By no means is anything to do with leaving someone you care about an easy thing. I think we try to make it easier for ourselves in any number of ways in an effort to dull or push away the pain. For instance, it may seem to make it easier to leave if you denigrate the relationship: It wasn’t all that great. Or the person: S/he wasn’t all that great. Justify the reasons things didn’t work out by casting aspersions on the other person: I’m really beginning to think s/he is a psychopath, bipolar, a control freak, OCD, an alcoholic, addicted to Amazon… Fill in the blank.
I’m not sure why it makes us feel better to label the flaws of others as the reason the relationship didn’t work out. Somehow – whether those labels are true or not – convincing yourself that you’re leaving someone who’s unworthy of your love is a little easier to deal with than it is to just admit that this person was a big part of your life, that part of your life is now over and that it hurts. You can put all the labels and armchair diagnoses that you want around the reason leaving will end up being a good thing but in the end what you’re leaving was real, it is over and that does hurt. It’s supposed to hurt; that’s how we grow.
When The Man and I first broke up, things between us had been so overwhelmingly awful in the weeks and months leading up to it – I’d moved into another bedroom for even the two nights a week that he was in town and a disagreement over the where the cable guy had buried a cable and set up a booster actually brought the neighbor over to the garage to diffuse the situation and sent me scurrying into the house, afraid of him for the first time ever – that my immediate response was relief. I cried for the loss of our life together, of course, but to have a break to the seemingly relentless cycle of anger, frustration and resentment that we found ourselves in during that span of time following Dog’s death, was freeing.
I’d lost sight of him and failed to appreciate his gifts. Instead, I saw the person who was gone most of the time, came into town to exert his rule of law at the week’s end and who chose to leave when it came time to say good-bye to our boy rather than to deal with his passing with me. I couldn’t, at the time, forgive him for that last bit. That took another four months after we split, when he came home to spend a long weekend on the anniversary of his father’s death. It took watching that behavior to begin to understand a little of how he deals with grief.
Another two months later, after an early dinner one Friday night we talked about Dog, and I finally saw the depth of his grief over the loss of our boy. That’s what and how long it took me to see him, the person, again and in some ways, I saw him clearly maybe for the first time ever. I also saw that it was my resentment and anger with him that had driven the wedge between us. Realizing that threw me for such a loop, that I ended up finally having to deal with this breakup, and is how now, eight full months after we pulled the trigger, I found myself in this spiral of angst. On some level, I never believed it was really over, and I certainly never believed I was the cause of the split.
There’s a line from an old song that keeps running through my head: “The one who leaves this also grieves this.” That has never felt more true to me than it does in this situation. Never. And even though I know we both mourn this end, that doesn’t make it any easier. Here I am, having to work through this separation, and I wish I could just get to the other side of it already.
A friend of mine who recently went through a divorce told me that, in one of the support groups she’s joined, there are people who post about how this “would have been our 20th anniversary” years after the relationship has ended. That thought is terrifying to me. I don’t want to be thinking about what would have been our anything in another five weeks. I cannot imagine still feeling sad over this in five years.
I started to read this book called, “Loving What Is.” Probably should have finished it but I thought the first chapter did a pretty good job of getting across the message. My takeaway was that it’s not the act or the situation but how you think about it that causes you pain. You have to just acknowledge the truth of the situation – the real truth, not the “truth” that your ex is just a head case and you’re the blameless angel who could do no wrong. (Unless, of course, your ex is a total head case, in which case you should just sit back, take a breath and wait for the Vatican to initiate the process of canonization.) Once you do that, it’s just a matter of accepting what you cannot change and the painful thought lets you go.
Still waiting for that to happen, but, as ever, I remain hopeful.