WARNING: This post could be a trigger.
I’m angry. It cost me $10,000 in therapy to say that: I’m angry.
— *Richard Gere, Pretty Woman
*(totally paraphrased because it isn’t on IMDB
and I’m not bothering to look anywhere else)
One of the very best things that anyone else ever did for me was to tell me that they didn’t love me anymore.
Hmmm, good line for the opening of a book.
For years and years and years and (…), I held onto this notion in my head that this man and I had a love that was somehow transcendent of everything else. We had once loved each other very much, and we had experienced a lot of newness and firsts together. Our lives had since grown in incredibly different directions, multiple times over the years, and we’d become different people who, when brutally honest about it, barely know a damn thing about each other anymore. We spoke a few times a year and saw each other even less, but for years, when we would see each other, we had a natural chemistry that was just there. It took up space in the room. It was exhilarating and irritating at the same time. And we gave in to it. A lot.
Because of all the love that had been there, followed by all that giving in, I hung on to something that I just “knew” to be true: We had something other people couldn’t understand, something above everything else, maybe it was something from another life that kept throwing us together — hell, I couldn’t explain it; I just knew. Yeah, you can hear this coming, can’t you?
I didn’t know shit.
For much less than $10,000 in therapy, I realized that actually, I was bloody angry. At first, it was at him: If he actually cared about me the way I thought he did (or the way he said he did, which in his defense [though not his absolution], were two different things), how the hell could he treat me the way he did — or more to the point, the way he didn’t? Why did it seem that I was always there when it was convenient for him, but he never actually came looking for ME? And the killer was that we had once been in a loving relationship; I knew how the man acted when he was in love with someone, for pete’s sake. No, at best, I was a friend with benefits. At worst, I was a plaything, to be picked up when the mood suited and the timing was good. Over the years, I would be both, and many things in between, but I would never, ever again be shown the love I so believed was mine.
It would seem that I could have figured that out somewhere along the way, huh? I mean, now, I can obviously point to all of these totally rational, utterly obvious landmarks that should have screamed at me in neon lights. Well, to be fair, quite often, they did. In my heart and soul, I knew better. I was just never in a place that I could let go, and for that, I was bloody angry at myself. How on EARTH could I have been so stupid? so gullible? so…so…childish?? such a damn fool.
Sitting in a softly lit room, practicing an eye-movement therapy called EMDR, in a tsunami of my own tears, my mind broke down its own walls to realize that this man had once been my only security, my only safety at the what was then the worst time of my life. Years ago, I had been raped in my home by a family friend, while my parents slept downstairs — my parents who had invited him into our home, and whose shame I couldn’t bear to face so I let a man rape me instead. Whether they deserved it or not, that moment severed any trust I had in them. When that family friend would visit in the future, to keep it from happening again, I would spend those nights hidden behind a file cabinet in a dark corner in my house, on the phone with this man who I knew loved me and knew I could trust. I would fall asleep there and wake up in a panic, but with the phone in my hand, with him there with me. He never hung up. These nights would be repeated several times over the next year. Then, when I went away to college and was miserable and so incredibly lonely and so was he, we simply fell into the pattern again at times, calling each other in the middle of the night, falling asleep on the phone together, just so we weren’t alone. He was the only sense of safety that I knew, the only person I trusted.
Unfortunately, we (and I blame us both) also used our trust of each other in ways that were very unhealthy. I can ascribe it to various trains of thought at various times: a love we’d always have, a friendship that obviously ran deep, a trust of each other that we didn’t have of anyone else, a need to feel accepted or understood or known or a need for familiarity and something we knew was ‘real’ in a time of utter chaos in our lives, or frankly sex for the sake of sex but with all the bullshit already out of the way. We used each other to bolster our self-esteem, to get away from our everyday lives if just for a moment, to pretend that we were something we couldn’t believe in on our own — or that we weren’t something we were ashamed of. I know that there were times that we got it right and were touchstones for each other, a true friend when needed, but I think we got it wrong more often than not. Whatever we needed at those moments, we did our best to take it from each other, under the guise of trust.
A couple of years ago, we attempted a conversation about our history, an airing of our feelings about each other and our mistakes in the hope of… I’m not sure. Acceptance? Forgiveness? Assuaging our consciences? Yes, probably all of that and more. It didn’t go that well. In a fit of sadness and turmoil, in a desperate attempt to just get it the fuck over with, I let fly a bunch of things that I’d wanted to say for years that deep down really didn’t apply anymore and said it all in a way that was probably really befitting of who I was/where we were at least 15 years ago; I’d been stuck for a long time, so it wasn’t hard to imagine it turning out like that. I said some things I meant, some things I didn’t, and probably some things that weren’t constructive to the conversation in the least. (When you dig through a lot of layers, you’re bound to throw some extra dirt.) Expectedly, he had some resentment and said some things he was right about, some things I think he actually knew he should have said years ago (hello, stuck), and some things that I hope he would be able to see differently now too. And while the conversation could have continued (“should have” is debatable), it didn’t. Because he said the one thing that I needed to hear most, and it stopped me dead in my tracks: While he’d always ‘love’ me because of all that we’d had, he didn’t love me anymore.
I had braced myself for it. I mean, I KNEW it was coming. But it turned out that I didn’t need the bracing.
Suddenly, I physically felt this … lightening, a two-ton weight being pulled off me. I honestly remember that I felt a little dizzy and giddy and breathless, which made me feel slightly insane at first, let me tell you. But then, I quickly recognized it for what it actually was. And as I kept reading, a feeling of peace and freedom swept over and through me, in a way I’d never felt before, ever. I didn’t owe him my love or my life–because he didn’t want it. I’d carried around SO much baggage from nearly 20 years of this relationship, and in one fell swoop, it was almost entirely gone. The need, the guilt, the hope, the fear, the delusion, the devastation. I still have tiny pieces, but they are in my memory now, where they should have been years ago.
Today, I still have some anger, at both of us, and a decent amount of confusion. After all, we never actually settled it. And once again, I feel like I have been selfish and taken only what I needed from the conversation and stopped. In my own defense, I’m pretty sure I was due, but I don’t live by a scorecard like that so I’m not comfortable with it being this way. At the same time, I also don’t know that I’m ready to open the conversation again right now. I don’t think he lies awake nights thinking about it or me; I don’t think it has ever followed him that way, but what the hell do I know?
I don’t really know him.