Online dating and the survivor

I had an epiphany today.

It was an epiphany brought on by the fraught state of affairs that is online dating.

I started dating using the usual sites quite soon after splitting up with my ex. We had spent such a long time distanced (emotionally and physically) from each other that, while I still had all the emotional and financial crap that comes with a divorce to deal with, I felt like I wanted to go out and kick up my heels a little. Plus I was horny as hell.

So I dated a little bit. Then I met this guy that I dated for a couple of years (off and on – we broke up 3 times, finally for good late last year). So I got back on the dating hobby horse. Uploaded my photos, wrote myself a quirky, just-amusing-enough profile. I got heaps of hits, lots of messages. It’s good for the ego to know that X number of guys want to meet you and several of them have messaged. So I went on a few dates, chatted with some.

But the dating experiences left me feeling bereft. Less than. Judged. Unvalued. Dirty. And I always wondered why that was, could not quite put my finger on it. I open an account somewhere, chat to a few guys, maybe go on a date, then get into the state where I’m feeling judged, unvalued, dirty, horrible, and then delete my account. Then a couple of weeks later repeat the whole process.

My most recent dating experience was a guy who, for all intents and purposes, was perfectly nice. We met for a drink which extended to dinner, then an after-dinner drink and conversation, then a quiet stroll and a bit of a pash. We had heaps in common; same age, similar values, similar goals, similar life plans, kids at same stage, liked a lot of the same stuff, etc. I felt really good about it. We texted back and forth, he said a lot of sweet stuff.

Then we had sex, and it all … petered out. His texts tapered right off. He didn’t call. I told myself that he just needed space – we’d had a really intense time leading up to our sexual encounter and he just needed the headspace. The last time we saw each other we talked about a date this weekend, and I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t push it, I would just give him the time and space to follow up with the arrangements (I was meant to be coming to him) and that would be my sign that all was good.

But he didn’t. By yesterday evening (the date was meant to be this evening) I realised he wasn’t going to follow through with date. And I logged on to the dating app we use and there he was online. All evening.

This was the point I decided I was done with online dating. Not out of a hissy fit, but because it turns me into an insecure, neurotic bundle, and I don’t know why. So I decided to delete my profile, but thought I would message the very few guys I had actual conversations, just to explain that I wasn’t being rude, I was just going offline. There were probably messages from 50 or so guys there to wade through, and probably only 3 or 4 that weren’t a comment on my appearance or sexual in nature.

Now, since I don’t think ghosting is very polite, I sent the guy a text this morning to say that I got the impression that he wasn’t interested in seeing me again and that it was fine, I wished him all the best in his search. He responded that he felt like I was a totally different person this week, negative, expecting things to end.

And he had a point. I totally did. Because once we had had sex, I knew he would back off. Which he did; in his communication and then being back online for hours yesterday, presumably chatting and still looking, even after all the stuff he had said to me about having a connection, about wanting to know all of me, about felling so close to me. Yet once he had achieved his goal (ie, sex) he was ready to move on.

But I took onboard his feedback. Later today I took a bushwalk – being out in the bush is where I do most of my heavy thinking. I rolled things around in my head as I sploshed through the rain and I realised something.

There is a reason why online dating makes me feel so bereft, unlovable, judged, unvalued and dirty. As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I spent years feeling that my only value was what I could offer sexually. No-one could possibly like me, let alone love me. I would have sex early on and desperately hope it would lead to someone somehow loving me. But the whole time I was doing it I felt vile and slutty and did not truly believe I was lovable.

The thing about online dating is that it’s primarily a visual activity. You are looking at a bunch of profiles, someone looks appealing, you click on their profile, maybe read a bit, and that is the basis of them being of interest to you or not. If some guy sends you a message and you don’t respond, they will quickly move on, or they’re already chatting to several people at the same time as you, and vice versa.

So you put up your nicest photos, where you look pretty and fun and exciting. And? You get judged for your sexual value. You know that when you date a guy, if you don’t put out soon enough, he’s got plenty of others who will. And when you do put out and they lose interest … you have just had it proved that your value is in what you have to offer sexually.

It’s been a long, slow realisation. And I know that not every guy is like this, but I think even the nice ones (like the most recent guy I dated, who was really pretty nice) have a tendency to push for sex early on, simply because they can. And I know that I could always have said no, but I didn’t. And when you’ve had sex early on, there is no chance for you to have made a genuine connection. So what does it matter if you never see them again, when there’s plenty of others online just waiting for you?

And so you move on. And the guy (or it might be the girl, I don’t know) goes back online to find his next conquest, and the girl (or guy) sits at home and feels like shit, bereft, alone, unloved, judged, unvalued and dirty and wonders why she does, and beats herself up for not being tougher and getting too invested in a guy.

And she does because she does not realise that it is because that is how the sexual abuse made her feel. That your only value is in what you have to offer, sexually. And no-one is looking out for you, so you feel bereft, alone, unloved, judged, unvalued and dirty.

Until today. Today I realised, and acknowledge that online dating is not for me. The chances of me meeting someone who wants to actually get to know me before diving into a sexual relationship are slim to none.

 

 

Healing exercise 2: coping

This is the second exercise in The Courage to Heal. In my case, a lot of the coping strategies I’ve used are more or less the effects that I mentioned in the first exercise.

But here they are:

People-pleaser – I am not good with conflict and at the first sign of any conflict will back-pedal or try to make up for it. Sometimes this means a quick resolution of the conflict, sometimes it is just me compromising myself.

Sense of humour – mentioned in my last post – have a very highly developed sense of humour and can laugh at some normally unfunny things in life.

Have sex fast in a relationship. I try to hold out but if I guy pressures me I will always give in, even if I don’t want to.

Alcohol abuse. I have used alcohol for many years to numb my feelings.

Over-eating. I distinctly remember making a decision to eat once because being fat felt like a protective cloak. Men aren’t interested in me when I’m fat. Now I’m a bit older it is not so much the case because I am discovering many older guys (around my age) like a bigger woman (we are a niche market), but when I was younger, fat chicks were unacceptable.

Emotional withdrawal. When conflict arises or I am struggling to process an issue in my life my response is to internalise it and process till I’m done.

Not thinking or acknowledging this for a long time. I avoided the facts of my abuse for many years. Up until I had kids I did not even acknowledge that it was an issue in my life, it remained this dim dark secret.

Shutting down during – going numb. I remember my uncle doing what he did to me and feeling completely shut down, only registering the physical sensation of his actions, no other feelings or emotions. I still feel like this during sex sometimes.

Dual personality.  I have this facade I wear. As a kid I was funny within my circle of friends but was irrationally fearful of being found out and rejected. Now as an adult, I am laid back, easy going but have this roiling inner turmoil. I have also had times where I’ve felt like there was a gaping hole in my psyche, there is nothing to me, that I’m shallow, no depth.

Aiming low. I have not achieved much in life, did not risk much even when it meant not doing what I was really drawn to doing. I would also date guys who were not … nice. I remember once when I was about 20 liking a guy who was an arsehole and consciously thinking that he was okay for me because I didn’t deserve any better than that, and the realisation was a great relief: that I was bad and could go out with bad people.

Avoiding intimacy and people. I often felt like I was different to others and, as mentioned above, was fearful of being found out. I have always found it difficult to let people in so I never experience true intimacy with people, either friends or partners. As an adult, I will avoid social situations, back out of invitations at the last minute etc.

Hyperawareness. It can be a useful skill, but I am extremely conscious of body language and changes in tone, facial expression etc. I am very good at reading the mood of a room.

Drama queen. I can take a fairly normal situation and create a drama around it – my ex-partner accused me of this often. Admittedly it was also his way of discrediting my feelings or reactions to things but I guess there was some truth in it.

Inner fantasy world. I have a very active inner life and can get very caught up in the stories I am telling myself. As a kid these were dreams about horses etc, as an adult I can create a whole story line which is tangential to a piece of my reality. It’s a form of escapism.

 

 

 

Healing exercise 1: The Effects

I do feel I have overcome a lot of the effects of my sexual abuse as a child.

I used to feel as though I was unlikeable. Now I acknowledge that I am likeable, and I can even be very charming. I am well-liked at work. Last night I went out with a small group of people that I barely know and I was aware that they found me charming, even. I have this quirky, slightly daffy/eccentric persona that I am able to don when it suits me and people like it. And I know it’s not just a show – I know that the persona is also part of me – but it’s like the shell part, not the deep part. The deep part does not get brought out very often at all, it is the murky sludge pile of my insecurities and fears that I only I know about.

That, I think, is the main effect of my abuse. A pathological fear of intimacy. An inability to let others see the whole of me, for fear of rejection. A fear of being seen as weak. An inability to say no. An overwhelming need to go along with what other people want and not honour my own needs and even my own values.

Other effects include:

  • As I said in my last post, I think that some members of my family did know and did nothing. I would imagine they feel guilt over that. And because it is something that is not, has never been acknowledged, there is no way for them to apologise, if that is what they want to do. There is no way to atone. My family is not at all close, and I believe that my abuse as a child is part of the cause.
  • I struggle with making friends. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of friends I have. And even these are not close.
  • I feel inadequate as a parent. I do not have normal emotional responses and reactions and of course this impacts my kids. I struggle with affection and I have to remind myself to hug my children now that they are older.
  • I have not had a normal sex life. I mean, I have pursued sex, but as a means to initiate closeness with people, not because I wanted to have sex. It was not until the past couple of years that I truly started to enjoy sex.
  • I have an alcohol addiction.
  • I struggle with self-esteem and self-love.

The strengths I have developed as a result of my abuse? That is a hard one.

I am independent. This is good and bad because I am very resourceful and able to solve a lot of problems on my own, I’ve learned to do a lot of maintenance-type jobs that would normally be the ‘man’s’ domain (yes, sexist I know), my brain rapidly goes from problem to solution. But I also have a hard time asking for help when I need it. Even when I desperately need it I will struggle on alone because I do not want to appear weak or incapable.

I have a huge capacity for tolerance and acceptance. I have lived so long with my own dirty little secret (which I believed for years was my own fault) that I now accept everyone at face value. We all have our stories and just because person X told me something about person Y, I am not going to judge person Y until I have met them myself. Besides maybe they regret the thing they did that person X objects to.

I am excellent at keeping secrets. Again, I’ve had my own secret for so long that when someone says to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone else but …’ I don’t. I just don’t. You said it was a secret and it is. This has served me really well at work because my bosses have figured out that I am a vault – they can vent or tell me something that they need to get off their chests about something that went on at work and it will go no further. I have also been entrusted with a lot of confidential matters because my bosses know they can trust me to keep my mouth shut.

I am adaptable. I learned from being abused that it is best to go along with what is needed so it is over and done. That meant changing myself to suit the circumstances. Again at work this has been extremely useful. When my bosses, over the years, have needed someone who could do X, Y and/or Z, guess who can step in and do it? Me. This has gained me a reputation for being a very smart all-rounder.

I have a very rich inner life. I think I was always imaginative from very young but I would create these stories in my head of different lives I was living that took me away from my reality. And paired with my adaptability (see above), it kind of allowed me to dissociate, in a way, so I would have these very vivid daydreams where I almost was living this entirely different life. This continues even up until today; I can still pass the time by imagining a whole scene where I am living a different life. Maybe this was a means of gaining control over my choices? I don’t know. In any case, being able to access that imagination stays with me today and has given me access to the creative side of me. Not that I use it very productively, but it’s there. And it has given me my reputation for quirkiness and intelligence.

I have a very highly developed sense of humour. This perhaps comes from the trauma of also having an alcoholic parent, because all my siblings do too, but laughter and the ability to find humour in even the worst situations is vitally important to me. Laughter makes me feel better.

I am able to read the emotions in a room. I’ve mentioned this to people before and they dismiss it and say ‘All humans can do that.’ Yes they can, potentially, but so many people are unaware of what is going on around them. When we are in a meeting at work, or in a social situation, I can read the body language, and sometimes I will pick up a grimace or roll of the eyes out of the corner of my eye that other people don’t notice. This has been helpful at work especially, because I can tell how people are reacting to what they are being told and have often been able to help my bosses as it has meant we can refine the way we are approaching a situation or given them further insight into what they are up against.

Ok. I think that is all I have to say for now.

 

It’s time to heal

I am reading (or, re-reading) The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis.

I first picked this book up several years ago. Probably when my eldest son (who has just turned 20) was a baby or toddler. As a fairly new mother who was struggling with post natal depression, I realised I had the additional struggle or not knowing how to care for a child when I could not even care for myself. I was struck by this overwhelming fear that I was not going to be able to protect my child from being sexually abused also.

Thank god for the internet. I found an online support group and that was very comforting for a while. And online (and private) women’s forums where you could share your experiences and fears and thoughts and just basically know that you were not alone.  The internet led me to this book and I read it, finding a lot of comfort in the stories of other people, and comfort in the knowledge that the way I had led my life was almost a textbook version of the survivor.

I feel like I made good inroads with my own personal healing. I got to a point where the abuse I had experienced as a kid was no longer what defined me. Being a survivor was no longer my identity. And I set it aside. And I would pick it up again, and set it aside every so often. I think the last time I felt the need to do a little more healing was when my daughter was the age I was when I was abused. I was overwhelmed, again, with an irrational fear that something would happen to her and I wouldn’t be able to prevent it. Those years passed. She’s now almost 13. I feel glad that she will be able to grow in her own sexuality as she approaches adulthood in a way that I never had the opportunity to. She has not been prematurely thrust into sexual situations, there is a good chance she won’t have sexual ‘issues’ as she grows older.

But this week I have picked the book up again. Because recently I have been dating again. I dated a guy for a while who totally pushed my boundaries, sexually speaking, and I wouldn’t say it triggered me but I shut down in the way that I did as a child. I felt nothing. No sensation at all during our encounters. And I just went along with it just to get it over with.

That’s not normal. He pushed it too far and too soon. Now, the last guy I dated and I had a pretty good sex life, so it is not just that it is my sexual response is failing me. With the last guy it was a revelation; I was finally experiencing sex the way it is meant to be. I think with this recent guy I somehow ended up in a submissive role and perhaps the lack of choice and power triggered a response of numbness in me.

So I’ve realised it’s time to do more healing. It’s not just the sex stuff though. I’m also struggling with other stuff. For example, constantly seeking out emotionally unavailable guys to date. Every. Single. Time. Struggling to maintain friendships. Feeling like I am a burden on others. Not living up to my potential. Feeling unlikeable and unworthy of others. Struggling with guilt over the fact that I have distanced myself from my family because that is where the abuse occurred and I am angry that no-one looked after me. Sometimes I will stop in the middle of whatever I am doing with the question HOW??? ringing in my head. How could no-one have noticed? In the tiny shack that housed 10 people plus visitors, HOW??? did no-one notice what was going on? I have thought about this many times over the years and my conclusion is that they did notice. There is no way that they couldn’t; I live in a house twice the size of my childhood home with just me and my 3 kids and I notice every single thing that goes on. They did notice; they just did nothing. And this has left me with a simmering quiet rage against my family. I will go for weeks at a time without phoning my mother and I feel guilt over that. But sometimes I think the neglect is justified.

When I’ve read the book before I have not worked through any of the exercises, so that is my plan. I am also going to see if I can find some kind of support group.

Recovery

I feel like yesterday was the first day in a long while that I have had a sense that things are going to be okay.

Thursday was a public holiday here in Australia, and I had a rostered day off on Friday. I was originally meant to be going out west with my 2 younger kids and boyfriend for a camping trip and to attend a festival plus a few other things, leaving on the Friday. However the previous weekend (easter weekend), the boyfriend and I had been to Canberra to attend another festival, staying in a motel there and going out to dinner and doing a few other things. Originally, I had not wanted to go to Canberra, realising that it was going to be expensive. But then the boyfriend said he would pay for accommodation, so I agreed, even though that does not sit comfortably with me. As it turns out, I offered to pay half anyway and the weekend trip cost me quite a bit of money.

And there was my budget for the trip with kids gone. So I texted him and apologised, that we couldn’t go, I had spent all my money for it. And also that I just can’t afford to keep taking weekends away that cost a lot of money. He has continued to text me all weekend to come for the day, just come overnight and he will pay for it, but I have said no. Because I know he will start hinting that it is costing him a lot of money and I will end up paying for it anyway. The kids did not want to go up just for a day – the travel is too far. I feel guilty about letting him down, but I can’t also keep living as though I have all the money in the world to spend. I had a little bit of money set aside that was going to be for a trip to Japan for me and the kids. It has gradually been whittled down so now there is not even enough to book flights for us, and now I need to save all that money up again.

Anyway, Thursday was spent not really feeling like doing much, but I had made my list of a few simple jobs to get done, and started working through those. Friday I spent the day pretty much reading all day, interspersed with a few jobs.

But I got a bit of stuff done. Mostly I worked on my bedroom, which has been overtaken by a pile of clutter comprising of laundry that needed sorting and things that I didn’t know what else to do with. Now my room is a fairly pleasant place to sit, and it’s where I am right now.

Friday night I took the kids to see Avengers: Endgame, yesterday we took a bushwalk and today will be a bike ride. I’ve done groceries, folded clothes, even baked a cake (!!) This morning I will mow the back lawn (did the front the other day) and fix my bike prior to the scheduled bike ride.

So I feel like I am on the path to recovery. I am still a bit fragile following the bit of a breakdown I had a few weeks back, but I’m getting better, I think. And I am sober. I had got up 26 days before I drank again, and now on day 5 today.

Things are looking up

Prodigal

I reckon the most common sentence on blogs will be what I’m about to write.

“It’s been a while since I have been here.”

My guess is because people start blogs when they are emotionally overwrought and they have nowhere else to turn, and their thoughts and feelings need an escape route. So they start a blog, hoping that someone out there somewhere will understand or empathise or commiserate. And then the high emotions pass and so, too, does the blog.

I am no different. I’ve started – and deleted – blogs many times. For some reason I didn’t delete this one. I was surprised to discover it was still here and saddened by some of the stuff I had written.

And here I am again, emotionally overwrought and the boring saga that is my life continues.

To update: I am now officially as divorced as someone who was never married can be. I have a busy life raising my kids 50% of the time, working full-time, I have a rental house and furniture. It is not the greatest furniture and not the greatest job, but it’s what I’ve got. I have a boyfriend.

I still have depression. It crept up on me on its tippy toes a few weeks ago and *bam*, whacked me over the head. In retrospect, I realise that actually the past few months I have been like Dory in the movie – “keep swimming”. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’ve had some really happy times in the past 3 years despite the difficulties of adjusting to single parent life. But more recently, once that adjustment period was over and we got to the maintenance phase and I looked around at my life and I felt that things weren’t that great.

There are parts of my life that are not great at all, but I just had this idea that if I just keep going everything would sort itself out. Then I started realising that I needed to take time to sort some of this stuff out. Then I realised that I don’t have the time to sort this stuff out. I don’t have the time to just enjoy my kids. My life is so fast and so busy that I feel like I never even have the chance to relax.

I’m so busy when the kids are here that I feel like I don’t have the time just to enjoy them.

I’m so lonely when they are not here that I stay late at work and distract myself with crap activities (for example drinking) so I don’t feel their absence.

The time I spend with my boyfriend is so busy, busy, busy that I half-resent that I don’t get to just stop and be.

I have so much on my plate at work and it is incredibly stressful and I receive little support from management to achieve it. At my last performance review it was noted that I need to do some postgrad study, so I enrolled in a Masters to commence this year, just to give myself some added stress.

I have no support network. My family (mother, siblings) are not supportive. I no longer have any close friends. I used to think this was because of them, now it has slowly dawned on me that it is because of me.

My eldest kid revealed he has depression.  I really can’t blame him with a mother like me.

And then I had a smallish nervous breakdown. I kept it to myself – well, I didn’t really have anyone to share it with. But I had realised I was drinking (again) as a form of self medication and gave it up. Of course when you do that you are faced with reality, and the reality was that I was deeply unhappy with my life as it was panning out. I spent a few days going to the bathroom at work and just sitting their sobbing, then going back to my desk and the stupid stressful work I had to get done. And getting home at night and crying when my kids were in their rooms but pretending all was good when they were around. And generally being not particularly useful to anyone.

The extreme of this subsided after about 3 days, but that feeling of overwhelm and despair and feeling dead to the core has stayed with me. Life is an effort at the moment and I have to make myself lists to get anything done. Today there were 4 things on the list to do when I got home and so far I have done 2. I may not get the others done. Being at work, while a struggle, is actually better for me because I have to put on my fake smile and for a while I believe I am okay, and start to think, “Oh, I might be better now” until the sinking feeling hits me again and I realise that I’m not.

And I know I need to go to my doctor and get a referral to a therapist and possibly get some antidepressants. But I can’t. Because my priority at the moment is to get my son fixed. And the fact is I am a single parent with limited income and I can’t afford to fix us both, so he gets priority. I have an appointment for him next week with a social worker who will hopefully tell us the best way forward to get him treatment.

So for me I will just try to do what I can by keeping busy and active and not drinking (I am nearly 2 weeks sober at the moment).

And in the meantime I will just keep swimming.

 

 

How does love end?

I’ve been reading a lot over the past several months – years, really – about separation and divorce and the end of relationships.

I guess it’s different for others. But the couple of people I have mentioned my impending relationship breakup to are concerned for my wellbeing. They’re asking if I’m okay.

And I am. I know I’m only at the very beginning of this whole deal, but all the books and advice and articles talk about the grief I will be feeling at this stage. I guess I do a little. I’m definitely sad now I’ve finally admitted that yes, this is the end. But it’s not overwhelming. Yet. It’s just … melancholy. But I’ve had much more grief-ridden times over the past few years. Not that I want to go dragging up past hurts but there were times when I sobbed to myself because I knew beyond a doubt that I would never be first and foremost with my partner; that there would always be something more important. I’ve cried knowing this man would not be the father I wished for my children; that again, there would always be something more important. I’ve cried knowing that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide me with what I need in a relationship. And I’ve cried many, many times doubting that he has ever loved me.

I have done my grieving in  a hundred small ways over the years. And each time, I guess the grief has chipped away at any love that has been there.

And now all I’m left with is a sad ending. And I know it is time to move on.

On knowing when to go

Last night I had that conversation. The one all unhappy couples avoid.

I’m going to have to go back and re-read some of my previous posts.  I took a brief look at my most recent (from May this year) and I can see how stuck I’ve been for a long time.

I’ve read and re-read piles of separation and marriage and divorce help books.  I’ve been through that horrible cycle of ambivalence over and over.  I’ve chided myself for being immature and told myself that this is what relationships are all about. Enduring shit, you know?  I’ve told myself I’m being selfish, that I need to put my kids first. I’ve wallowed in guilt for even thinking of putting them through the crap we would no doubt have to go through.

I’ve smothered those screaming voices in my head and my heart as much as I can, stomped them down into the pit of my soul and convinced myself that it’s okay. We can make this work.

And it works for a little while. Until the cycle begins again. Anyone who’s been through it knows what I’m talking about.  All the articles and books and blog posts you read about the whole relationship ambivalence cycle liken it to a rollercoaster ride, but I beg to differ.  It’s more like the Rotor. That cylindrical ride which spins around so fast that you find yourself pinned to the wall and completely without any control.

After going through this cycle numerous times this year (and it gets longer and longer each time, I’ve noticed), I finally took myself off to a relationship counsellor. I had a couple of sessions with him, and he suggested bringing in my partner for joint counselling. And while at the time I started seeing the counsellor I was feeling quite strongly that I should end our relationship, I agreed, as I figured it couldn’t hurt.  My counsellor had suggested a particular program that he runs, where we both complete an online questionnaire about the relationship which he then assesses, and then we come into counselling and work on the issues that have been highlighted.

So I suggested to my partner that we either need to do something about the relationship or end it (he agreed and said that he’d considered a separation himself). So we agreed to do this questionnaire. The counsellor sent it to us both and told us that when we’d both completed it, he’d be in touch to arrange our first session.

I completed my questionnaire within the first couple of days.  As we were told, it only takes about half an hour to complete.  But a week went by and then a few more days and I still hadn’t been contacted by the counsellor regarding the joint counselling session.  And I started to think to myself how bloody typical this was; my partner obviously hadn’t prioritised the issue of counselling, instead preferring to sit in front of the tv rather than take action.

And then after that initial reaction, I started to feel a huge sense of relief.  I started to feel thankful that he hadn’t done the questionnaire, and feel hopeful that he would just forget all about it entirely. I felt absolved and that all my doubts about our relationship were correct.  And I knew then, without a doubt, that I didn’t want to work on this relationship.  Emotionally speaking, I have left it a long time ago.  The reason that we never seem to make any progress on reconciling and building a happier relationship is because in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to.

And I don’t know when this occurred, but it just did, somewhere along the line.  All the times I’ve convinced myself that it could work and I’ve still stopped trying is because I didn’t really want to.  I’ve been fighting against myself.

So last night, I sat down with my partner and I told him how I’d realised I didn’t want to go through with the counselling.  I told him that I don’t believe I am prepared to work at fixing things.  I told him that I think we need to separate.  He asked why and I told him I didn’t really have the answer, but that I’ve been fighting against that feeling for a long, long time and I finally need to trust myself.  I apologised for being a crappy partner and for putting our family through the crap that we are about to go through.

It went better than I expected.  I anticipated yelling and disdain and harsh, angry words. But he wasn’t. He was cold and angry, which he has every right to be, and I expect that he will be for a long time yet. But he didn’t rant, he didn’t rave.

And he didn’t protest that he loved me. I think if he had, I might not feel so confident this morning that I am absolutely doing the right thing, or I might at least feel a little guilty.  As it is, I feel bad for the pain he and I and the kids will probably go through over the next couple of years, but I don’t feel guilty.  I went to bed before him last night (we’re still in the same room) and he came in and slammed things about a bit (which is what he does when he’s cranky), but I was awake from around 3-ish for a couple of hours and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. At least, he was snoring away like he normally does, so I figure he’s not too disturbed.

So I don’t feel guilty. I know that I am making the right decision here, as horrible as it is all going to be.  I believe that ultimately we are all going to be happier.

That said, I know that the worst is yet to come.  I’m not congratulating myself just yet; there is a long, long way to go.

Faith

I’m not a religious person.  I was raised Catholic, but stopped believing in a higher entity a long, long time ago.  There are times I wish it wasn’t true; that I could lay my problems at the feet of some deity and have them figure it all out, but alas, it is not the case.

So, I have to sort my problems out myself. With the help of some experts; I’m a big fan of self-help books.

I’ve read books — recently and not-so-recently — about divorce, separation, marriage and what-have-you, to try and help me sort through my feelings.   They all talk about this cyclical emotional state I’ve been going through, and the descriptions are dead on. The mental tension builds up until you reach this crisis  point. You feel like you can see the way ahead.  Then the guilt and bargaining starts — maybe I should try X, or maybe I didn’t do Y well/hard enough. Then the tension eases and you are back to where you started until discontent sets in again and the tension starts to build.

And it’s exhausting.  It really is.

Today I have been ruminating on the guilt that hit me yesterday. I have a habit of looking outside myself for the answers; to see if someone else knows.  So I read stuff on the internet about people who have divorced or separated, and the reasons they did it.  And when I read around, it seems some people have really chosen some arseholes to be married to. And that makes me feel guilty because, honestly, my situation is not as bad as theirs.  I’m not being beaten, or raped, or verbally or mentally abused. He’s not a lazy bum who sits around all day drinking beer. He’s not cheating.

And I feel guilty because there seems to be an unwritten rule somewhere that unless it’s, like, really bad, you should keep on trying.  And I’m not.  And I don’t want to. Which makes me feel even guiltier.

So usually when I get to the bargaining stage of this cycle, the guilt wins.  I tell myself that I’m crazy. There’s no problem, it’s all in my head. I even started on that argument again yesterday, but then I forced myself to examine my reality as objectively as I could.

There is one, key, core issue at stake here. I no longer want a relationship with my partner.  I’m happy to co-parent. I’m happy to let him have the house (for a small price).  But I no longer want him. And it’s not because he’s bad or I’m an unappreciative bitch or anything like that; it’s just that we have, rather boringly, grown apart. Both of us could probably point to a hundred little indicators along the way here, but honestly it doesn’t matter. There were choices we made and here we are.  Honestly, we didn’t too bad a job, and if we both liked one another enough to share a companionable relationship, we could probably keep going for another twenty years. But we don’t.  We just don’t. We’re not only not in each other’s orbits; we’re not even in the same solar system any more.

And that makes me feel sad.  I’m sad that he will be hurt.  I’m sad that he will feel rejected.  I’m sad that I am closing the door on this era of my life.  It’s going to be a huge wrench, and a huge adjustment for us all, but I firmly believe that ultimately it is the best decision for all of us.

Because I might not have faith in a god, and I might not have faith in the internet, and I don’t always have faith in the self-help books, but for the first time in my life, I need to have faith in myself.

 

Guilt

Every time I voice my feelings about my relationship (even if it’s just on an anonymous post on the internet), I’m immediately overcome with guilt. This is happening this morning so I really desperately need to sit down and capture it, so I can process it and help myself understand better.

This post is not going to make sense so if you make it through, I commend you!

There’s a part of me that starts talking me down off the ledge. The relationship is workable. He’s a decent guy. You can get along if you try.

And all these things are true. So I start to wonder if this is all in my head.  Because the fact is that I am *not* trying at the moment. I haven’t been for some time. And even when I’ve tried, it has been kind of half-hearted. So when my efforts to salvage the relationship stop for whatever reason – I got distracted, I thought I’d wait and see what he’d do, we had an argument, whatever – and we fall back into our usual unloving status quo, while it’s upsetting, I think I am secretly relieved.

Because it feels like vindication.

This morning the guilt has me asking why. Why do I think this relationship is at its end? What is it I am not happy about? Why am I not happy? Why do you think there should be more than this anyway?

I can come up with every justification in the book, but that that’s because I think I am always looking for signs that the relationship is doomed. He does something annoying/stupid/selfish, and it’s like “See?? I told you so!!”

So why?  Why???  I need to list this, for my own sanity.

  1. Because we live completely separate lives.  He does his thing, I do mine.
  2. We don’t communicate.
  3. I am not a priority for him. He makes arrangements (financial, social, etc) first, consults me second.
  4. There is no affection.
  5. There is no sex. I can’t remember the last time we had sex. Maybe a year ago?
  6. He has given me exactly 1 compliment in the past 15 years.
  7. Our political leanings are very different, and when I hear him voice his, I actually hate him.
  8. I find him uncaring.
  9. There is no companionship. There is no companionable sitting on the lounge together watching tv or a movie.
  10. We spend no time together. No dates, nights out, weekends away, holidays together that don’t involve the kids.
  11. I don’t think either of us enjoys each other’s company (see 8 and 9 above).
  12. I don’t think he likes me all that much. Which may be a projection, because I’m not sure I like him all that much.

Now, I’m aware that all of the above don’t necessarily spell the end of a relationship. but there’s one key item that overrides all the others.

13. I no longer want to try and fix it.

Which leads to:

14. I don’t think I love him.