The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - In Which Neil Sedaka Is Proven Wrong
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In Which Neil Sedaka Is Proven Wrong|
I came from a family that taught me that any wound could be healed via good communication. No matter how bad things got, I was told, if you just opened up an earnest dialogue and devoted yourself to listening to each other’s love languages, you could mend every grievance.
So my relationships were long, torturous things. If I thought there was the slightest chance we could still work it out, I’d spend hours, days, month hashing out what that inflection had meant. I never broke up before I had sucked the absolute last bit of enjoyment from a relationship; by the time we were done, we were wrung as sponges.
My recent breakups, however, worry me. They’ve been short, sweet… even curt. “I don’t think this is going to make me happy; I can’t do this.” And it doesn’t mean that the other person is evil, but it does mean that the effort I’d have to put into this relationship to make it functional is beyond what I’m capable of giving now.
So when I break up? I feel cold. Mercenary. As though I hadn’t given it a real effort.
That worries me. But I’m married now, and I owe it to Gini to have largely healthy secondary relationships. If I’m upset all weekend because someone said something that got me all butthurt, then that ruins Gini’s time as well. That’s not fair to her, spending her time rehabilitating ol’ mopey here. So there’s a certain callous calculation that runs through my mind now: if my lover can’t make me happy X% of the time, time to bail. If you keep making me sad, I can’t spend my time trying to narrow down whether it’s my oversensitivity or your undersensitivity… if this doesn’t stop, you gotta go.
Which sucks. There’s a part of me that wants to go, “Oh, let’s spend the next several months revamping our communication so I can be stronger and wiser.” After all, that approach did work with Gini, who by all rights should be my ex-wife now. Sometimes, that focused love and effort pans out.
So what am I now? An uglier man? Less caring? That concerns me. It’s a form of strength, I guess, but it also feels like a big weakness. I feel like someone who threw a human being aside for convenience – give me what I need, irrational as that may be, or I’m not staying. And it feels like I’m missing out on growth opportunities to find my own weaknesses.
It’s also why I don’t publicize my relationships. Gini’s the only one who gets the rhapsodic “I’m in love” entries on Ye Olde Blog… Because if I add someone to my blog’s cast of characters, and make my readers invested in them, then if it doesn’t work out I have to find a good way to drag them off stage.
I’ve seen that happen to others in other blogs. It’s ugly. People take sides, usually with the blogger, making snarky-but-helpful comments about how you’re better off without them, prying to know what exactly caused the breakup, encouraging stung responses from the newly ex-ified as her motivations are dragged out in front of everyone. And because of that, I usually will make mentions for someone’s cleverness (and anyone I date is clever), but not go all happy-dance to announce that I’m with someone. Hell, I’m willing to bet you didn’t know about the previous breakups (which were, largely and thankfully, friendly ones).
That’s caused issues. “Why am I not in your electronic life?” they ask, hinting that I should post about my love for them. Well, I don’t put you in my e-life because you might not be in the real one some day. Awkward, ugly… And true.
I dunno. I’m prone to making dumb-ass, cryptic comments about something that’s annoying me in relationships, which I probably shouldn’t (even if I never make a cryptic comment that’s related to a trouble with only one person). But once that relationship’s done? It’s over. I’ve had my say. From then on, I’ll elucidate only when asked.
Which is worrisome now, because my exes may have a different take. Used to be, I’d give it such a running go that you could say that I was needy, I was angry, I was childish, but you couldn’t say I didn’t care. Now? I don’t even have that.
(And yes, I’m still with my “core” relationships of A and B. Thankfully. Those partings would require an official announcement, as Gini and I have been dating both of them for almost four happy years at this point.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/211155.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Tags: navel-gazing, relationships
Thank you for including that parenthetical at the end, I was worried. :-)
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)|| |
I think it would be hugely obvious to anyone paying attention if A and Ferrett broke up.
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)|| |
It's an interesting thought (and one I hope I never have to worry about) because I tend to not post about any wibbles in our relationship because we have so many mutual friends. I tend to keep it offline when I need a sounding board. So, you know, I dunno. I'm not even sure how I'd react, because the idea at this point is incredibly foreign to me, anyway.
I don't think you or Ferrett would have to post anything on either of your blogs.
The tone of both blogs would change at roughly the same time and it would be easy to read between the lines.
Both of you wear your hearts on your sleeve a bit.
It's sort of like back in January where neither V nor I wrote anything about it on either of our blogs but within three days of her husband having a problem with us she and I were both getting tons of emails saying "what the fuck happened" with about half of them guessing husband problems.
We didn't have to say anything. People can just tell a change in dynamic.
Granted, we only got messages from people who read both of our blogs and I suspect it would be the same with you and Ferrett.
mari concurs and i honestly can say i don't really know both all that well, but still.
Ha! You weren't even one of the people who messaged V or I at the time! So, probably even more obvious than we thought.
maybe it's the adhd -- sometimes i hyperfocus on some things ...
Nah. Other people picked up on it.
When I look back now at early January entries my writing style changed temporarily. As did the phrasing of her comments.
Anyone who was paying attention to the both of us, yes. Fortunately, ain't happening.
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)|| |
I figured it was a good sign when I thought to myself "Hm, how would I react?" and realized I had absolutely no idea. ;)
I actually immediately thought "oh no, C?" so I'm still worried.
There's only so much you can hide when more and more of our lives are available online.
You can see who I unfriended, I guess, particularly on FetLife. Some have. But all good things come to an end, some rougher than others.
I think you've hit the core as to why Rome Girl's only hard in fast rule about us being poly is that I don't write about the people I am poly with on my blog.
It's fine if I comment on other blogs, just not on mine. She feels like it could create drama and weirdness because I'd turn them into a cast of characters simply because I can't help it. It's what I do.
(I mean she is cool about it. Anyone who followed the comments in my entries closely would probably be able to figure out who I may be poly with, but by keeping it there it stays out of the narrative. Which is all she asks for.)
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 02:20 pm (UTC)|| |
More on topic, I think that you're going through a learning curve, and growth. You know that X is bad, so you do Z, and I think eventually you will learn how to do Y - taking the benefits of both X and Z and turning it into a better way to handle strife in a relationship.
But I think that doing Z is still the right thing sometimes - could it be saved? Maybe, but at what cost? Every situation is different, and every relationship is different, and sometimes the struggles are worth working through, and sometimes they aren't. Only time and experience will make someone better at figuring out which is which.
tl;dr? We're all doing the best we can in this life.
Yes, this. :)
And sometimes, that process itself, the questioning, the "need moar communication" is panic reaction, a way of clinging and feeding on a bad situation rather than setting a boundary and really looking at the needs and what is healthy and just cutting it off.
It IS ok to do that if needs aren't matching up or being met, and it often works out better sooner than later.
It doens't make a person a shit (provided they do it respectfully), it makes them self aware.
I wish I'd been more respectful about this last one, but whatcha gonna do?
Love may be infinite, but time and energy most certainly are not. Sometimes a little bit of mercenary is called for.
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 02:59 pm (UTC)|| |
The moral issue here is what parameters you and your secondary partners agreed -- what are their and your expectations about commitment and where it ends. You are only ugly, cold and uncaring if you have led them to believe in a forever (or longterm) commitment and then bail when the going gets taxing. If they know and expect that this is what you will do when the secondary relationship impinges negatively on the primary ones, then the quick, clinical break-up is actually by far the kindest and most caring kind.
Problem is, I'm not sure that I didn't make that commitment. But there's evolution in two directions now, and I'm not sure the person I started dating was the person I finished dating... or whether I was the same person at the end, either.
|Date:||May 10th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)|| |
Well, I dunno, you kind of hint at, but don't openly say, that there may be a problem with your family's original premise. I suspect that it's flat out not true that any wound can be healed by throwing enough loving communication at it. Some things can't and won't be fixed by anything but the person with the injury taking time and steel-plated professional help, if at all.
Now, my belief that that's true is very much a product of my own history. One of my early long-term relationships was with a guy who had a lot of leftover, bottled-up rage from stuff that happened when he was a kid. The behavior that his parents modeled for him was that you show love by being willing to stick out and talk through an argument for as long as it takes. With him, "as long as it takes" could mean an entire weekend lost to fighting. We were never on time to parties, even our own. I almost lost jobs because of so often getting in late after sitting in the car, outside the office continuing the morning's fight in the car.
Because God help me if I was ever the one who walked away first, before he was done with the fight. That was the unforgivable sin. So we fought until he felt done with it, however long that took, however many days it took, and I 'proved my love' by sticking with it until I was completely wrung out, emotionally and physically exhausted. At a couple of points I considered suicide just to get out of the fighting. Fortunately, I was usually too wiped out and numb to do anything about that. Usually.
The problem was that he was never done with fighting, not really. Every fight skipped from one 'cause' to another because (I believe) it was never truly about the immediate trigger, it was really about something much older, and much deeper. And that deeper stuff just lay dormant until the next trigger, without being addressed. It didn't help that we were in many ways doing poly badly, or that he had a major jealousy problem with *fandom*, but those were essentially side issues. At the core, nothing I could ever do was going to fix the dark ball of anger he was carrying around about the way his father treated him, and hit him (and possibly also his mother and younger sisters) when he was a kid. That was something he needed to do himself, with a therapist, and me fumbling around, putting band-aids on the triggers, trying to alleviate his anger for him was just turning me into a limp, ineffectual, emotional wreck.
Eventually, I left him. That took a *year*. A year of me trying to get him to understand that I couldn't take the fighting any more, that I couldn't take being the bad guy for being willing to walk away in order to save my own life. It took that long because I for a long time I was still convinced that talking could fix something, that if he would listen to me, if he would hear me, there was some way to mend what was broken. I spent that year in a stupor of dumbth, dropping things, forgetting things, walking into things, sleeping 12 and 15 hours a night and still constantly exhausted. In the end it took an external push to get me out of the house, or I might have been there who knows how long. I'd like to say, in hindsight, that I would have had enough resolve and self-confidence to get out before it killed me, literally, to be with him, but I can't be 100% sure that's true. (And let me say, lest anyone misread me, that I was never in any physical danger from him, only my own suicidal impulse.)
So no, for me, it's just not true that talking long enough and deeply enough and lovingly enough will fix any wound. You can't save everyone. Sooner or later they have to save themselves. And some things can't be fixed. And the thing about polyamory is that it teaches you that time and emotional energy are finite resources, and you need to husband them carefully and spend them well. That's just brutal reality. It doesn't make you a bad person if you acknowledge that, and act on it; it doesn't make you uncaring. It just means you are not an omnipotent god with the power to change the laws of the universe. Sorry.
Yeah, it was exactly this (I too was brought up in a family that believes in talking through things) that kept me in an abusive relationship for way too long. I kept thinking that at some point he would learn how to talk to me and stop "misinterpreting" everything (it was only much later that I realized his "misunderstandings" were often a form of manipulation) and then everything would be beautiful and happy again like it was in the beginning.
I still believe in relationships based on communication, but there are two limitations I place on that (esp considering a poly context):
a) The time/energy investment has to make sense; not *every* conflict requires an in-depth resolution and many of them can be dealt with as "well, you and I are different and that's okay", basically working around the problem instead of tackling it head on.
b) Some people don't share my perspective* about the role of communication in relationships. And these are people I can't get seriously involved with.
*There are degrees. I think everyone has a different perspective on this and I'm looking for a degree of compatibility, not an exact match (which is impossible). But anyone who thinks talking about problems is mostly a waste of time is not someone I can be intimate with.
I feel cold sometimes in letting relationships go (romantic and friendly ones) because they had "served their purpose."
I don't like the sound of that but sometimes it's true. There's a guy I used to be very close to - he led me to the kink community and I helped him with the courage to leave his marriage. Ever since...meh. It's as if we each needed to do something tremendous for the other and once those things were accomplished, we really didn't have that much in common.
I feel the person I most recently broke up with came into my life mostly to lead me to my current partner. I don't regret that relationship at all but for various reasons am not anxious to continue a friendhip either.
Sometimes it doesn't take long to realize that no amount of communication is going to fix a fundamental problem you have with someone or overcome some insurmountable obstacle. I don't think that makes you cold and uncaring.
I do believe deep down that eventually communication would win out, but it's kind of like every soldier thinks they could have won the war if they just stuck it out. Intellectually I know there's a limit, but realistically it feels like "Hey, you threw something potentially wonderful away."
It's like Hoarders, but with people.
I can see that but both sides need to be willing to put the work in. I would have worked harder at my last relationship if they had been better at communicating at all. Indeed, the big red flag was an email where they admitted to not being good at communicating. And it's not like they followed that with "but I'm working on it" or "but I would like to get better" or anything. They weren't good at communicating. Period. I knew then I was done.
I've found that it's easier to fight the hoarding instinct when you know it's going to a good home.
So I'm saying what you need is like Freecycle, but with people. :-)
"I never broke up before I had sucked the absolute last bit of enjoyment from a relationship; by the time we were done, we were wrung as sponges."
Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I'd rather not go through that process.
"I feel like someone who threw a human being aside for convenience – give me what I need, irrational as that may be, or I’m not staying."
Is that really the whole story? I wouldn't be surprised if the relationship was flawed on both sides, and nobody was getting what they really needed. (Even if I'm right, that won't necessarily change how you feel about what you do, but it might help you argue with yourself on that point.)
Oh, I know it was both of us. That's every relationship. But I can only own my shit.
I'm not saying the problems weren't caused by both sides. (I take that as a given until proven otherwise.) I'm asking if it's possible that the relationship wasn't a solution for anybody, and trying to hold it together is only a way to make everybody miserable.
Not all things can be fixed. Not all things are _worth_ fixing. Sometimes you'll both be better off if you just stop, and allow the pair of you to get on with your lives.
It's hard though, and a lesson I wish I'd learned a good 10 years earlier than I did.
Yeah, I'm never sure when that point is.
So what am I now? An uglier man? Less caring?
Nah. You're a man whose expectations, needs, and standards for behavior have changed, that's all. This is a massive change from the way you used to do things, but it doesn't sound like a *bad* thing at all.
Also, all breakups hurt, poly or otherwise, whatever side you're on. Being the person who lays down the rule, without even feeling like one's done due diligence... yeah, ow, I can relate.
but knowing and enforcing the boundary is better.
Edited at 2012-05-10 08:15 pm (UTC)
Sometimes a clean cut early on saves a lot of festering later - both for you, and for them. I know I've seen relationships drag in to horrible experiences for both partners because they kept sticking together and "trying to make it work."
I think the key is honesty and communication - make it clear that your secondaries are secondary, and while you love them, they're not necessarily long-term partners like A and B [and Gini] are. Anyone who can't handle that... well, you're probably going to have other problems.
My partners know I'm married, and they know where they stand relative to that - some of them are new, and in the "I expect to be together for a long time, but I also haven't known you long enough to see what you're like when Big Life Events happen". Some of them are long-term partners who have hit a plateau below the lofty position of "spouse".
The other part of honesty and communication is letting people know when you're unhappy, and when you're starting to consider cutting things off. Don't just say "okay, you did this three times, you're gone" - warn them in advance, and let them know that it's a problem when it happens. That way healing still has a place, but it's a safe, healthy place - not one filled with last last last chances and long-since-festered wounds.
It's not even limited to relationships. I experienced a little bit of this when I worked at a cool-ish job for awhile and then was fired quite spectacularly. There was no graceful way to close the curtain on it, in no small part because not everybody reads and retains every post they read ever. So on about six separate occasions I'd post about looking for work, or being in a new job, and someone would comment, "wait, you're not at the zoo anymore? what happened?" and I'd have to rehash the whole painful story all over again. I haven't set foot in the zoo in over a year now and I'm still having to tell people that no, I'm not working there anymore, I went back to my old job. It happened repeatedly on both LJ and Facebook, for extra social media awkwardness.
So I can't talk about relationships, don't really feel like talking about work, feel like boxing is boring to most people...not much is left. And thus I update maybe once a month these days.
Letting someone go when it becomes evident of a suboptimal match seems exactly right to me.
There are many people in my life that have passed through that I believed were great people, but they were not great for me. It is not a moral failing when we come to the realization that the square peg doesn't fit in the round hole. It doesn't mean that we can't file off some edges and make the round hole a little bigger and kind of jam it in there, but fundamentally it will never quite fit.
And that's okay. It doesn't make the peg or the hole bad, just not right for each other. And it doesn't make you a person who isn't caring or committed - it makes you wise in *what* you are willing to commit.
Or the wrong color mana, a poorly-thought analogy on which I'd expand if I knew Magic a little better. ;)
Speaking of games, perhaps it's a bit like Texas Hold'em. In the opportunity of a relationship, you are dealt two cards. Two aces (the best starting hand) will only win a third of the time, because of the variables introduced by the board. (The community cards.)
Part of being a good hold'em player is knowing when to keep going, and when to cut your losses. That's similar to relationships - Sometimes we want to chase it to the end to see if it's a winning hand, but we stand to lose too much because of it. It isn't about the cards - almost any five cards can win. It's about the situation.
And that's back to relationships. I believe only 1-3% of people are really universally worth avoiding, people who are genuinely evil or otherwise trouble. The rest of the time, it's about the fit of the two people, the times in life the two people meet, and the circumstances that happen that drive the interactions between the two. And there is nothing shameful in admitting the fit or the timing just isn't right.
You may find yourself ending temporary relationships with less emotional tangles because you've learned to understand the common courses of relationships and so you can head things off before they get horrible. If you learn, through experience of driving, that speeding along icy roads leads to fishtailing and huge adrenalin spikes, then you may decide no longer to speed on icy roads. In fact, you might even decide not to drive in freezing rain. Sure, maybe this time you could make it safely--nothing's ever certain--but learning from experience means understanding yourself and likelihoods, etc.
In a past blog post you observed that no amount of explanation or communication is going to make someone happy about a breakup if they don't feel like breaking up. You were saying that you have to accept that you're not going to get to be the hero in their eyes--at least not at that particular moment, and maybe not ever. I think that's part of what you're dealing with here. It's no fun to have an inkling of how you may seem in the other person's eyes, but it's probably not a bad thing... helps keep you emotionally honest, maybe?
I don't know dude, but it just sounds to me like you're dating these others. I would worry more about it, personally, if you were in fact on the market for a long-term relationship, but, since it sounds like you already have those covered, then you *do* get to define what it is you're seeking, and you should--if this blog is even 20% of the workings in your head--be introspective enough to be able to tell when something isn't working for you, or your priorities.
It may seem cold or distant to break things off with someone like that, but, that could possibly just be the mark of a caring person having to do something they find distasteful.
jeez all these damn icons I have and none for serious Fo Reel comments.
If I was on the other end of the relationship, I would prefer (and have preferred) the "not working, I'm out" over the drawn-out dragged-behind-a-truck relationship ending. So if it's cold and callous, then some people appreciate coldness and callousness.