand up, but an abrupt and unacceptable last minute change of plans. I spent the entire next day in a haze of sleep-deprived misery. Worse, I couldn't take the day off because I had to go on a site visit. I spent the day finding pay phones and calling him at work (pre-cell phone era). I arranged to meet him at a bar that night and we reconciled. He introduced me to the bartender as his girlfriend, which surprised me since I figured he didn't want me to be his girlfriend any more. Wasn't that why he'd cancelled? But, no, he was sorry, I was miserable but oddly relieved.

He behaved well for about a week after that and even met some of my friends for dinner (he was late, but there). We had another plan to meet a friend of mine for a drink. The crazy bf never showed. My friend cancelled too, which was good, because I was a complete wreck. My friend Spesh showed up that night, throwing pebbles at my window (he could never be bothered to master the intercom). As soon as I let him in he could see I was in distress. He sat next to me on the couch and I told him I thought things were over with the bf and he tried to convince me I was wrong. "How can you be sure? Maybe something happened." I said I was sure. Spesh was meeting some of the fellas and invited me along. I said I couldn’t bear it. He said he would cancel and we could go to the movies. I thanked him and said he should keep his plans because I wasn't going to leave my apartment. Going out in public was too much.

The next day I went to work and I was a complete disaster. I couldn't stop crying. I had to hide my tears from my officemate. It was torture. I talked to a friend and he asked me what I was doing. I didn't know. He told me to go home. I said there was nothing wrong. Then I realized I could just say I was sick and get out of there. Lord knows I felt like hell.

I walked home slowly. It was a sunny spring day, warm and breezy. I sat in the Bartholdi Park, wrote in my journal and figured out what to do next. The only way to reach him was to call him at work. When I got home, that's what I did. I said, "Does this mean what I think it means?" He said he thought so. I was crying and I told him it was really shitty and he could have at least called me. And that was that. Except I had a bunch of his clothing at my place and he had some things of mine.

Getting the stuff exchange accomplished was particularly painful. It involved me giving his stuff to his friend Dan and me sneaking into his room (the landlady let me in) to get mine. I left a note, but it still made me feel dirty. Under any other circumstances, I would have let the stuff go, but I remembered him joking about never returning things and I couldn't let that happen to me. So, not only did I torture myself while we were dating, but the torture continued for weeks after we broke up. It continued even longer than that because I spent a lot of time blaming myself for getting involved with him in the first place.

But, think about it. I could have forgiven him after he stood me up the second time but I didn't. I forgave him after the first time and he was grateful. He didn't expect it. I decided that he didn't like me anymore, but he never said that. I couldn't get in his head then and I can't now. The difference now is that I don't want to. I was the one who called him, I decided that it was over and I said what I needed to say. I really should give myself more credit. I was only with that guy for two months. I got out as soon as it got bad. I did not know he was an alcoholic. Unless you know what to look for, it can be hard to spot. He spent a lot of time explaining to me exactly why his heavy drinking didn't make him an alcoholic. I always told him that I believed him. I didn't see that he wasn't trying to convince me. He was trying to convince himself.

The point of all this: don't make yourself crazy. If you are a weeping, snotty heap of wreckage, there is a problem. Maybe it's your fault, maybe it's his. Maybe it can be resolved, maybe it can't. But, what ever you decide to do, remember to be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for feeling bad or crying or yelling. Just make sure that you treat yourself and those around you with respect. Getting angry is fine, talking is fine. Moping, stewing and feeling sorry for yourself is not fine. I'm all for a good wallow after a break-up, but that's not what I'm talking about. Accept that nothing lasts and that some things are out of your control, then figure out what you want, what you can get and how to reconcile the two. And, please, stop torturing yourself.

Grateful for: feeling sorry for crazy alcoholic bf and not feeling like an idiot anymore.

1 comment:

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