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Some Heavy Sh*t

September 30, 2012

I’m about to get deep and personal, so if that kind of thing offends or scares you, go ahead and close your browser now. I don’t have patience to dance around the truth anymore. This is what’s going on and I’ve learned a lot from it, so maybe you can too. I’m not striking out at anybody; I’m simply sharing my perspective.

With that caveat, let me get right to it. About five months ago my relationship fell apart. I wasn’t happy with the way it went down – I felt used – and I turned that anger on my partner. It wasn’t pretty and I’m not proud of my actions. Several months passed in which I wasn’t able to speak to her without erupting in vindictive assault. She bore it stoically, seldom lashing out in defense; she just let my anger run its course and dealt with cleaning up the debris as best she could. The thing is, we have a daughter and can’t just walk away from each other. We’ll be in some semblance of contact for the rest of our lives.

Then it came to pass that – through hints and clues – I learned she was seeing someone. My anger and frustration rose to new heights. Here she was out being free while I was stuck in limbo, struggling to make ends meet while fulfilling my share of parental obligations, all the while living in a house full of her stuff. I didn’t feel like I had the space in which to start a new relationship. I didn’t want to bring someone new into a complicated situation. I couldn’t afford a divorce.

I wrote a long letter asking that she take her stuff out of my home so I could be free as well. I set ultimatums. I tried to be polite but – I’m sure – came across as demanding and needy. I laid a guilt trip on her about seeing new people before our divorce was finalized. I rehearsed what I would say to her new beau, given the opportunity: if you’re going to date someone who’s married don’t you think you should check with their spouse first?

But here’s the thing: though I didn’t feel I had the space in which to start a new relationship, I was opening myself up to the possibility of meeting a special someone anyway. I wanted a healthy relationship. I wanted to find those elements which had been lacking in my life the past few years. So when magic happened, I didn’t hold back. I just said yes.

Suddenly I had a dilemma. Either I was a hypocrite or I was wrong. I could try to hide my new relationship until we finalized a divorce or I could fess up and eat my words. It was frankly an easy choice, and I was met with relief and heartfelt congratulations. She wanted me to be happy but knew she didn’t have what it took – and vice versa. I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders and it wasn’t the shedding of hypocrisy. It was the release of jealousy about her freedom. Now I had it too.

In the process of getting to know my new partner I discovered something profound. She was going through exactly the same thing I just experienced, but from the other side. Her (soon-to-be) ex-husband was raving with anger about the way she left him, treating her with blatant disrespect and emotional manipulation. And like my ex-wife, she was letting it wash off and simply dealing with the debris instead of letting it escalate, which was what he wanted. She took the high road.

I found myself able to step into her ex’s shoes, to empathize with his feelings and explain them to her. I also found myself correlating her actions with my ex-wife’s, and being impressed – with both of them. I could see the childishness of my actions. And I could see why a new partner wouldn’t want anything to do with the old – I wasn’t about to contact her ex to ask for permission!

I was able to see the situation from every angle, and it was a blessing. This was no longer my personal drama. It was a multi-layered, dynamic, complicated web of human emotions, and I was only one player in the cast. All of our lives were affecting each other’s. The integrity I brought to my new relationship was as important as the integrity I maintained towards the old one.

If all of us follow this model, we should be able to navigate the drama clearly and successfully. But if we give in to our own micro-dramas and forget the other perspectives, we’ll inevitably get mired in emotional debris. We’ll drag others into it. And we’ll end up facing – or ignoring – the same issues that jeopardized and ruined our past relationships, with similar results.

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From → Rants

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